FG, Labour for Crucial Meeting over Increases in Petrol, Electricity Tariffs

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Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige

•Ngige: Government to lay bare finances, challenges at meeting

By Omololu Ogunmade

The federal government has agreed to meet with members of the organised labour next Tuesday as a fallout of the recent hike in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff and the general state of the economy.

Speaking with reporters after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, said the government would show its entire records of finance to the organised labour.

He said the government would also explain its challenges to the labour bodies and listen to their grievances.

According to him, all institutions handling the finances of the government, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and their affiliates would be at the meeting.

“The president has approved for us to have a bigger government side-meeting with the organised private labour; all the government institutions that have to do with the finances of government will be there so that we meet with them and show them the books.

“So, the invitation is going out to them this afternoon (yesterday) – to the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and their affiliates or supporters and friends in the civil society organisations.

“So, I will relate more with the Chief of Staff to the president and the leadership of the unions today so that we can do this meeting.

“At the meeting, government finances, challenges and everything will be laid bare on the table. Their own fears and what they think is also good for the Nigerian people, especially the workers, they will also table it so that we look at it,” he said.

Ngige also said relevant stakeholders would be engaged on the recent hike in electricity tariff.

He said the president had given a directive that all stakeholders should be engaged on the matter.

“The electricity tariff, as you know, the electricity regulatory commission approved the increase based on certain electricity band R1 and R2 and even in the R2 band, you have soft bands so that we can protect the rural poor and people who are in the suburbs.

“So, we are going to look at them holistically because we want a stable labour industrial union in the country. The president has been briefed and he is in tune and has given the support to talk to everybody we need to talk to,” he said.

The minister also spoke on the proposed strike action by Non-Academic Staff Unions of Universities, saying the groups had been invited to a meeting for deliberation on their demands.

“The tripartite unions of university system, including some colleges of education and some hospitals; Non-Academic Staff of Universities (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have been invited to a meeting. The leadership met with me last week and the major thrust of the challenges they have is on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) system.

“They claim and allege that the IPPIS system is over deducting some line items like taxes. The Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxes – they claim the IPPIS system is charging more than they are suppose to debit.

“They also claimed that the IPPIS has stopped some allowances that are peculiar to the university system like, responsibility allowance, hazard allowance, field trip allowance and education of children allowance.

“At the government level, we have discussed and we now want to do a special session with them. They will come with their facts and the accountant-general will lead his team.

“The National Salaries and Incomes and Wages Commission will also come and the Ministry of Labour will lead and then we will discuss and find out who is treating the other unfairly,” the Minister said.

Ngige, who spoke to THISDAY last night, confirmed that the federal government team would be made up of five ministers – Labour, Power, Finance, Information and Petroleum. He said the NNPC GMD and the boss of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission would also be in attendance.