By John Shiklam
The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has rejected the agreement reached between the federal government and labour unions over the increase in pump price of petrol and electricity tariff.
The labour unions, including the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and others, had suspended their planned nationwide strike slated for last Monday after a meeting with the federal government officials last Sunday.
Addressing a news conference yesterday in Kaduna, spokesman of the group, Mr. Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, declared that the agreement does not address the grievances of majority of Nigerians.
He said it was disappointing that “after sufficiently mobilising Nigerians, the NLC and the TUC surprisingly announced a two-week suspension” of the planned strike.
The group, therefore, vowed to liaise with credible sections of the civil society to establish an alternative platform for pursuing national grievances.
He also said the CNG would resist the deregulation of the downstream oil sector, insisting on the immediate, unconditional and total reversal of the fuel price and electricity tariffs.
The group insisted on a unified and affordable electricity tariffs for both the northern and southern parts of the country.
Suleiman said the CNG had directed its state chapters to reach out to all sections of the civil society, credible non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and prepare every section of the northern society for a massive protest on a date to be announced soon “to force the reversal of this and all other harsh economic policies pursued by the government.”
Suleiman accused the labour leaders for “betraying the trust of the public by compromising the expectations of Nigerians.”
He said the federal government can no longer be trusted with its inconsistent promises for the reactivation of refineries in the country.
Suleiman said: “The interest of the majority of Nigerians was not in anyway reflected or protected in the Labour-federal government agreement.
“The agreement reflected the concentration of negotiation on only electricity tariff which was just one demand out of many concerns raised by Nigerians, such as exploitative taxation, insecurity, infrastructural decay, massive unemployment and poverty.
“Even at that, no representation was made about the existing wide discrepancy between the electricity tariffs obtainable in the north and those in the southern parts of the country.
“The agreement did not bind the federal government to a definite time frame within which to revive the capacities of the national petrochemical refining assets.
“The entire palliative package does not reflect the overall interest of the mass of suffering Nigerians outside the fold of the NLC and TUC which collectively accounts for only about 0.5 per cent of the total national population.
“The package merely offers temporary relief to a minor section of the population with the vast majority condemned to suffer the harsh realities perpetually, as prohibitive fuel prices inadvertently reflect on other commodities.”
The group urged Nigerians “to be ready for a long haul, one that must continue until the leaders are forced to enact meaningful change in the society.”