By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The federal government and organised labour have resolved to allow one week for consultation over the demand for the reversal of the pump price of petrol.
The government side is to use the one week to consult with its principals including President Muhammadu Buhari on a possible review of the fuel price increase.
The price of petrol was jacked up from N161 per litre to N168 per litre, the second time in less than three months.
However, organised labour is kicking against the price hike which they considered unwarranted and a big slap on their coming mid-way into their negotiations with government’ on how to cushion for economic difficulties brought by the earlier increase.
The labour leaders, who felt ambushed by the federal government’s action, staged a walkout at the resumed negotiations last Sunday, insisting on reversal of the fuel price increase before talks could continue.
At the rescheduled meeting with representatives of labour on Thursday night, both sides agreed to give one week grace period to enable the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) go and reconsider issues that led to the increase.
A source at the closed-door meeting said that labour insisted that the pump price of petrol must be reversed to what it was as at September 28, this year.
“After efforts to see if discussions on other issues can go on failed, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC also tried to make presentations but was rebuffed by labour. The meeting then resolved that the NNPC GMD be allowed to go back to his principals to consult and come back to brief the meeting after one week,” he said.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, confirmed this while briefing the media after a meeting between the government side and the organised labour, held Thursday night at the State House Banquet Hall in Abuja.
In a statement issued by his Media Office, Ngige said that the message of the labour side at the meeting was very clear that they want the reversal of the recent fuel price increase.
According to the minister, the meeting agreed to adjourn for one week to let the government side do all the needed consultations on the matter.
“By Monday, December 7, we will come back, because the message from the organised labour is clear. They want a reversal of the pump price to what it was. So, the government side will take it back to our principals.
“Even though, government is not fixing the price of PMS anymore because it is deregulated, it is part of the economy. So, the government side will consult anybody that needs to be consulted.
“We will consult the president as the Minister of Petroleum and then, the Economic Management team because funds are involved,” he said.
On the issue of electricity tariff, Ngige said: “Everybody is happy with the situation in the electricity industry for now, because there is a committee working on it, headed by Minister of State for Labour and Employment.”
He said the committee already has an interim report and will avail itself of the opportunity next week to pay field visits to the different distribution companies (DISCOS) in Nigeria and then come back with a more comprehensive report within the time available.
Earlier, the President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Quari Olaleye, told journalists that the organised labour wants government to reverse the last fuel price increase, which occurred while the two sides were already on the negotiation table.
Olaleye said the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, requested during the meeting for one week to do consultations with his principals and the organised labour acceded to his request.
The Deputy National President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajero, stood in for the President, Ayuba Wabba, who was unavoidably absent.
In a welcome speech during the meeting, the Secretary to Federal Government (SGF), Boss Mustafa, thanked the organised labour for putting the nation first.
Mustapha praised the labour leadership for working very hard to see that the welfare of their members and the Nigerian people was catered for.
He assured the organised labour of government’s preparedness to work hand in hand with them to ensure that resolutions were reached at the meeting on any issue that borders on the welfare of Nigerians.
He expressed the belief that negotiations would be done in the overarching interest of the people of Nigeria as the centre piece.
The SGF thanked the organised labour for their display of patriotism when they went for their last recess on the request of the labour leadership.
He said whatever went out from the last meeting, the government side maintained in their reportage that there was no breakdown of talks between the government and labour.
Mustapha said he believed that all the parties must have consulted sufficiently before coming back for them to reach certain conclusions on the issues being discussed that will further advance the cause and the good of Nigerians.
Others from the government side at the meeting included the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajia Sadiya Farouk; Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo; Minister of State (Power), Jeddy Agba; and Minister of State (Petroleum), Timipriye Sylva.
The GMD of NNPC, Mele Kyari; the Chairman/CEO, National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Prof. James Momoh; and representative of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) also participated in the meeting.