Meeting ends in deadlock
The organised labour yesterday tackled the Federal Government over the recent increase in the prices of petroleum products and electricity tariff saying, the gains recorded with the signing of the national minimum wage signed into law by President Muhammau Buhari have been erased. Labour made this known at a dialogue on the state of the economy held with the Federal Government as directed by President Buhari, led by President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and had on the team; TUC President, Quadri Olaleye; Secretary General of the TUC, Musa Ozigi-Lawal, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria President, Festus Osifo and the President of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Association of Nigeria, Williams Akporeha, among others. The government team led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had Minister of State for Employment, Festus Keyamo SAN; Minister of Power, Sale Mamman; Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola SAN; Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva and others in attendance.
The meeting however ended yesterday night without any concrete conclusion. After about eight hours of extensive discussions with each party stating its position, all parties agreed on bringing the meeting to a close by past 7 pm to further consult and meet on a later date yet to be communicated. President of the NLC, Comrade Ayubba Wabba, faulted the Federal Government for unilaterally fixing prices of electricity and petrol without consultations with Nigerians, majority of whom he said, were struggling to survive because of the high cost of living occasioned by government’s recent policies which included increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT). In his words: “The question now is what do you have on the table to actually cushion the effect on workers and their families because they have been pushed to the wall.
They are already enraged. Do you have anything for us so that we can say yes, despite these challenges, this is what I have for Nigerian workers that they can be able to have something that can cushion this effect for them? “Already, the value of the minimum wage has been eroded. The purchasing power parity when you compared with all West African countries, we are already on the ground. That is the reality. If Ghana compares their minimum wage with our own, you will see their minimum wage.”
Wabba, who accused the Federal Government of transferring the “inefficiency in the subsidy regime” to the consumers which they have to pay through hike in price, urged the government to fix the nation’s refinery and stop lining their pockets through a fraudulent subsidy regime.
“I agree with Mr. President that subsidy is a fraud but do we address it or transfer it to the customers? That is where the issue is. We don’t need to transfer it to the customers. “More than 90 countries of the world actually have minimum wage on this.
Those are the issues that are biting very hard and workers and citizens are crying aloud that there is much burden on them. “We have increased VAT. We have increased some taxes. We have increased now the fuel price and the tariff on electricity. An ordinary worker can’t pay those charges. In fact, higher level officers are complaining seriously. This is the predicament we are in.”