The call-out for a national strike by workers unions — the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress — scheduled for Monday, September 28, has been put off.
The unions had announced at the weekend that barring unforeseen circumstances, the industrial action will begin as scheduled to protest the recent hike in electricity tariff and petrol pump price approved by the Federal Government.
Following the interventions of the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo-led negotiation team and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, the unions agreed to shift the strike by two weeks, Persecondnews reports.
The Minister of Labour, Productivity and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige and the leadership of the unions announced the decisions at a news conference after an all-night government-labour marathon meeting in Abuja.
Confirming the agreement, TUC President Quadiri Olaleye, said :”Based on the agreement signed between the government and the labour, the planned industrial action will be suspended for two weeks.
He said the action was called to draw the attention of the government to some labour issues.
Ngige said with the downstream sector deregulation, all parties agreed on the need to expand the local refining capacity of the nation to reduce the over dependency on importation of petroleum products.
He, however, said the electricity tariff would be subjected to the scrutiny of a committee comprising Labour and other stakeholders before implementation.
The minister said: “The committee is to examine the justifications for the new policy in view of the need for the validation of the basis for the new cost reflective tariff.
“The technical committee membership included Mr Festus Keyamo, Minister of State Labour and Employment, as chairman, Mr Godwin Jedy-Agba, Minister of State Power, Mr James Momoh, Chairman National Electricity Regulatory Commission.
“Others were Mr Ahmad Rufai Zakari, SA to Mr President on Infrastructure, Dr Onoho’Omhen Ebhohimhen, Member, NLC, Mr Joe Ajaero NLC, Mr Chris Okonkwo, TUC and a representative of DISCOS.”
According to him, the committee will look at the different Electricity Distribution Company (DISCOs) and their different electricity tariff ‘vis-à-vis NERC’s order and mandate.
On petrol pump price, Ngige said NNPC had been directed to expedite the rehabilitation of the nation’s four refineries located in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna and to achieve 50 per cent completion for Port Harcourt by December 2021, while timelines and delivery for Warri and Kaduna will be established by the inclusive Steering Committee.
He promised that the national leadership of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) will be integrated into the Steering Committee already established by the Corporation.
“The Federal Government and its agencies are to ensure delivery of one million CNG/LPG AutoGas conversion kits, storage skids and dispensing units under the Nigeria Gas Expansion Programme by December 2021 to enable delivery of cheaper transportation and power fuel.
“A Governance Structure that will include representatives of organised Labour shall be established for timely delivery,” Ngige said.
On the issue of taxing junior workers, he said the government would facilitate the removal of tax on minimum wage as a way of cushioning the impacts of the policy on the lowest vulnerable.
He said the Federal Government would give the labour unions 133 CNG/LPG driven mass transit buses immediately and provide to the major cities across the country on a scale up basis, thereafter to all states and local governments before December 2021.
He also promised that 10 per cent of the ongoing Ministry of Housing and Finance housing initiative would be allocated to Nigerian workers under the NLC and TUC.
According to him, a specific amount is to be unveiled by the Federal Government in two weeks’ time, which will be isolated from the Economic Sustainability Programme Intervention Fund that can be accessed by Nigerian Workers with subsequent provision for 240,000 under the auspices of NLC and TUC.
“This is for participation in agricultural ventures through the CBN and the Ministry of Agriculture. The timeline will be fixed at the next meeting.”
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, also told the news conference that both the government and organised labour have looked into the issue of fuel price hike and what was needed to be put in place in order to address the issue of the increase.
He said: “We have discussed the state of our refineries and how to achieve sustainable refineries.
“We have also looked at the issue of the tariff hike and other challenges.
“We agreed to suspend the strike, and we agreed to also put a committee in place to work out lasting solution in addressing these challenges, including the issue of metering and importantly also is to bring about the issue of efficiency.
“We also reviewed the process of privatisation and other issues such as clear palliatives that were needed to be extended to our members and Nigerians to cushion the effect of these policies.
“We are going to convey our Central Working Committee meeting to present the communique to them.”