- Senate backs petrol price hike
- You can’t strike, court tells NLC, TUC
Following the uncertainties that trailed the resolve of the Nigeira Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, to embark on nationwide strike to protest last week’s hike in the price of petrol, there were allegations that the leadership of the factional NLC may have sold out to government.
According to impeccable sources who volunteered information to Nigerian Pilot last night, “NLC and TUC have sold out; the strike they called will not hold. If it does, it will not endure because much water has passed under the bridge. The leadership has compromised for political reasons compared to how labour galvanised and mobilised against former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration when the price of fuel was increased minimally.”
The source added that the factionalised NLC cannot wholly represent the interest of Nigerian workers in this matter as they have played into the hands of government that sponsored one of the factions in their last election.
“It’s all double standard; they are grandstanding as if they are serious, but we know that they are taking Nigerian workers for granted. The strike will not hold and the leaders will return to their homes fulfilled in every respect,” the source also said.
The Nigerian Labour Congress yesterday appeared torn between itself for the proposed strike action against the recent fuel price hike by the Federal government. Arising from series of meetings between relevant stakeholders in Abuja and across the country, the split in the labour union was unmistakeable as an affiliate of NLC, NUPENG and PENGASSEN opted out of the action. Nigerian Pilot recalls that in 2012 when the Federal government tried to remove oil subsidy, the Labour Union was unanimous in scuttling it then. Observers describe this action of the union as a display of double standards. From all indications, according to observers, the whole muscle flexing might be a face saving ruse as insiders to these meetings have revealed to Nigerian Pilot that NLC is tilted towards caving in to pressure by Federal government.
In the meeting yesterday, Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole who presented the agreement said a committee that would work out framework for the review of the national minimum wage promised as carrot for the union is already in place.
Nigerian labour organisation is negotiating for palliatives when more of those palliatives were provided for by the last government but were vehemently rejected and opposed by the same labour.
Some of the conditions are for the committee to come out with modalities on how Labour would be part of the implementation of the N500bn social investment fund appropriated in the 2016 budget and the reconstitution of the PPPRA board as well as review of the current N145 pump price of petrol.
He said the committee that would be chaired by a nominee of the Federal Government has 2 weeks to submit its report, adding that the report would be deliberated by what he called a committee of the whole before making recommendations to the Federal Government.
Factional President of the NLC, Comrade Ajaero in his reaction confirmed that what Oshiomhole read out was “the summary of the agreement”, recalling that they had “insisted that there was no way we could mobilise, sensitise for the action tomorrow (today). We said we would rather dialogue for a committee to be set up on the issues.” This was a departure from the stand four years ago.
You can’t strike – Court
National Industrial Court yesterday stopped the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, from embarking on their planned strike over the increase in fuel price by the federal government. However, heads of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and Trade Union Congress alongside other stakeholders rejected the court order insisting that the strike would go on unless resolutions at their meeting with the federal government which was ongoing at press time last night favoured labour’s position.
Justice Babatunde Adejumo gave the restraining order after the Attorney General of the Federation, and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, argued an ex parte application in which the prayer for the order was contained.
Justice Adejumo ruled that “the defendants are hereby restrained from carrying out the threat contained in their communiqué issued on May 14, 2016, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed on May 16.
“It is the order of this court that status quo be maintained as at May 17.”
The order being an interim one will last for seven days, although it is subject to renewal.
The judge also ordered that the processes in the case be served on the respondents within 24 hours and that proof of service be filed in the court.
“It is the order of this court that none of the parties shall engage in any act, conduct, overtly, covertly on this matter pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice,” Justice Adejumo added.
The judge transferred the hearing of the substantive case to another judge of the court on the grounds that he would be engaged at the National Judicial Council when the matter would be due for hearing.
He said although he would prefer that the dispute be resolved amicably, he was constrained to issue the ex parte order because the respondents were not yet before him.
The judge also said that he granted the order to make sure that people were not subjected to avoidable hardship.
“I decided to take this case this morning because it is on an issue that will affect everybody. I don’t want people to be subjected to hardship. There will be scarcity of foods, people may die, students will engage in all sorts of activities. This is why I have to grant this order.”
Malami, while moving the ex parte application, said it was in the national interest to stop NLC from shutting down the nation over last week’s increase in price of fuel.
He cited Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to justify his application to stop the strike.
Malami argued that no amount of damages could serve as compensation if NLC was allowed to shut down the economy. He further argued that the balance of convenience was in favour of the government.
The AGF also said that labour met on Saturday and issued a communiqué wherein it gave government a three-day ultimatum to reverse the decision, threatening to shut down the country if government failed to reverse the fuel price increase.
He told the court that the respondents had threatened to close down all government offices, seaports, airports and markets.
He contended that ordinary and law abiding citizens would be subjected to hardship if the respondents were allowed to go ahead with their threat.
Malami further argued that the government was left with no alternative but to seek the intervention of the court.
He said that he got notice of the communiqué on Sunday and quickly filed an originating summons, together with motion on notice and an ex-parte application to determine whether NLC’s decision was justified in the circumstance.
Among other questions put before the court, Malami asked the court to determine “whether the respondents (NLC and TUC) have complied with the laid down condition precedent for embarking on strike. Whether indeed there exists in law and in fact the basis of which the respondents’ total closure of the economy can be justified.”
But officials of NLC and TUC in Abuja and the states remained adamant last night arguing that government was insincere and must agree to labour’s position on workers’ salaries, needed palliatives among other conditions before organised labour could rethink the strike option.
However, at press time last night, the reconvened meeting between government and labour was still on.
Senate backs petrol price hike
Senate yesterday tactically supported the recent increase in the pump price of petrol even as it charged the Executive to “immediately start implementing palliatives or palliative measures contained in the 2016 appropriation act passed by the National Assembly”.
These were part of the resolutions of the upper legislative chamber at the end of a one-hour closed door session by senators at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the day’s plenary, also on behalf of the senators called on the government to “continue to engage the organised labour and other stakeholders to resolve issues in other not ground the system and impose more hardships on our people”.
Ekweremadu said the senate sympathise with ordinary people of Nigeria on the hardships they are going through, promising that the Red Chamber will “engage the federal government to find sustainable ways of improving the welfare of the people of Nigeria”.
Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Murray Ben-Bruce, at a media briefing declared that the problem at hand was caused by lack of thinking by government.
He said what government supposed to be subsidizing over the years in Nigeria as practiced in other countries of the world, is cost of transportation and not the price of fuel.
According to him, no citizen of South Africa, Sweden and United Kingdom, knows what a litre of fuel cost in his/ her country but the cost of transportation from one place to the other which are highly subsidized and regulated by government.
He specifically declared that what Nigeria needs is mass transit policy with a regulatory agency.
“Here is the fundamental question, everybody in Nigeria knows the price of fuel but if you go to London or you visit London nobody knows the price of petrol in London, nobody knows the price of petrol in South Africa, nobody knows the price of petrol in Sweden. What you know is the price of transportation that is all that matters.
“Here is my argument, diesel is deregulated, and cost of products should not increase. If the FG has a mass transit policy and all of us here go by bus and it cost you N200 to go to work and you deregulate and it still cost you N200 to go to work nobody will protest. If it cost you N500 to catch a taxi before deregulation and after deregulation it cost you N500 nobody will complain.
“The problem here is, the government is selling the wrong argument. The argument is not the price of petrol; the argument is the cost of transportation. So, the minister of labour and productivity, the minister of transport, the minister of petroleum resources should sit in a room and come up with a mass transit policy like they have in other parts of the world with a regulatory authority.
“In other words if a bus owner generates N10,000 a week and you deregulate and you increase the price to N20, 000, if the federal government says I won’t give N10, 000 I will give you a cheque N5000 and I have done the calculations across the country and it will cost the government for every single city in Nigeria less than N100 billion versus the N1.2 trillion Nigeria spent subsidising petrol”.
He added by appealing to the Federal government to start negotiation with the Niger Delta militants over recent attacks on oil facilities in their region which had unfortunately brought about drastic drop in daily oil production from about 2million barrel per day to 1.2million now.
“We are suffering already I am begging, i am appealing to the government to please negotiate, sit down and have a conversation with the militants in the Niger Delta and guess what, a conversation is free of charge and it doesn’t cost more to have a conversation unlike military action”, he said.
2015 subsidy arrears paid
Also, Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, yesterday, said the Federal Government had fully paid the N48.2 billion outstanding subsidy arrears owed oil marketers in 2015.
A statement from the Director of Information in the ministry, Mr. Salisu Dambatta, said payment was facilitated recently to oil marketers.
“The gross total outstanding subsidy claims accruable to the oil marketers for 2015 stood at N48.2 billion, while deductable tax liabilities payable to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) stood at N5.2 billion only,”
According to the statement, Adeosun directed the Debt Management Office (DMO) to pay the claims less tax liability of N5.2 billion, which was computed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service FIRS while oil marketers without tax liabilities were paid in full, and oil marketers with net subsidy claims and FIRS liabilities were paid net claim after deduction of tax liabilities.
“Oil marketers that were indebted to FIRS and the seven oil marketers that are indebted to the Asset Management Company (AMCON) were not paid until they settled their debts with the two agencies,” the statement added.