Protest continues, as government, labour talks end in stalemate

The much awaited meeting between the Federal Government, state governors, the leadership of the senate and organized Labour to dialogue on how to resolve the crisis that has engulfed the country since New year’s day ended tonight in a stalemate, with all parties agreeing to reconvene on Saturday.

It was the second of such high level meeting within 24 hours. Earlier, the leadership of the Labour Movement had met with the Senate President in his official residence in Abuja.

The meeting, held behind closed doors, commenced at about 4 p.m., with the Senate President, David Mark leading a team in the company of his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and Senate leader, Victor Ndoma Egba.

The Chairman of the Governors’ Forum and Rivers state governor,  Rotimi Ameachi, led the governors’ delegation, consisting Babatunde Fashola of Lagos, Liyel Imoke of Cross River,  Adams Oshiomhole of Edo, Peter Obi of Anambra, Babaginda Aliyu of Niger and Gabriel Suswam of Benue.

Vice President Namadi Sambo led the Federal Government’s team, which included the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Pius Anyim, Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, along with her Trade and Investment as well as justice counterparts, Olusegun Aganga,  and Mohammed Adoke, as well as the National Security Adviser (NSA), Patrick Azazi.

President, Nigeria  Labour Congress (NLC), Abdulwaheed Omar, led the Labour delegation, accompanied by the President General, Trade Union Congress (TUC) Nigeria,  Peter Esele, Tunde Aremu of  ActionAid, along with 14 other  Labour leaders as well as some civil society leaders.  

President Goodluck Jonathan alongside his deputy and other members of his cabinet reportedly left the meeting after ten minutes shortly after the arrival of the labour leaders for them to meet with the senate president, the governors and the SGF.  The meeting broke off for refreshment at about 8.20 p.m. 

When it reconvened, the vice president rejoined the meeting till it ended more than about one and half hours later.

Mr. Omar, who described the meeting as fruitful told reporters shortly before driving out of the Presidential Villa venue of the meeting in the company of his Trade Union Congress (TUC) Nigeria counterpart, Peter Esele, that both parties agreed to shift grounds.

“We have not concluded discussions yet. We are to continue on Saturday,” the NLC President said.  “We have had very fruitful discussion.”

On the possibility of the strike being called off, Mr. Omar said:”Unless and until we get a conclusive conclusion from the discussion, that means we’ll maintain status quo.”

Speaking on his role, Mr. Mark said that all parties agreed to shift grounds to the level that a decision would be in the best interest of all Nigerians.

The NLC President, who did not let out the positions each party canvassed during the meeting, however said the stalemate meant the workers would continue with the mass protest, which has seen the country’s economy crippled as it enters its fifth day today.

But, what might give an inkling into the proposal by the Federal Government to Labour during the meeting was alluded to by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Lamido Sanusi, who said earlier today during an interview with Channels Television that he would have loved to see a situation where both parties would make compromises to douse the tension that had engulfed the country since New year’s day.

Mr. Sanusi, who said he was speaking in his personal capacity as a Nigerian, stated:  “Speaking as a Nigerian, who would not want the polity to be heated, and as one concerned about people dying unnecessarily, I would like to see a win-win situation between the Federal government and Labour. I would like to see government shift a little, and then break into one or two installments, while Nigerians also shift, with the understanding that the country cannot afford to continue having a Father Christmas situation.

“Going back to N65 per litre would make a total mess of everything government has done so far. Those saying government should go back to N65 per litre, and that implementation should be in April do not seem to understand that we would be having the same problem in April.

“We need to have a discussion that sets where we are today, where we would be in December 2012 and over a set period. Government is committed to investigation and prosecution of people who are found guilty of fraud in that period as a condition, for the economy to move forward.”

Being a key member of the National Economic Team and one of the principal drivers of the subsidy removal policy, analysts say Mr. Sanusi’s opinion may not be too different from the government’s, which is said to be willing to accept a phased removal of the subsidy between now and April.

It was gathered that the government may be targeting a reduction from N141 to N100, but reportedly proposed only N120 per litre during the meeting with the labour leaders, who were said to have insisted on a price of not more than N90 per litre, with effect from April.


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