Saturday’s talks between organized Labour and the Federal Government to resolve the vexed issue of subsidy removal on petrol again ended in stalemate, with both parties holding tenaciously to their positions.
This means the nationwide protests called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and civil society organizations, suspended last Friday for 48 hours, might resume on Monday if further talks are not held before then.
NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, told reporters at the end of the meeting last night that labour might ask Nigerians to sustain the mass protest following Federal Government’s refusal to revert to N65 per litre as a basis for holistic discussion on the deregulation of the downstream sector of the country’s petroleum industry.
Labour’s position on deregulation has always been that Nigeria must not be dependent on importation of petroleum products, but on a healthy local refining capacity.
Mr. Omar said labour would meet again later today to inform its members and Nigerians on its next line of action.
Although he claimed the meeting was not deadlocked, the NLC president said, “but we have not reached a compromise.”
“Like we said the other time, it means the status quo remains,” he said. “We are going to continue our deliberation at our organisation level and then, maybe, we will see the way forward. We are going to meet with our organs, then we will inform Nigerians on the next line of action.”
On when labour would meet again with the Federal Government, the labour leader said, “whenever they call us.”
The meeting, which lasted for about three hours, began at about 7.55 p.m., with President of the Senate, David Mark, presiding.
President Goodluck Jonathan was conspicuously absent at the meeting. But he attented Thursday’s talks for at least 10 minutes before excusing himself and allowing the President of the Senate, David Mark, to take charge.
The 18-man Labour union delegation arrived for the meeting at exactly 7.20 p.m. led by the NLC president in the company with TUC’s President-General, Peter Esele, and representatives of civil society organizations.
After about two hours deliberation, the meeting went on break at about 9. 37p.m. and reconvened 20 minutes later. The meeting ended at 11.17p.m.
Mr. Mark came in the company with his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba and other principal officers of the National Assembly, incluidng minority leader, Abdul Ningi, while the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, was accompanied by his deputy, Emeka Ihedioha, as well as House Leader, Mulikat Akande.
Also in attendance were state governors led by Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, Liyel Imoke of Cross River, Babatunde Fashola of Lagos, Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto, Peter Obi of Anambra, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa, Babangida Aliyu of Niger, Gabriel Suswam of Benue and Adams Oshiomhole of Edo.
The ministers in attendance were Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Finance), Diezani Alison-Madueke (Petroleum Resources); Bala Usman (Federal Capital Territory), Minister; Emeka Wogu (Labour), Labaran Maku (Information) and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim, as well as Mohammed Adoke (Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice).
The National Security Adviser (NSA), Owoye Azazi and the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Auten Oniwon, as well as Joy Emordi and Mohammed Pate were also at the meeting.
Mr. Omar led the 18-man delegation of labour and civil society, including Mr. Esele, and the NLC acting General Secretary, Owei Lakemfa.