The leadership of the Labour Movement has shed light on why the its meeting with the Federal Government on the contentious cut in fuel subsidy failed to reachan agreement last night.
Representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) left the meeting presided over by the Senate President, David Mark, with a resolution to sustain the mass protest, which was suspended on Friday for 48.
NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, told reporters the strike would resume following government’s failure to concede to labour and civil society’s demand that it reverts to the N65 per litre price of petrol to allow for wider deliberations and consultations on the issue of deregulation of the downstream sector of the country’s petroleum industry.
But, in a joint statement this morning signed by the NLC acting Secretary, Owei Lakemfa and his Trade Union Congress (TUC) Nigeria counterpart, John Kolawole, labour explained further that the meeting was “stalled due to differences on the methodology in finding a solution to the crisis.”
The statement read in part: “Labour’s analysis of the situation is that tension is very high in the land following the fuel price increase, the resultant strikes, rallies and street protests and the human causalities that have followed. And that a suspension of the new petrol prices will reduce tension and return the country to normalcy.We decided to make a plea to President Goodluck Jonathan in the overriding interest of the country to suspend the PMS (petrol) price increases and direct that talks between government and Labour be concluded on the petroleum industry, especially as it affects fuel subsidy and pricing within a short time frame.We made a pledge that once the price increase suspension is announced, Labour and its allies will immediately suspend the strikes, rallies and street protests.
“The summary of Labour’s position at the meeting was that talks and consultations were on-going before government aborted them by announcing the 120-220 per cent increase in the price of petrol, and that it is necessary to return to the status quo in order to douse tension, return the country to normalcy and allow for a conducive atmosphere for consultations and talks.
“However, government’s only offer was to reduce the new prices, while declining to allow a phased price increase. We think that the government position will not return the country to normalcy. The Labour Movement pledges that whenever and wherever government invites us for talks, we shall be there without any conditionality.”
On the objectives of the nationwide strikes and protests, which virtually brought the country’s economy to a halt last week, labour reiterated its commitment towards peaceful strikes, rallies and street protests to compel government to reverse the petrol prices to their pre-January 1, 2012 level.
It denied that the protests are aimed at ‘Regime Change’, as being bandied in government circles.
“The Labour Movement is wedded to democracy, therefore, anybody or group that wants a change in the political leadership of the country at whatever level, should do so through the ballot box,” it said.
Expressing sadness over the unprecedented loss of lives and injuries sustained during the indefinite strikes, rallies and street protests since it commenced on January 9, 2012, Labour warned that “those who visit violence on protesters and their masters who gave such evil orders will individually be brought to justice.”
It reaffirmed its resolve and those of its allies in the civil society organisations to sustain the indefinite strikes, rallies and protests beginning tomorrow till government meets the demand of Nigerians to remove corruption in the petroleum industry, particularly in the fuel distribution chain in the downstream sector.