Untold story of the Labour-Government fuel subsidy negotiation

Labour leaders singing solidarity song before the commencement of the meeting with president Goodluck Jonathan

New facts have revealed that the closed-door meetings between the federal government and the representatives of Labour and Civil Society during the last nationwide strike never discussed fuel price during the negotiations.

While addressing members of the Joint Action Front (JAF) on Sunday, Dipo Fashina, the chairman, said that the “so called negotiations” were full of blackmails and arm twisting and no mention of the removal of fuel subsidy.

“There was no negotiation in Aso Rock,” said Mr. Fashina, who represented the civil society during the talks.

“On the first day, Labour met with the Senate President, David Mark, who tried to blackmail them,” he said.

Mr. Fashina said that at the second negotiation, which had President Goodluck Jonathan in attendance, the president berated Labour for supporting his presidency during the elections, and now turning against him to call a nationwide strike. 

There was no mention of petrol price, according to Mr. Fashina.

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“During Obasanjo’s time when he increased fuel price several times, the talks were all about petrol price change. Now it’s my turn and people are talking about regime change,” Mr. Fashina quoted the president as saying.

“Since it is about regime change, I am going to march out the military because it is now about national security,” Mr. Jonathan reportedly told the Labour and Civil Society leaders.

Mr. Fashina added that there were also hints before the negotiations that Labour were plotting with the vice president to oust Mr. Jonathan from office.

“There was blackmail, that if Jonathan was removed, vice president Sambo would become president and the vice president is from the same village with one of the leaders of the Trade Union Congress,” said Mr. Fashina.

‘A divided house’

Mr. Fashina noted that the lack of a unified stance on the part of Labour and Civil Society put a major crack on their demands.

“The NLC (Nigeria Labour Congress) was operating a half house,” he said.

“The eastern branches, with the exception of Imo State, were not on strike. The South-South governors were already in advanced talks with their Labour leaders to call off their strike,” said Mr. Fashina.

On Monday, January 16, JAF and other civil society groups had begun a march from the NLC Secretariat, Yaba, and had engaged in a face-off with military officers who blocked their procession and demanded that the crowd be dispersed.

And then the news of the suspension of the nationwide strike by organized Labour filtered in, deflating the spirits of the protesters.

“Our handicap is that we do not call strikes. It is only the people who call for strikes that can call it off,” said Mr. Fashina.

“As at the time we finished the meeting by 2 a.m, there was no plan to call of the strike. Whatever happened took place between the time we left and the time the strike was called off.”

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