The meeting between the federal government, labour unions and civil society organisations (CSO) over the recent hike in the prices of petroleum products and electricity tariff has ended without a conclusion.
The meeting which lasted for about 10 hours held at the Old Banquet Hall, State House, Abuja. It was subsequently adjourned to a later date which is yet to be announced.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how President Buhari directed the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, to have a dialogue with the labour unions and CSOs on issues affecting the economy.
The issues include the hike in electricity tariff by distribution companies (DisCos) from about N30.23 to about N62.33 per kWh and an increase in the price of petrol from about N145 to about N161 per litre.
The government called for the meeting to prevent the planned protest by labour unions and other civil society organisations over the increase in petroleum products and electricity tarrif.
Speaking during the meeting, the Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Amechi Asugwuni, said the government had “no agenda at the meeting and did not provide an alternative means for the hardship the masses are experiencing.“
According to him, all the presentations made at the meeting were theories. He suggested that all the parties should go back and consult adequately so that the government may also have a solution.
“The government should not expect the labour unions that represent the masses to fold their arms when Nigerians are suffering,” he said.
Also speaking, the President of the Trade Union Congress, Quadri Olaleye, said the first solution to the problem is to reverse the fuel price hike and electricity tariff increase.
He said the TUC had already written the federal government and given a seven-day ultimatum for these demands to be met.
“Government should take immediate steps to reverse the hike in prices as it affects electricity, petrol and all other social services in the country to the prices they were prior to the increase and provide adequate and quality healthcare and education for all to save the poor and the vulnerable at all levels,” he said.
In his reaction, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said there was an agenda for the meeting.
“It is not true that the government has nothing on the table. The view of the meeting is that we adjourn, everybody to go and consult his principal,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Silva, said the government can no longer afford to subsidise petrol.
“You can see what subsidy cost us in 2011, subsidy cost us N2.105 trillion. We are talking of losing job, we are talking of people suffering. In 2010, it cost us N1.355 trillion, 2013 N1.316, and by 2015 the subsidy figure came down to N654 billion, by 2016 we didn’t even have any under-recovery. So, you can see that in 2018, prices came up again.
“So you can see that this is a policy direction that should have been taken long ago. No wonder every government comes to that point when they realised that subsidy was not sustainable but unfortunately some of those government did not have the political will; also the time probably was not ripe and they couldn’t take it because you can see that the cost of subsidy from 2016 to 2019 was N3.6 63 trillion, an average of N916 billion per annum,” he said.