Petrol, Electricity Hikes: Labour set to commence strike

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Labour to commence nationwide strike in Nigeria

Labour on Tuesday set September 30 for “unprecedented mass action” and “total strike” to get the government to reverse the hike in petrol pump price and the increased electricity tariffs.

The Nigeria Labour Congress National Executive Council (NEC) took the decision at a meeting with members of the National Administrative Council, Presidents and General Secretaries of affiliate unions and state council chairpersons and secretaries.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) whose ultimatum to the government ought to have expired yesterday, shifted it till Monday to concur with the NLC on the commencement of industrial action.

Following the withdrawal of subsidy, the price of petrol rose to between N159 and N162 per litre at the pump at the beginning of this month.

The Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) raised their tariffs two days later, having been prevented twice by the government on April 1 and July 1.

The government said it played no role in the new price regime because market forces are now determining the rates.

But labour rejected the new rates and threatened to call out workers on strike. A government delegation led by Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, met with Labour leaders last Tuesday.

The meeting agreed to reconvene Thursday to resolve the issues and agree on sucour for Nigerians.

But the NLC and the TUC are not persuaded that Thursday’s meeting would address the issues, given their resolution on Tuesday.

NLC President Ayuba Wabba, who read the communique of the meeting, said: “NEC resolved to reject in its entirety the issue of hike in electricity tariffs by almost 100 per cent as well as the fuel price increase in the name of full deregulation.

“This decision is premised on the fact that these twin decisions alongside other decisions of government including the increase of VAT by 7.5 per cent, numerous charges by commercial banks on depositors without any explanations will further impoverish Nigerian workers and citizens.

“Therefore, this increase, coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, is not only ill-timed but counter-productive.

“NEC also observed that the privatisation of the electricity sub-sector seven years down the line has not yielded any positive result. Whereas, the entire privatisation process, the entire sector was sold at about N400 billion, we are surprised that government within the last four years injected N1.5 trillion over and above the amount that accrued from this important asset.

“Therefore, NEC came to the conclusion that the entire privatisation process has failed and the electricity hike is actually a process of continuous exploitation of Nigerians.

“On the issue of the refineries and also the increase in the pump price of PMS, this particular issue had been on the table for more than three decades and the argument has not changed.

“Whether it is the name of full deregulation or subsidy removal, what is obvious is that it is fuel price hike and this has further eroded the gains of the N30,000 minimum wage because it has spiral effects which include the high cost of food and services and the reduction in the purchasing power of ordinary Nigerians.

“While demanding that our three refineries should be made to work optimally, NEC also concluded that government has business in doing business because the primary purpose of governance is about the security and welfare of the people and if in other countries, governments are maintaining refineries, and they are working optimally for the benefit of the people, Nigeria cannot be an exception.

“In the light of these, NEC decided to endorse the two-week ultimatum given to the Federal Government to reverse those obnoxious decisions and also pronounce that the action proposed by the Central Working Committee is hereby endorsed by the NEC that 28th of September should be the date that those decisions should be challenged by the Nigerian workers, our civil society allies and other labour centres.”

Dr Ngige said the Federal Government would meet again with Labour on Thursday as talks to avert a strike continues.

He said: “We are engaging with them. We’re going to engage further by Thursday with the NLC and TUC.

“The government opened the books to them during our meeting last Tuesday. They agreed to brief their members, but if they are not satisfied, we’ll continue to engage them.”

Ngige said a nationwide strike would hurt all Nigerians, including members of the Organised Labour.