Following the seven-day strike notice issued by organised labour to the federal government over the increase in petrol price and electricity tariff, the government, led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, is presently meeting with labour leaders at the Bouquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Welcoming the labour leaders, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Ngige, said that there is an urgent need for all stakeholders in the country to join hands to fashion out “how we can survive the economic challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic”.
He said the meeting is “a bilateral dialogue between us as Nigerians to consider the state of the economy and events that have necessitated recent increases in electricity tariff and the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS)”.
In his opening remarks, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, regretted that the recent increase in the cost of fuel and electricity tariff by government has further aggravated the economic hardship on Nigerians.
He said that Nigerian workers who have lost their jobs and means of livelihoods due to Covid-19 imposed challenges are being forced to make further sacrifices through an unbearable increase in prices of fuel and electricity tariff.
The President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Quadri Olaleye, kicked against what he described as an attempt by the government side to shift the discussion from the concerns over fuel and electricity tariff hike to the sliding economy.
He said that workers are presently losing about 15 per cent of their wages as a result of the various price hikes.
Olaleye wondered why the federal government has found it auspicious now to seek dialogue with organized labour that the economy is in bad shape when it never did so since it came into office in 2015.
While making a presentation during the meeting, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timipreye Syiva, said Nigeria lost an average of N1 billion daily between 2016 and 2019 as a result of fuel subsidy and N3.74 billion daily before 2016.
He also said that Nigeria lost N10.4 trillion to fuel subsidy between 2016 and 2019.
The minister said that Nigeria’s economy has not been well for a while now, adding that it has become incumbent on all to join hands to see how to salvage the situation.
Sylva stated that every successive administration in the country had come to realise that subsidy is not good for the economy but that having the political will to implement deregulation policy has been the problem.
He said that despite a recent move by the federal government to introduce market pricing of fuel, Nigeria has not fully deregulated because of the concerns the government has for the people.
The Minister of Power, Ahmad Zakari, also made presentations on the predicament the electricity subsector is facing.