Petrol price hike: Labour leaders walk out on Ngige, SGF, others, accuse FG of insincerity

Uba Group


LABOUR leaders, on Sunday, walked out of a meeting with officials of the Federal Government, accusing Government of a high level of insincerity in its dealings with the Organised Labour.

The meeting, which began at about 8pm, at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, had been convened to review progress made so far with regard to resolutions reached at the previous meetings the Federal Government held with the labour leaders.

But the meeting, which had in attendance, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo; and Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, among others, had barely started when the union leaders walked out.

President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba; President, Trade Union Congress, Quadri Olaleye; and General Secretary, National Union of Electricity Employees, Joe Ajaero, were among other union leaders present at the meeting.

Olaleye, who tipped for discussion, the latest hike in petrol pump price, from N160 to N170, said the unions were beginning to lose confidence in Government and warned that they would walk out if progress was not made.

He said FG’s action was putting them (union leaders) in an uncomfortable situation with Nigerians in terms of trust, noting that they could not even move freely.

The TUC President said, “Government is showing a high level of insincerity in discussions with us and is also putting us at risk with the people we are leading, with the masses. We find it difficult to move freely, but people in government are moving freely.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that the major problem we have in this country is insincerity and this cannot continue. The palliatives government promised and other pledges have not materialised. I just wonder the purpose of coming here every time to be discussing and putting ourselves at risk.”

“I want to put it to the government that if today’s meeting does not look promising to solve those problems, honestly, we would mobilise to walk out of the meeting. The situation is getting tense and you are putting us at risk,” he noted.

The labour leaders pointed out that they had been under attack by the Nigerian people over slow or non-implementation of resolutions reached at previous meetings.

At that point, Ngige urged the media to leave the hall and promised to discuss the issue during the business session.

But our correspondent learnt that after the media left, the minister said the palliatives issue would be discussed first while the unions insisted on discussing the increase in fuel price.

The labour leaders walked out of the meeting following this disagreement.

Speaking with journalists, the General Secretary, NLC, Emmanuel Ugboaja, said, “We felt we should address the issue of petroleum prices before addressing the need for palliatives. On that strength, we felt we could not continue with the meeting whose agenda is wrongly prioritised.

“We have had some understanding over time, but while these meetings were ongoing, we were suddenly slapped with a new increase in petroleum prices and we felt that was beyond what we had as understanding with the Government.

“We felt that (the increase in petrol pump price) should be the first item for discussion today. But surprisingly the government’s team felt otherwise. They felt the issue of imaginary palliatives should be discussed before what is causing the need for the palliatives should be discussed.”

Olaleye further noted that the agenda for the meeting agenda was not well prioritised.

“The meeting has been going back and forth. We cannot go on with their insincerity and that is why we are leaving the meeting,” he declared.

The Federal Government’s team, however, refused to admit that the meeting had ended abruptly, claiming that the union leaders had only asked for a recess.

“We had to do some alterations with the agenda for the meeting. They wanted a particular item discussed first before any other issue that we have front-loaded for the meeting, so they needed a recess,” Ngige said.