21 May 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Two days after its planned protest against the government’s increase of petrol price barely took off, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has restated its commitment to dialogue with the Federal Government over the indefinite strike.
The NLC factional president, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, stated this at a parley with the leadership of the National Assembly led by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, in Abuja, even as the planned strike action to press its demand for government to revert the petrol price from N145 to the old price of N86.50 appears to be waning due to defections in the ranks of the labour movement.
Wabba noted that, “I am not sure we have received any further invitation from the Federal Government to return to the table for negotiation, but if they do, we’re very much open for dialogue. The purpose of calling for this action is actually to make a point and offer leadership to the masses who are faced with hardship.”
According to him, “The protest is to make the issue clear, that this is a policy that Nigerians, particularly the working class, cannot go with, looking at the high cost of goods and services. That is why NLC must be seen to be consistent in standing by the truth and by the people and ensuring social justice.
“This means that we will continue to resist the N145 pump price which has been imposed on us, because this is a further expansion of the hardship in the country,’’ he added.
He said that the protest would continue for two weeks, adding that by the middle of next week, the NLC leadership would review its position and know how best to move forward.
The NLC leader said the congress would also have an opportunity next week to study again government’s point of view.
On his part, Mr. Peters Adeyemi, NLC deputy president, said the protest was intended to fight for the people who cannot engage the government.
Responding, the Senate President said the meeting was part of efforts to find a lasting solution to the impasse.
According to Saraki, “I am happy to report that the NLC has shown commitment to continue dialogue with government and our role is to see that we facilitate that so that through dialogue, we can address the issues. I am encouraged by what they have said and confident that we would be able to do this.
“We play our own role in facilitating and ensuring that we can bring the two parties together so that we can find a lasting solution that will reduce the hardships that Nigerians are going through. At the end of the day, whatever constituency we are, we all have the interest of the Nigerian people and we must always bear that in mind,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara promised that the House would protect the interests of Nigerians.
Speaking before going into a closed door meeting with the NLC delegation, Dogara said as representatives of the people, the House recognised the need to dialogue with organised labour to resolve the fuel price crisis.
After the meeting, Dogara explained that both sides held frank talks and came to the conclusion that government and NLC must “show leadership by resolving the crisis amicably” in the interest of the Nigerian masses.
He said as much as the meeting admitted that the country’s wealth had shrunk due to the crash in the price of crude oil, workers deserved to be paid a living wage in the present circumstances.
Dogara added that, “Workers should be paid a living wage. We appealed to labour to look into this issue again and do the right thing. We have to look at the national interest in all our actions in order to suspend this strike or call it off entirely.”
Wabba said Labour has taken the plea of the National Assembly leadership and would respond appropriately by resuming negotiations with the Federal Government.
When asked whether that implies the strike would be suspended immediately, he replied that the strike was still on.