Fuel price hike: Govt, NLC set up technical committee on minimum wage, price review

*Fuel.

*Fuel.

…As FG appoints Muhammed Buba PPPRA chair

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

26 May 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Federal government and representatives of organised Labour yesterday agreed to set up a 16-man technical committee to discuss the various issues that have emanated from the recent hike in the price of petrol.

The agreement was reached Wednesday evening after many hours of negotiation between government officials led by the Secretary of the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir David Lawal, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, Minister of State for Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Edo State Governor, Adam Oshiomhole and NLC led by Ayuba Wabba.

The committee would discuss the minimum wage and modalities of implementing it. It would also look at the issue of allocation of the N500 billion palliative fund provided for in 2016 budget which labour wanted to monitor how it is disbursed.

The committee would report to the committee of the whole within two weeks after its inauguration.

Also yesterday, the SGF announced the appointment of Alhaji Mohammed Buba as the chairman of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the appointment of Alhaji Buba, who is former director-general of Petroleum Products Marketing Company, PPMC.

The Board of PPPRA, which has the statutory role of determining and fixing the prices of petroleum products, had not been constituted for over four years.

The Nigeria Labour Congress had on Sunday announced the suspension of its indefinite strike to demand the reversal of the pump price per litre of fuel from N145 to N86.50.

It also resolved to enter into negotiation with the federal government on the review of minimum wage for workers, electricity tariff and constitution of the Board of PPMC among other issues.

The SGF said, “We just finished our meeting with the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and I’m happy to announce we had a very successful meeting with an outcome that will make every Nigerian happy.

“First of all, on the side of the government, we want to thank the Nigerian Labour Congress for their magnanimity in calling off the strike, and we thank Nigerians for being patient while the strike lasted.

Babachir noted that “In this meeting, we have arrived at some major decisions. First of all, you would recall that before we adjourned the last meeting, we had basically decided to discuss three major issues. One was the issue of the minimum wage for workers, both in government and in the private.”

He added that “Labour had raised the issue of the requirement to be involved in the implementation of the half a trillion naira in the budget meant for palliatives for Nigerians that are on the fringes of society economically.

“Then, Labour had requested that the government reconstitute the Board of PPPRA which, they said that, had it been in place, the issue of the misunderstanding in the price regulation would not have arisen.

“This evening, I’m proud to announce that, first of all, a 16-man committee has been set up as a technical committee – half from the labour side and half from the government side – to discuss issues concerning the minimum wage, to advise on the setting up and possible modalities of working out the committee to discuss minimum wage issue.”

Babachir noted that the minimum wage involved almost every segment of the society, “so it’s not just federal government and workers alone, but also stakeholders, local government, the private sector. So this technical committee will discuss the modalities of how this issue would be brought forward.

“Secondly, we have agreed that the 16-man committee will look at the issues of implementation and allocation of resources of that palliative, the half a trillion naira palliative. The Committee is supposed to work and bring its report to the committee of the whole within two weeks of their inauguration.”

On the new PPPRA chair, he described the man as a very seasoned oil industry downstream expert.

“Alhaji Muhammadu has agreed to graciously serve in this capacity. It is a 25-member board. All the members are statutorily coming from all segments of the society: NLC, related parastatals, Trade Union Congress, TUC, and other non-governmental organisations.”

On his part, the minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, explained that the review of the minimum wage was a tripartite negotiation arrangement.

He explained that the 16-man committee was expected to work out the framework to constitute the tripartite committee for the minimum wage review.

“I chair the Committee and we are waiting for NLC to forward their nominees so that the committee can be inaugurated sometime next week,” he said.

Asked if the committee would also be working with the other faction of NLC, Senator Ngige said: “We don’t know of any faction. We had our problem as a government, and NLC is NLC, TUC is TUC. We would not pry into anybody’s problem. If they have an in-house problem, they would solve it. The government would be willing to play a major role to make sure we have one indivisible NLC.”

Responding to questions from journalists, NLC president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who led other labour leaders to the meeting, described the meeting as successful.

“As you are aware, we resumed the meeting today and I can tell you the meeting was very successful. We have agreed to have the technical committee to look at the details, including the fact that the pricing issue and template would have to be considered by an appropriate body which, by law, is allowed to do that – which is PPPRA. Part of the issue is also to get the Board (of PPPRA) in place.”

He recalled that the Board had not been in place for the past four years, even as it is the Board’s responsibility to interrogate the template and arrive at the proper pump price.

“I think the Board has been constituted, so Labour is coming as a team under Organised Labour. We would come with eight persons and that would look into ancillary issues related to the pump price. But I think the most important issue is that of the PPPRA,” Comrade Wabba said.

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