The Federal Government has requested for a week break from discussion with organised labour to consult on the new petrol price increase.
Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari made the request at Thursday’s meeting with the leadership of organised labour at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Thursday.
Kyari told the meeting that the cooperation couldn’t unilaterally announce a reversal of the new price without consultation.
It was agreed by both the labour and government team led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha that the meeting should be adjourned and should resume on December 7.
Labour has asked the government to reverse the recent fuel price increase, saying the increase negates the agreement reached in September.
Petrol price has increased by about four times in 2020. It had risen from N121.50–N123.50 per litre in June and N140.80-N143.80 in July and N148-N150 in August.
The product presently sells between N165 and N168 per litre after the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, a subsidiary of the Federal Government-owned NNPC, increased the ex-depot price of petrol from N147.67 per litre to N155.17 per litre for this month.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige at the end of the meeting which lasted for more than three hours, told reporters that the federal government team will relay the position of labour to President Muhammadu Buhari who is the Minister of Petroleum and also to the Economic Management team because funds are involved.
Ngige said: “By Monday, December 7, we will come back, because the message from the organised labour is clear. They want a reversal of the pump price to what it was. So, the government side will take it back to our principals.
“Even though government is not fixing the price of premium motor spirit (PMS) anymore because it is deregulated, it is part of the economy. So, the government side will consult anybody that needs to be consulted.
“We will consult the President as the Minister of Petroleum and then, the Economic Management team because funds are involved.”
Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joe Ajaero, said that it was believed that when the parties will resume negotiation on December 7, the reversal must have been effected.
“We took one week adjournment for them to reverse it (fuel increment) for us to begin discussions because the GMD (Group Managing Director) was saying that he can’t just announce it there, that he needs to do consultations.
“Exactly one week will be next week Friday so the following Monday we will reconvene by 5pm. We insisted on 2pm, the Minister said 7pm but we eventually agreed by 5pm.
“We insisted on reversal for any other talk to place although we have agreed to brief our organs, the NLC NAC is meeting today (Friday) so we are briefing our NAC, we may have to delay other organs after that Monday if they didn’t announce it.
“That’s why we said we don’t need to be shouting strike, we need to put our house in order,” Ajaero, who doubles as the General- Secretary of National Union of Electricity Employees said.
Earlier, President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Quari Olaleye told reporters that the organised labour wants government to reverse the last fuel price increase, which occurred while the two sides were already on the negotiation table.
Olaleye called for sincerity for the negotiations to progress smoothly.
Before the Thursday night dialogue went behind closed-doors, the TUC President warned government’s delegation to be sincere with the deliberations to avoid further embarrassment and another deadlocked meeting.
He said: “It will be beneficial when we can agree and disagree constructively on some of the things we have on the table, and have a clear communication even which a layman will understanding where we are going.
“We don’t want this meeting of going front and back every time that is so confusing that we don’t even understand what we are discussing, we must be leaving here today with an agreement.”
Labour had accused the government of insincerity in its meeting last Sunday, leading to a walkout.
In his remarks, the SGF commended organised labour for putting the nation first.
He praised the labour leadership for working very hard to see that the welfare of their members and the Nigerian people was catered for.
Mustapha assured the organised labour of government’s preparedness to work hand in hand with them to ensure that resolutions were reached at the meeting on any issue that borders on the welfare of Nigerians.
He expressed the belief that negotiations would be done in the overreaching interest of the people of Nigeria as the center piece.
The SGF thanked the organised labour for their display of patriotism when they went for their last recess on the request of the labour leadership.
He said whatever went out from the last meeting; the government side maintained in their reportage that there was no breakdown of talks between the government and labour.
The SGF said he believed that all the parties must have consulted sufficiently before coming back for them to reach certain conclusions on the issues being discussed that will further advance the cause and the good of Nigerians.
He thanked the labour for returning to the negotiation table and wished the meeting a short and fruitful discussion.
Thursday’s meeting was attended by Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajia Sadiya Farouk; Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo; Minister of State (Power), Jeddy Agba and Minister of State (Petroleum), Timipriye Sylva.
Others are: GMD of NNPC, Mele Kyari; Chairman/CEO, National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Prof. James Momoh and representative of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).