The Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Ayuba Wabba, says the NLC will continue to negotiate with the Federal Government over its opposition to the hike in the pump price of petrol.
Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Monday, Mr Wabba noted that the tradition of the NLC is to continue to dialogue on issues that it is passionate about, especially the increase in electricity tariff and pump price of petrol.
The labour union, had on Sunday evening suspended an industrial action it called on Wednesday, May 18 to resist the new price of petrol.
This was after an emergency meeting of its organs – the National Working Committee and the National Executive Committee, where talks were focused on the strike and the way forward.
There were reports that the suspension of the strike was one of the conditions the Federal Government had given for it to resume negotiations with the NLC but Mr Wabba reiterated that the strike was suspended due to the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians including the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu and the National Assembly.
He did not give an assurance that all matters would be resolved, but promised that the union would indeed resume negotiations with the government, adding that they would remain consistent in their demands.
“We will go there with open mind to discuss those issues. In the discussion process, we will try to advance a lot of reasons why we think that it should not be only this issue of importation; we can also look at other policy options which we are going to come to the table with,” he said.
Mr Wabba also explained the rationale behind the decision of the labour union to embark on the strike and which they would continue to press for.
“Our standpoint is clear and unambiguous, we believe that it is not sustainable and it will be at a very high cost to continue to over-rely on importation of this product that God has blessed Nigeria with.
“As far back as 2011, we had a documented written agreement with government where they requested for a full-year monitoring period within which to ensure that the issue of importing products will be addressed.
“But here we are, many years down the line we are still at the same point. So, we thought that as NLC we must continue to be consistent and that is the process that actually drove the process of engagement of the NEC and the decision that was taken.”
Mr Wabba stated that as the union resumes negotiations with the government, they would be demanding for a timeline for which the new price hike would be in place as they believe the policy is not sustainable because it is dependent on factors like the foreign exchange rate which is beyond Nigeria’s control.
“We must also agree, like we did in 2011 – documented. When do we think we can be able to move into the next phase of fixing our refineries and also addressing the issue of bunkering and sabotage going on?
“We have realised that what is going on in the oil and gas sector, where most of our facilities are vandalized is because of the fact that it is cheaper and easier and you make quick money when you import and dispose of it.
“Therefore, it is like an incentive to those people that it is cheaper and easier to import product instead of working towards (rebuilding) the refineries,” he said.