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Strike: We have not been served court papers, Labour insists





…Accuses FG of sponsoring protest against labour
…We’ve resolved issues on deregulation – SGF

No going back: Labour insists on reversal of fuel, electricity tariff hike

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja

The organised labour has told the Federal Government that it was not aware of any court injunction stopping it from embarking on strike.

It also accused the government of sponsoring protest against the labour over the planned strike which was necessitated by the recent increase in prices of petrol and electricity tariff.

This is as the government has said that some of the contentious issues the labour was agitating for including the issue of deregulation have been resolved.

The leadership of the organized labour comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and the Trade Union Congress TUC met with the representatives of the Federal Government over the proposed strike expected to commence on September 28.

Recall that the meeting held on Thursday last week by the two parties ended without any resolution as neither the organized labour nor the government team was able to shift ground on their positions.

Speaking at the opening session at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja last night, President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said, “We are here again because when we met here on Thursday, we could not conclude the discussion.

“First is the fact that government presented their positions, we also presented ours. Therefore, it was concluded that there was need for consultation and the meeting was adjourned till Monday.

“As you said, this particular session was conveyed under emergency circumstance because all of us are committed to social dialogue, that is why we are here.

“Some of our colleagues missed theirs, so, they could not join us. Flight of some of them were cancelled.

“I think it is good for me to respond to one or two issues. One is the judicial process that the honourable minister of labour mentioned. Let me say clearly, that as we sit here, labour has not been served any process.

“Let us not forget that because, we labour unions are passionate about this issue, particularly the hike in electricity tariff, remember we had to seek judicial pronouncement and as I speak here, there is still a subsisting court judgement, Federal High Court in Lagos that said the increase is illegal, therefore, it should be set aside. I’m not sure that judgment has been respected up till today.

“I’m not saying because of that, if there are clear-cut issues we cannot proceed. I think we must also understand the context. If we are on the negotiation table, and we have come to the table with open minds, and the commitment, I think we should emphasise the issues that are on the table instead of trying to divert our attention by referring to a process which we are not known to it.

“For us, it is still a rumour because I don’t see any difficulty if somebody thinks… Part of the issues is also that, the industrial relation meddle is very clear about such processes, and also the fact that those issues were discussions of socio-economic issues.

“And when we discuss the issue of either strike or what else, or protest, we have standing authorities up to the level of… that says no citizen can actually be prevented from exercising his rights on peaceful assembly.

“I think we shouldn’t bring some of those issues to the table because I thought we are actually here to make resolutions. As usual, it is out of our commitment that despite that today is Sunday, we are here to see how to resolve those issues.

“Once again, we are here because we are passionate on the issues. We want a situation where those concerns will be addressed. Those fundamental issues we have raised should also be resolved.

“So, in essence, that is why you have seen that we have always remain committed to social dialogue process. We are ready for social dialogue and certainly as we said, we should actually start from where we stopped. I think that is how to make progress in a meeting.”

On his side, the TUC President, Quadri Olaleye, said,”We accept to be here because in the culture of Labour, whenever we have issues with anybody, we are always keeping our focus on resolving the issues and why the issue lingers is because we have been calling government attention to these issues and government is not giving attention.

“I want to appreciate government for coming to the table to dialogue with us and giving us the attention we require. That shows that we have some stake in this country too. I have mentioned in the past that if you are part of the country, the government would have listened to us earlier before now.

“We are already negotiating with the government, it was totally wrong for government to head to court to get an injunction. As at now, we have not been served with that injunction so I am not aware.

“And also it was wrong for government to have sponsored people to protest at the Unity Fountain that the labour movement should not go on strike. It was very wrong for government, if another person had sponsored that it would have been right than the government because we actually got the information that it was sponsored by government.

“Labour is not afraid to go to court to challenge the injunction obtained by government but we have not been served.”

Speaking earlier, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige said, “There is a new development, a judicial process was served on us by a civil society organization asking us to make sure there is no strike.

“So we felt that because of those issues and our date to convene tomorrow we’re no longer tenable, therefore I contacted the heads of the two labour centres, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Chief of Staff to the President all agreed that we need to dialogue as soon as possible, that necessitated our invitation which was very urgent. I don’t think we will waste much time.”

On the allegation that the government was sponsoring protest against labour, Ngige said, “I know that he who alleges must proof, it is a very weighty allegation against the government, as far as I know, we are not aware of such a situation.”

Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha said that the issue of deregulation has been resolved by the two parties.

According to him, “When we met last week, we had very robust discussions, we had very instructive insights into the issues that necessitated the Minister of Labour to engage with the organized labour as to navigating and trying to find out a way to through the agitating issues that were raised.

“And I believe strongly that we have resolved virtually everything that was desk in the area of issues relating to deregulation of the downstream sector of the Oil and gas and the increase in the tariff.

“With regard to power, there were still outstanding issues that were raised by the organized labour as to the conflicting information they have regarding the tariffs as applied in different areas under different Discos and it was at that one that we decided that there should be some kind of validation exercise.

“And it was at that point that the meeting stood adjourned. Adjourned in the sense that what do we do during these processes of the validation exercise which was supposed to run for two years and I believe this meeting can be narrowed to that this evening so that we can have a very quick resolution to the outstanding matters.”

As at the time of sending this report the meeting was still ongoing.

Vanguard News Nigeria.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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