Strike Negotiations Deadlocked, NLC/ TUC Continue Total Strike Monday

Labour Officials At The Negotiation Table; Saturday Evening

The suspended strike called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to protest the removal of petrol subsidy is continuing.

It resumes nationwide tomorrow after the collapse late yesterday of last ditch talks between the Federal Government and Labour.

Government had planned to use the opportunity to avert a shut down of oil production threatened by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) should the subsidy removal subsist beyond today.

NLC and TUC leaders emerged from the three hour talks to inform State House correspondents that the two sides could not reach an agreement.

President of the NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar went diplomatic in his response to reporters’ questions saying the meeting was not deadlocked “but we have not reached a compromise.”

He sad:”Like we said the other time,it means the status quo remains.We are going to continue our deliberation at our organisation level and then maybe we will see the way forward.

“We are going to meet with our organs,then we’ll inform Nigerians.”

Omar led the NLC team while the TUC delegation was led by Mr.Peter Esele.

The talks opened at 7.20pm.There was a break at 9.37 but talks resumed about 20 minutes later.

The meeting ended at 11.17pm.

At the talks were Senate President David Mark;his deputy Ike Ekweremadu; Deputy Speaker House of Representatives Emeka Ihedioha; Senate Leader Ndoma Egba; Senator Abdul Ningi and House Leader, Mulikat Akande.

Also in attendance were Governors Babatunde Fashola of Lagos, Babangida Aliyu of Niger, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo, Wamako of Sokoto, Peter Obi of Anambra, Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers, Liyel Imoke of Cross Rivers, Muritala Nyako of Adamawa and Gabriel Suswam of Benue.

Representing the Federal Government were Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim; National Security Adviser Owoye Azazi;Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,Minister of Finance; Mrs Deizani Madueke, Petroleum Resources; Mr. Emeka Wogu,- Labour;Mohammed Bello Adoke,- Attorney General; Labaran Maku , Information and FCT- Bala Mohammed ,FCT; as well as the NNPC GMD- Austen Oniwon.

The first signs of a possible showdown emerged after the NLC and TUC at separate meetings preceeding the State House deliberations resolved that it was either a reversion to N65 per litre or nothing.

The strike commenced last Monday but was suspended on Friday to enable the two organisations re-assess the situation and consult as well as allow Nigerians restock their homes with food and refresh ahead of the next possible stage of the anti-subsidy removal protest.

For about five hours yesterday NLC and TUC leaders met separately in the Federal Capital where they resolved that the only acceptable solution for them was a reversion to the old price of N65 per litre.

They later left for the Presidential Villa,Abuja for a fresh round of negotiation with Federal Government officials.

They said once the price reversal was effected stakeholders could then begin to discuss issues involved in the deregulation of the downstream sector of the economy and appropriate pricing of fuel price.

Sources close to the meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the NLC, which took place at the Labour House, Abuja ,said they wanted the President to heed the call made last Sunday by the House of Representatives that the Federal Government should,in the interest of the generality of Nigerians reverse the pump price to N65.

The NEC of the TUC adopted the same position.

They also asked the Federal authorities to raise a larger committee to audit crude importation, PMS importation and negotiate appropriate pricing of fuel within three months

A member of the NEC, said: “We have decided to ask the President to comply with the decision of the House of Representatives asking him to reverse the fuel price to N65.

“The President must lead by example. An arm of the National Assembly (the House of Representatives) has taken a decision, we stand on that. He should respect the opinion of the legislature.

“We also asked the Executive to raise a larger committee to audit crude importation, PMS importation and determine appropriate pricing of fuel within 90 days.

“So after the reversal of the pump price to N65, the government, the labour and other stakeholders will now sit down for three months on how to go about the deregulation of the downstream sector. We cannot accept N141 pump price without facts and figures.”We took note of the fact that if a proper auditing of crude being sold and fuel consumption is done, you will discover a lot of fraud.

“Records at our disposal show that about 4million litres of fuel are not being accounted for daily. Yet Nigeria is paying for these.

Responding to a question, the source said: “Jonathan has the next 24 hours to decide on these options or else we will shut down all oil installations by midnight on Sunday.

“There will be a total strike from Monday.”

Following Saturday night’s inconclusive negotiations, NLC Secretary General, Owei Lakemfa told the cable news network, Al-Jazeera, that since Labour had been in talks with the government over the modalities for deregulation, the Jonathan administration had acted in bad faith by going ahead without notice on January 1.

He said Labour was insistent on a return to the status quo as a condition for negotiations to restart. On the part of government they are insisting that deregulation was now official government policy which cannot be reversed, and that the best Labour can get was a reduction in price.

Last night, Senate President David Mark who has been mediating the talks between both sides said progress had been made despite the inconclusive nature of the talks. He said: “It is a whole negotiation process; negotiation continues. We have done pretty well; we are consulting. We want to bring this to a logical conclusion at the nearest possible time.”

He declined to reveal what the Federal Government was offering. “There is no question of the Federal Government offering a specific pump price. The essence of negotiation and discussion is that both sides are shifting ground and we are doing that very well.”

There was, however, no indication last night as to when negotiations would resume. NLC President, Omar, did say though that threatened shutdown of oil production by PENGASSAN might not happen immediately because of the ongoing discussions.

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