The National Executive Council (NEC) of the Nigeria Labour Congress held its regular meeting on February 17, 2021 at the Nigeria Air Force (NAF), Conference Centre, Kado-Abuja. The National Executive Council of NLC comprises all the Presidents, General Secretaries and Treasurers of NLC’s affiliate unions; Chairpersons and Secretaries of State Councils and the FCT; and members of the National Administrative Council.
The meeting received the Secretariat Report, Reports of the Technical Committee on Petrol Pricing and Electricity Tariff. NEC-in-Session also discussed the State of the Nation. Top on the issues discussed by NEC includes poor commitment of government to research especially in light of COVID-19, crisis of insecurity, attack on human and trade union rights, incessant increases in the pump price of petrol and hike in electricity tariff. NEC observed a minute silence in honour of Comrades Khaleel Ibrahim (former NLC National Treasurer and NULGE President), Didi Adodo (former ISSSAN General Secretary) and Charles Uzodike (former President of PASAN).
Considerations of the National Executive Council
- In light of the prevalence of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the development of vaccines to manage the global health crisis, NEC expressed concern on the inability of African countries including Nigeria to develop anti-COVID-19 vaccines. NEC traced the research failure in Nigeria to poor commitment of Nigerian government to funding research and innovation. NEC posited that research failure exacerbates crisis of unemployment, insecurity, and widespread unrests ravaging our country;
- The NEC berated the persisting crisis of insecurity in Nigeria as manifest through increase in terrorism, kidnap-for-ransom, banditry and inter-communal clashes which has displaced millions, made many places inaccessible and ruined livelihoods. The NEC expressed worries that many Nigerian workers and citizens are daily felling victims to the searing siege of insecurity in the land. NEC also expressed dismay at the toll that the current state of insecurity imposes on productivity, economic growth, food security, and the mental cum physical health of workers, their families and citizens generally. The NEC reiterated its resolve to convene a national security summit as soon as possible in the quest for solutions to the crisis;
- The NEC also frowned at the increasing attack against workers and trade union rights by employers of labour in both the public and private sector. NEC berated the management of Corporate Affairs Commission for attempts to kill unionism in the establishment especially through punitive transfer of trade union executives, withholding of workers’ salaries and refusal to remit statutory deductions. Also, the case of sack of trade union executives by Turkish Airline and the anti-unionization stance of Caverton Helicopters was discussed by NEC. NEC deplored the industrial tyranny by Turkish Airlines and Caverton Helicopters. The NEC also decried continued violation of workers’ rights in the banking sector especially through imposition of outrageous targets and absence of formal machinery for collective bargaining;
- The NEC while considering the Report on Electricity Tariff established that there are conditions driving up electricity tariff in Nigeria that are within the control of government. Some of those conditions include high cost of gas used in power stations all over Nigeria the dollarization of gas used in running power stations all over the country and the frontloading and transfer of the cost of infrastructure investment by DISCOs to end consumers. Still on the high cost of gas used in power stations, NEC noted the findings in the Technical Report that gas is being sold to DISCOs at the cost of 2.5 cents against the international best price of 1.5cents and that this cost is passed on to end consumers.
The NEC also expressed concern that the total power generation in Nigeria since the privatization of the power sector has not exceeded about 4000MW. This hangs a huge question mark on the success and usefulness of the power sector privatization.
The NEC also express dissatisfaction with poor implementation of the Accelerated National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP). The NEC frowned at the unleashing of double jeopardy on electricity consumers through the penchant by DISCOs to migrate Nigerians to higher tariff bands without their consent and also imposing fresh tariff hikes on electricity consumers in the country;
- On the Report on Petrol Price, the NEC observed that the issues driving incessant increases in the pump price of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol and other refined petroleum products in Nigeria remain the same. These factors include Nigeria’s dependence on imported refined petroleum products owing to the near comatose of all of Nigeria’s public refineries, sea freight charges, the use of Import Parity Prices to calculate the landing cost of petrol and the unbearable pressure occasioned by the persistent volatility in foreign exchange rates, additional costs owing to the absence of critical infrastructures in our ports to handle imported refined petroleum products, the cost of demurrage, and taxes by different regulatory agencies. The NEC also expressed worries that previous promises made by successive governments to fix refineries have never been fulfilled;
- The NEC also discussed the current move by government to concession Nigeria’s major airports to private business. The NEC described the move as resonating with the appetite by successive Nigerian governments to privatize every public asset. The NEC warned that experience shows that neither concession nor privatization of public enterprises and assets have been to the advantage of the Nigerian people and workers;
- On the implementation of the new national minimum wage and minimum pension, the NEC decried the failure of some state governments to pay the national minimum wage and minimum pension. The NEC also deplored the failure of some state governments to conclude negotiations on consequential salary adjustment owing to the new national minimum wage.
Decisions of the National Executive Council
After a careful consideration of the issues before it especially in light of their implications to the working-class family and the masses of our people in Nigeria, the National Executive Council resolved as follows:
- The NEC called on government at all levels to demonstrate genuine commitment to research by ensuring central coordination of all research funding and efforts in the country. The government should also put in place enabling legislation to promote research. Government should encourage research into the use of local herbs and other resources in managing COVID-19;
- The NEC called on government to live up to its constitutional responsibility of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians. The NEC warned that Nigerian workers would no longer tolerate the escalation of insecurity in the country as it presents huge dangers to citizens, economic growth and national stability;
- The NEC re-echoed that the fundamental rights to peaceful assembly and protests by citizens is a universal right that should never be breached. NEC, therefore, took a very strong stance against the rising waves of anti-union practices by some employers in Nigeria. In the case of the Corporate Affairs Commission, the NEC resolved to mobilize the strength of the Nigerian workforce to picket the national headquarters of the CAC for three days. The NEC also resolved to issue a 14-day ultimatum to the management of Turkish Airline and Caverton Helicopter to reinstate all sacked trade union executives and desist from further anti-union actions. The NEC went on call on banks in Nigeria to desist from the modern-day slavery of imposing unrealistic revenue targets on their employees. The NEC also called on the Central Bank of Nigeria to direct all the management of banks in Nigeria to constitute the employers’ representative body – the Nigeria Employers Association of Banks and Allied Institutions – to ensure seamless collective bargaining machinery in Nigeria’s banking industry;
- On the report on Electricity Tariff, the NEC resolved that government should immediately address the conditions within its control that are driving up electricity tariff in Nigeria. First, the NEC called for a review of the power sector privatization programme which is already overdue for review since the law provides for a review of the privatization program after every two years. The NEC also calls for the reduction of the cost of gas to 1.5 cents and also the scrapping of the use of US and Nigeria inflation rates to determine the cost of gas to GENCOs. The NEC also called on government to step up on the mass distribution of meters to electricity consumers all over Nigeria. In order to ensure strict follow up and compliance, the NEC recommends the setting up of an oversight taskforce outside the purview of NERC and DISCOs;
- The NEC resolved to reject deregulation as long as it is import driven. NEC reiterated the traditional position of Congress that government should rehabilitate and revamp Nigeria’s local refineries as a sustainable solution to incessant increases in the pump price of petrol. The NEC posited that Nigeria’s refineries can be made to work in a short time once government asserts the political will to do so. The NEC also urged the Nigerian government to find ways and means to shield Nigerian citizens from the volatilities in the international crude oil market. The NEC also demanded that the template used in determining the pump price of PMS which includes inbuilt charges and inflationary trend should be reviewed to the benefit of Nigerians. NEC called for modular refineries in order to bring down the price of diesel;
- The NEC rejected the concession of Nigeria’s airports and other considerations for privatization describing such as great disservice to the Nigerian people and a betrayal of the efforts of Nigerian workers especially those employed in the aviation sector;
- The NEC warned that it would take very drastic action against state governments that have refused to pay the new national minimum wage and minimum pension which benefit had already been eroded by the escalating inflation in the country. The NEC also resolved to view the refusal to pay the new national minimum wage by state governments as demanded by the law as an act of criminality, betrayal of the oath of office sworn by state chief executives and a dangerous adventure in anarchy.
The NEC-in-Session directed all states where the national minimum wage of N30000 is yet to be paid to immediately proceed on industrial action.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja, Esq
President General Secretary
17th February 2021