The Central Working Committee (CWC) of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) held an emergency meeting on the 16th of September 2020 at the Olaitan Oyerinde Auditorium at the NLC National Headquarters, Labour House, Central Business District, Abuja. The CWC comprises of the Presidents and General Secretaries of affiliate unions of the NLC and members of the National Administrative Council (NAC) of the NLC.
The meeting which was presided over by the National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni was appraised on emerging developments of national concern particularly with regards to the recent increase in the pump price of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as ‘petrol’ and the increase in electricity tariff.
The CWC was also briefed on the proceedings of a meeting between a Federal Government Team and Organized Labour as represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress on the issues of the recent increase in the price of petrol and hike in electricity tariff.
Furthermore, the CWC was briefed on the current industrial actions in our tertiary education institutions and tertiary healthcare institutions. The CWC was also briefed on the prolonged difficulties being experienced by public servants and trade unions in education institutions and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on the Integrated Personnel Payment Information System (IPPIS) especially with regards to accessing their full salaries and remittance of statutory deductions including check-off dues. This situation has lingered with no solution in sight despite the NLC scaling this matter to relevant authorities.
Considerations of the Central Working Committee
- The Central Working Committee considered that the increases in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff were ill timed and insensitive to the sufferings that Nigerians are going through at the moment especially in the wake of the socio-economic dislocations occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic;
- The CWC noted that the increase in energy cost has automatically upped the cost of doing business in Nigeria resulting in hyper-inflation thus wiping out gains made by increase in the national minimum wage and threatens to force many local businesses to either close shop or relocate to friendlier business climes;
- It was the well-considered position of the CWC that successive governments in Nigeria have failed to resuscitate our public refineries and even build new ones. The current government under President Muhammadu Buhari through its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) promised to ensure that at least 70% of our consumption needs for refined petroleum products are met by our refineries by 2018. Till date, that promise remains what it is – an overdue promise. The NLC has stridently advocated for modular refineries and opening up of the space in the downstream petroleum sub-sector for real competition, but nothing concrete has been done by government in response to these genuine developmental yearnings of the Nigerian people;
- It was the reasoned position of the CWC that subjecting the price of refined petroleum products to the twin factors of volatility in the global oil market and instability in our exchange rate only means that there is no end in sight to the skyrocketing price of petrol and other refined petroleum consumables. This means that Nigerians in the nearest future would be forced to pay up to five hundred naira for a liter of petrol. This is clearly unacceptable to Organized Labour in Nigeria and certainly to the Nigerian people;
- On the increase in electricity tariff, the Central Working Committee noted that government has continued to pump scarce public funds as investments into an already privatized power sector clearly showing the failure of the power sector privatization program. The CWC also noted that the investments in the power sector has not translated into the improvement of services and increased efficiency. The CWC reasoned that government cannot, therefore, transfer the cost of its own failure in the power sector privatization exercise on innocent Nigerians;
- The Central Working Committee also described as worrisome the fact that those mainly targeted by the latest increase in electricity tariff are manufacturers many of whom would be forced to shut down resulting in mass redundancy thus worsening the unemployment and crime situation in Nigeria. The CWC concluded that manufacturers that manage to survive the double jeopardy of high operating costs for their independent power generators and high electricity charges would simply transfer their new costs on already impoverished masses of our people. Ultimately, the dislocations consequent on the increase in the cost of living have eroded the gains of the recent increase in the national minimum wage;
- The Central Working Committee deplored the intransigence and insensitivity on the part of government which has led to the current strike actions by trade unions in our tertiary education institutions and trade unions operating in all the three tiers of Nigeria’s health sector; and
- The CWC also decried the continued difficulties on the IPPIS platform and the unbearable sufferings it has imposed on workers. Furthermore, the CWC described the deliberate withholding of statutory deductions including check off dues from many trade unions as a fundamental and mortal infraction on the rights of Nigerian trade unions and indeed a deliberate attempt by government to cripple the trade union movement in Nigeria.
Decisions of the Central Working Committee
After a careful consideration of the foregoing socio-economic realities especially in light of the insufferable hardship they present to the working-class family and the masses of our people in Nigeria, the Central Working Committee decided as follows:
- The CWC resolved to issue a 2 weeks ultimatum for an indefinite strike action and peaceful protest, to take effect from Monday, 28th September 2020, if government fails to reverse the recent hike in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff;
- The CWC resolved that government must demonstrate its commitment to resuscitating Nigeria’s four public refineries and building new ones as a sustainable response to the perennial instability and hike in the pump price of refined petroleum products particularly petrol, diesel and kerosene;
- The NLC will begin a mass mobilization of the Nigerian people, professional groups, religious organizations, market women, the informal sector and Congress civil society allies towards total compliance to the indefinite strike action. Pursuant to this, a meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) has been scheduled for Tuesday, 22nd September 2020; and
- The CWC calls on government to expeditiously negotiate with trade unions in Nigeria’s tertiary education and health sectors in order to bring to an end the current industrial actions. The CWC also calls for the immediate resolution of the difficulties being experienced by workers in accessing their full salaries and allowances on the IPPIS platform. Furthermore, the CWC calls for the immediate release of all withheld statutory deductions including check off dues to all affected trade unions.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja, Esq
President General Secretary