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Labour, FG Negotiations Deadlocked, Proposed Strike Suspended

The meeting between the federal government and organised labour, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), was adjourned yesterday till Monday after both sides failed to agree on

The meeting between the federal government and organised labour, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), was adjourned yesterday till Monday after both sides failed to agree on terms for the resolution of the dispute over the increase in petrol price and electricity tariffs in the country.

However, the planned industrial action scheduled for Monday by the labour unions has been suspended, pending further consultations with their various organs during the weekend on the offers made by the federal government to cushion the effects of the price hikes on workers.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, who led the government team, on Thursday informed the unions that President Muhammadu Buhari had asked him to reassure the labour leaders and Nigerians that the government’s decisions on petrol price and electricity tariffs were never intended to cause any pain or harm.

In the meantime, the National Industrial Court has granted an interim injunction restraining the NLC and TUC, their officers, affiliates and privies from embarking on any strike or stoppage of work from Monday, September 28, 2020.

But in a swift reaction, the TUC described the court injunction as a “non-issue.”

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who briefed journalists on the outcome of the meeting last night, said the meeting was fruitful as it afforded the federal government the opportunity to present some of the palliatives it intends to implement to cushion the effects of the petrol price increase and the upward review of electricity tariffs.

Ngige said: “Fruitful meeting. They are going back to their organs. When they consult their organs tomorrow,  maybe they will take a new decision.

“We have requested them to shelve the strike. We have appealed to them to shelve the strike.

“The government side agreed proposals with them on the palliatives to cushion the effect of the rise in petroleum products and electricity.”

Ngige said the meeting agreed to adjourn till 3pm on Monday. 

NLC President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, said the meeting had been adjourned till Monday so that labour could consult with its organs.

THISDAY gathered from sources that the government side had offered palliatives, including mass and affordable housing for workers, and procurement of transport buses to help reduce the impact of rise in fuel price.

The federal government was also said to have proposed that the Central Bank (CBN) and Ministry of Agriculture will help farmers with loans, including N2.5 billion as fresh palliatives to workers on levels 1-4.

They also agreed that the government will not tax minimum wage.

These states are Rivers, AkwaIbom, Delta, Sokoto, Kaduna, Anambra, Kano and Ebonyi States.

Others are Enugu, Kebbi, Borno, Katsina, Yobe, Imo and Bayelsa State.

The report further showed that another set of eight states are fairly able to also meet the recurrent and debt repayment expenditures from their total revenues and still have a little left for capital expenditure. These states are Jigawa, Edo, Nasarawa, Ogun, Niger, Kwara, Ondo and Zamfara.

However, the BudgIT stated that 13 states are in a delicate negative situation in terms of meeting their recurrent and debt obligations from their revenue without resorting to further borrowings to execute capital budget. These are Abia, Taraba, Benue, Cross River, Gombe, Bauchi, Adamawa, Plateau, Ekiti, Osun, Kogi, Oyo and Lagos states. 

It also reported that 11 states, namely Taraba, Benue, Ekiti, Nasarawa, Kwara, Kano, Kogi, Adamawa, Bauchi, Plateau and Bayelsa, have overhead expenditures that are higher than their capital expenditures.

Akeni noted that recurrent expenditures, though not necessarily bad, could hamper the ability of a state to generate future revenues to invest in development projects, adding that some states used recurrent expenditures to prioritise certain items. For instance, Delta State has a miscellaneous budget of N33 billion under its recurrent items.

The report also put question mark on some capital expenditures like AkwaIbom State Government House’s N22.61 billion budget while the state’s budget for health is N8.19 billion. Similarly, Adamawa State is spending N10.62 billion on reforms and governance alone higher than its expenditure for health or education.  

The report listed five states that prioritised capital budget over recurrent expenses as Rivers, Kaduna, AkwaIbom, Ebonyi and Kebbi states.

The report stated that three states – Bayelsa, Borno and Katsina  would be worst hit “by dwindling revenue as they relied on net Federation Account (FAAC) allocation for 89.56 per cent, 88.30 per cent and 88.16 per cent of their total revenues, respectively in 2019.  Lagos, Ogun and Rivers state will be least affected as they relied on FAAC for only 22.82 per cent, 35.31 per cent and 53.02 per cent of their total revenues, respectively.”

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