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Subsidy Removal: Nigerian Workers Insist on Status Quo as FG, NLC Meeting Deadlocked

“One principle of negotiation… You don’t ask the partner to negotiate at gunpoint,” NLC President Ajaero said.

A meeting called at the instance of the federal government between it and the leadership of both the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) on the issue of fuel subsidy removal has ended in a deadlock. The unions insisted on reversion to status quo on the petroleum subsidy issue.

The meeting took place at the conference room of the Chief of Staff in the State House, Abuja.

While federal government’s spokesperson, Dele Alake, told newsmen after the five-hour long meeting that it was a robust engagement, the president of NLC, Joe Ajaero, said  labour remained on their demand for the restoration of subsidy.

According to Alake, “We had a very robust engagement. We cross-fertilised ideas, ideas flew from all sides and there is one thing that is remarkable even from the labour side and that is Nigeria. We are all looking at the progress and stability of Nigeria. That is what is paramount.

“We cannot go into any details now because talks are still on-going. We cannot finish everything at one sitting. So, we have adjourned now, we are continuing the talks at a later day very very shortly.

“The point is that talks are on-going and it’s always better for all sides to keep talking with a view to arriving at a very amicable resolution that will be in the longer term interest of all Nigerians. That is as much as we can say now.”

But Ajaero emphasised that no consensus was reached at the meeting, saying, “I wouldn’t know what was communicated to you as an outcome of the meeting.  As far as labour is concerned, we didn’t have a consensus in this meeting.”

While insisting on a return to the status quo, the NLC president said, “That is one principle of negotiation. You don’t ask the partner to negotiate at gunpoint.”

On what NLC wanted specifically, Ajaero said, “The prayer of NLC is that we go back to status quo, negotiate, think of alternatives and all the effects and how to manage the effects this action is going to have on the people if it is an action that must take off.”

On whether the status quo meant restoration of subsidy, the NLC president stressed, “Well, the subsidy provision has been made up to the end of June and before then, conscious people, labour management, and the government will be able to think of what to happen at the end of June. You don’t start it before time.”

Ajaero expressed concern that the government could not respect the sanctity of the law that provided for fuel subsidy expenditure up till the end of June 2023. He said there was no country in the world that did not subsidise the living of their citizens, stressing also that, as long as Nigeria imports refined petroleum, the cost would be high.

President of TUC, Felix Usifo, said the unions would go and consult their members before deciding on the next meeting with the government.

Usifo said, “So, it’s not about grandstanding but it’s about how we protect the workforce. Clearly, we have stated in our meeting today, let status quo ante remain, while we go back and have conversations with our principal, because the workers are our principal, then we will reconvene for their discussion. But we hope that they will revert to the status quo ante”.

The meeting was also attended by Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Kachallon Daju; Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele; Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Mele Kyari, and former Edo State governor and ex-President of the NLC, Adams Oshiomhole, among others.

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