• Friday, June 14, 2024
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Subsidy: FG says no going back, as labour seeks return to status quo

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The federal government on Wednesday insisted that it will not go back on the fuel subsidy removal, as leaders of the organised labour seek return to status quo.

The meeting called by the federal government to woo Labour on Wednesday ended without the parties agreeing on the way forward.

Dele Alake, spokesman for the federal government team, said the “government has been deliberating on finding very amicable solutions to the issue at hand, to the queue and all of that and the increase in pump price”.

Alake however revealed that the government and Labour had a very robust engagement, adding that “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 peace, progress and stability of Nigeria. That is what is paramount.

“Of course the NNPCL CEO is here, Mr Kyari, we cannot go into details now because the talks are still ongoing. We cannot finish everything at one sitting. so we have adjourned now, we are continuing the talks at a later date very shortly,” Alake said.

“But the point is that the talks are ongoing and it 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 for all Nigerians. That is as much as we can say now.”

But Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) led by its President, Joe Ajaero, while speaking with State House Journalists after the meeting, stated that “there was no consensus” even as he berated the decision of the government to fix the new fuel price for the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), before the meeting with the organised Labour.

“We ought to have engaged in conversation first before the announcement of the subsidy removal. There weren’t formal engagements and conversations. We could have offered some solutions,” he said.

“We have stated that let the status quo ante remain and let us have conversations. We hope they will go back to the status quo.

“The subsidy provisions had been made up to June, government should be able to think of what to do, before the withdrawal of subsidy.”

Ajaero who spoke alongside the Trade Union Congress President, Festus Osifo, added that “the prayers of the NLC is that we go back to status quo ante, negotiate and think of alternatives and all the effects and how to address them before the subsidy withdrawal.”

President had on Tuesday, met behind closed doors with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, the Chief Executive of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) Mele Kyari and Farouk Ahmed, Chief Executive of Nigerian Mainstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority, (NMDPRA), over the reemergence of long fuel queues, following government’s decision to end fuel subsidy.

Kyari, while speaking with State House Journalists after the meeting, revealed that the Federal government is owing the organization N2.8t, being money expended on fuel subsidy, by the NNPCL.

BusinessDay gathered late on Tuesday that the President had summoned a meeting of the leaders of Trade Union Congress( TUC), led by Festus Osifo and the Nigeria Labour Congress ( NLC), led by Joe Ajaero.

The Wednesday meeting which was still ongoing at the time of sending this report, had the Head of Service of the Government of the Federation, Folashade Yemi-Esan, Permanent Secretary State House, Tijjani Umar, Chief Executive of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) Mele Kyari, representing the Federal government.

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BusinessDay gathered that the meeting was aimed at wooing members of the organised Labour to seek their understanding over the issue.

President Tinubu had in his inaugural address, noted that “ subsidy is gone” adding that money gained would be deployed to address crucial social issues such as health and education.

It was observed however, that the decision may not have gone down well with members of the organised Labour, who fear that such move will create more hardships for the already overstressed Nigerians.

This is further worsened by the sharp increase in the pump price of the Premium Motor Spirit ( PMS) also known as fuel, as prices are saud to have hit as high as N600 per liter in parts of the country.

The situation is said to be worse in the South East, where it is reported that the fuel price has hit as high as N1200 per liter.

But Vice President Kashim Shettima, while also speaking with State House Journalists on Tuesday, described subsidy as a huge burden placed on the masses, which President Tinubu is committed to remove.

“The truth of the matter is that it is either we get rid of subsidy or the fuel subsidy gets rid of the Nigerian nation. In 2022, we spent $10billion subsidizing the ostentatious lifestyle of the upper class of the society because you and I benefit 90% from the oil subsidy. The poor 40% of Nigerians benefit very little,” Shettima said.

“ We know the consequences of unveiling a masquerade. We will get fierce opposition from those benefitting from the oil subsidy scam. But where there is a will, there is a way.

“Be rest assured that our President is a man of strong will and conviction. In the fullness of time you will appreciate his noble intentions for the nation. The issue of fuel subsidy will be frontally addressed. The earlier we do so, the better.”

But the TUC, later rejected the removal of fuel subsidy in a statement by its President and Secretary General, Festus Osifo and Nuhu Toro, respectively, warning that “it is a joke taken too far”.

They argued that the move will lead to an “increase in pump price and the exploitation of the people by unregulated and exploitative deregulated prices, then it’s a joke taken too far”

The Union held that the subsidy removal is a delicate issue that requires “robust dialogue and consultation with the representatives of the working people, including professionals, market people, students, and the poor masses”.

“We hereby demand that President Tinubu should tarry awhile to give room for robust dialogue and consultation and stakeholders engagement, just as he opined in his speech until all issues and questions – and there are a host of them! – to ensure that they are amicably considered and resolved. Nigerian Workers and indeed masses must not be made to suffer the inefficiency of successive governments.”