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Disagreement Arises Between FG, Labour Over Failed Peace Deal

The Federal Government on Thursday opposed the organised Labour’s intention to announce a nationwide strike within the next 14 days, citing the alleged non– implementation of the  memorandum of understanding agreed upon with the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress in October 2023.

In an interview, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, urged the unions to show moderation and permit the government to resolve their grievances.

He said, “We are calling on Labour to exercise patience. We will look at the grey area. Let them come and speak with us in the interest of our nation.

“We cannot afford to go on strike at this time. So we call on them and we are always to partner  Labour for the progress and development of our country.”

Idris, however, declined to comment on whether the government would seek a court injunction to stop the strike.

After the removal of the fuel subsidy by President Bola Tinubu on May 29, 2023, the labour unions reached a 16-point agreement with the Federal Government on measures to cushion the pains of the subsidy removal on workers.

Among other things, the government agreed to pay N35,000 to all federal workers beginning from last September pending when a new national minimum wage is expected to have been signed into law.

“The government’s failure to uphold its end of the bargain is deeply regrettable and unacceptable to the Working people and the citizenry.”

The unions added, “Constrained by this development and recognizing the urgency of the situation and the imperative of ensuring the protection and defence of the rights and dignity of Nigerian workers and citizens, the NLC and TUC hereby issue a stern ultimatum to the Federal Government, to honour their part of the understanding within 14 days from tomorrow (today) the 9th day of February 2024.”

The Deputy General Secretary of the Nigerian Union of Banks, Insurance and Finance Institution Employees, Shola Aboderin, said his union members would join the industrial action.

“We are an affiliate of Nigeria Labour Congress, and it would sound irresponsible of NUBIFIE if we don’t join the strike after the 14-day ultimatum,” he said.

According to Aboderin, the members of the union have been lamenting the hardship in the country.

He said, “Recently, NUBIFIE issued a 14-day ultimatum to Heritage Bank that if they don’t add anything to the salaries of our members, NUBIFIE cannot guarantee our members would continue to work for them especially coming to work every day again which was on last week Thursday.”

Aboderin added that NUBIFIE was going to review the activities and the situation of things on Friday (today).

“We are going to join the strike, no doubt about that. The hardship is more on our members, they close late, and they are spending between 60 t0 70 per cent of their salaries on transportation.

“Banks will be the first union to down tools after the 14-day ultimatum,” he added.

Also, the President of the Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Illitrus Ahmadu, hinted that the union members would comply with the decision of the TUC leadership.

“Our union is affiliated with TUC, so they must have decided on an important national issue. The leadership of NLC and TUC must have agreed on that before issuing such an ultimatum.

“But the truth is once they make a decision, it is binding on the affiliates like us. As of now, we have not been informed, and the secretariat has not been informed. Once they make decisions like this they get us informed.

“I guess they are just reacting to the hardship in the land. It’s a natural thing and most especially now that agencies are struggling financially,’’ Ahmadu noted.

The Executive Secretary of the National Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers, Mr Bassey Essien, said the union would not join the strike.

Meanwhile, Nigerian Muslims under the aegis of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, have warned President Bola Tinubu against treating the economic hardship in the country with levity, declaring that Nigerians are truly hungry.

The JNI is led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar lll, who is also the spiritual leader of Nigerian Muslims.

On Monday through Tuesday, angry youths and women took to the streets of Minna, the Niger State capital, and Kano to protest what they described as the rising cost of living.

Similar protests also erupted in Kogi and Ondo States.

Commenting on the economic situation, the organization in a statement issued by its Secretary-General, Prof. Khalid Abubakar-Aliyu on Thursday in Kaduna, asked the Federal Government to urgently address the challenges.

According to the JNI scribe, both the Federal and state governments needed to intervene before the situation worsened while demanding the immediate and unconditional release of those arrested during the Minna protest so as not to provoke Nigerians further.

The organization also frowned on hoarding and hiking the costs of essential goods and services, especially foodstuffs, especially as the Muslim Ramadan fast period was fast approaching.

A bill for the PCB scaled first reading on Thursday following the presentation of the general principles of the bill by its sponsor, Alhaji Isa Etsugaie (APC-Agaie) at Thursday’s plenary.

Presenting the bill, Etsugaie said the board would the study market situation in the state to restructure the deteriorating supply and demand mechanism.

He added that the board would assess the delivery and distribution pattern of essential commodities to ensure that the people had a fair share of the commodities.

He said the board would also regulate the mode of distribution of essential commodities and monitor activities of the state supply company and other commercial organisations.

The lawmaker said the board would help to keep prices under continuous surveillance, interpret price movements, and relate them to other developments in the state economy.

He said the board would submit a report directly to the governor on the market situation all over the state among others.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the bill was thereafter, adopted by the house and passed through first reading.

He stated, “The Price Control Act is an existing law that regulates and controls the prices of certain goods in Nigeria. The main purpose of this Act is to ensure that prices of essential goods remain affordable and accessible to the general public.

‘’It aims to prevent price exploitation and promote fair pricing practices. To control the prices of goods, the Federal Government established the Price Control Board, an agency under the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

‘’The Federal Government has also set up the Federal Consumer Protection Commission with the mandate of addressing consumers’ complaints, providing consumer education, and encouraging trade, industry, and professional associations to develop and enforce quality standards designed to safeguard the interests of consumers.”

Speaking further, the social crusader noted that in recent times, the Federal Government has stopped hiking electricity tariffs and telecom charges.

“Why has the NNPCL not controlling the prices of diesel and kerosene like the PMS (petrol)?” he questioned.

Speaking further, he noted, “If the FG could grant duty waivers of N16 trillion to Dangote, Honeywell, and co in five years, why is it difficult to control the prices of the goods imported into the country by the captains of industry?’’

“While lawyers and other privileged citizens can afford the rising cost of essential goods and services, the majority of poor people have been priced out of the market. Therefore, the Federal Government must intervene to control the prices of essential commodities in Nigeria,’’ Falana insisted.

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