The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have suspended the planned nationwide strike and protest that was to commence on Monday, September 28, 2020, over the recent hike in electricity tariff and petrol pump price.
This follows the agreement reached between the Federal Government and the organized labour during the meeting held by both parties which started on Sunday night and dragged on till the early hours of Monday morning.
The disclosure was made by the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, through a tweet post on his twitter handle.
In the agreement between the Federal Government and organized labour, the hike in electricity tariff is to be suspended for a period of 2 weeks, while the new pump price of petrol is to remain unchanged.
According to the agreement, both parties agreed to set up a technical committee on Electricity Tariff reforms, comprising Ministries, Agencies, Departments, NLC and TUC, which will work for a duration of 2 weeks with effect from Monday, September 28, 2020, to examine the justification of the new policy in view of the need for the validation of the basis for the new cost-reflective tariff.
This is due to the conflicting field reports which appear different from the data presented to justify the new policy by NERC, metering deployment, challenges, timelines for massive rollout.
. The technical committee is to be headed by the Minister of State for Labour and Labour, Festus Keyamo.
. The terms of reference for the technical committee include;
. To examine the justification for the new policy on cost-reflective electricity tariff adjustments.
. To look at the different Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) and their different electricity vis-à-vis NERC order and mandate.
. Examine and advice government on the issues that have hindered the deployment of the 6 million meters.
. To look into the NERC act under review with a view to expanding its representation to include organized labour.
The House of Representatives has asked the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to suspend the strike planned to commence on Monday, as it offered the organised labour some palliatives.
This was disclosed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, at a negotiation meeting with labour on Sunday in Abuja, according to NAN.
The palliatives, according to the Speaker, would be included in the proposed 2021 budget, which he said would soon be presented to the National Assembly.
The speaker explained that some palliatives were being considered to cushion the effects of increase in electricity tariff and fuel price hike.
Some of the palliatives are the distribution of food items, reduction of taxes on minimum wage and payment of some special allowances.
Others are involvement in ownership of housing programmes through mortgage and distribution of special buses to public institutions, which run on autogas.
The disclosure was made by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, after the National Executive Council meeting of the labour organization in Abuja.
Gbajabiamila said that the palliatives would go a long way to assuage the suffering of Nigerians.
According to him, the lawmakers would also make provision in the budget to tackle the eight million deficit of meters to enable Nigerians to access them.
He said, “I have never heard it anywhere in the world, so if we may have to provide for the deficit, we will have to do that.”
He appealed to labour to suspend the planned strike, saying embarking on industrial action at this critical time would not augur well for the citizenry.
“You know, you cannot go on strike at this time, if you go on strike, the people you think you are protecting will be at the receiving end, we share your philosophy regarding workers’ rights. We know what Nigerians are going through, our position on electricity billing is obvious, the only thing now is to continue to talk, I am concerned about the people out there. Shutting down the markets, banks and other places of work is my worry, I am concerned about the people,” he said.
Gbajabiamila said that there was the need for every Nigerian to be properly metered in order to capture the true cost, adding that the lawmakers would consider metering in the 2021 budget.
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Wabba, insisted that the organised labour would go ahead with the strike if its demands were not met by the Federal Government before the expiration of the ultimatum.
He said that the increase in electricity tariff and hike in fuel price had eroded the purchasing power of Nigerian workers.
According to him, the initial plan was that there would not be increase in electricity tariff until meters were provided for Nigerians.
Wabba commended the speaker for the intervention, adding that he had consistently represented the interest of Nigerians.
The NLC president said there was a valid court judgment nullifying the electricity tariff, adding that the judgment of the National Industrial Court asking NLC to stop its planned strike could not be sustained.
IPMAN will not be part of the strike the NLC is calling, as it is not part of NLC.
The National Executive Council of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has directed its members to dissociate themselves from the planned nationwide strike and protest by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), which is to commence on Monday, September 28, 2020.
According Vanguard, this was disclosed by the National Public Relations Officer of IPMAN, Alhaji Suleiman Yakubu, in a public statement on Sunday, September 27, 2020.
While reacting to the planned strike by the NLC and TUC and their affiliate unions, the IPMAN national executive member, asked its members to continue with their normal businesses just as he asked the labour unions to cooperate with the Federal Government for the good of the nation’s economy.
Yakubu stated, “IPMAN will not be part of the strike the NLC is calling, since our Association is not part of NLC. Therefore, we have already directed our members to continue doing their normal business while NLC and TUC are doing there strike.’’
In his statement, he called on NLC to realize that deregulation is inevitable and remains the surest way to bringing the economy back to normalcy. He also pointed out that there is no country in the world that can sustain its economy without deregulation of the oil sector.
Yakubu also advised Nigerians to cooperate with the government in ensuring that the economy grows better and stronger.
It can be recalled that the NLC and the TUC and their affiliated unions had called out workers to embark on an indefinite strike and protest on Monday, September 28, 2020, as part of the effort to compel the Federal Government to reverse its earlier decision on the recent increase in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff.
Despite a court order that was obtained by the Federal Government, which stopped the strike action, the labour bodies still threatened to go ahead with it.
The Federal Government has traced the problem in the power sector to the sales of power generation and distribution companies to incompetent investors by the previous administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
This disclosure was made by the Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, while responding to questions on electricity tariff adjustment, at a meeting with Online Publishers Association of Nigeria, on Saturday, September 26, 2020.
According to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Mohammed said that the federal government had spent N1.7 trillion to subsidize electricity tariff after the previous administration sold and handed over to the investors, an expenditure he said is no longer sustainable especially under the prevailing economic conditions.
He pointed out that the country’s revenue and foreign exchange earnings had dropped sharply by almost 60% due to the downturn in the fortunes of the oil sector.
Mohammed said, “Before we came in, the power sector had been privatized by the previous administration, but the people they sold to them are incompetent. When we assumed power, we met the mess. Apart from the fact that the Distribution Companies (Discos), could not meter the people, they also could not pay for the electricity generated by the Generation Companies (Gencos), from the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Companies.’’
“We had two options – cancel the entire sales or to get the Discos to recapitalize. We took over the debt of the Discos, which was about N701 billion, because of the effect the cancellation of the sale will have on the country and international investors. The people are simply incompetent and if we did not provide the money that means they will not distribute power to anybody,” he said.
The minister revealed that the government did not have the resources to continue along the path of subsidizing electricity tariff to private companies.
He said, “To borrow just to subsidize generation and distribution, which are both privatized, will be grossly irresponsible.’’
Going further, Mohammed disclosed that the Federal Government was providing incentives to local manufacturers of meters through the Central Bank of Nigeria, to cushion the effects of adjustment of the tariff.
He said that companies importing meters would get incentives through tax waivers.
Mohammed reiterated that in order to protect the large majority of Nigerians who could not afford to pay cost-reflective tariffs, only customers with a guaranteed minimum of 12 hours of electricity would have their tariffs adjusted as the industry regulator, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), would ensure its implementation.
The minister said that the government was also taking steps to connect Nigerians not yet connected to electricity at all, to the facility as the government is providing solar power to 5 million Nigerian households in the next 12 months under its Economic Sustainability Plan.
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