FUEL PRICE/ELECTRICITY TARIFF HIKE: FG parleys labour as court halts strike

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The Abuja Vacation Judge of the National Industrial Court Thursday punctured the proposed indefinite strike of the organised labour, after restraining them from carrying out the strike via an interim injunction.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), their officers, affiliates and privies had slated September 28, 2020 for the industrial action.

Justice Ibrahim Galadima gave the ruling pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

The order, it would be recalled, was sequel to an ex-parte application filed by the Incorporated Trustees of Peace and Unity Ambassadors Association through their counsel, Mr. Sunusi Musa.

The court also granted an order of interim injunction restraining the unions, their officers, and affiliates, privies from disrupting, restraining, picketing or preventing the workers or its affiliates or ordinary Nigerians from accessing their offices to carry out their legitimate duties on the 28th September, 2020 or any other date.

In the same vein, the court also granted an order compelling the Inspector General of Police and the Director General Department of State Services (DSS) to provide protection for workers engaged in their legitimate duties from any form of harassment, intimidation and bullying by the officers, agents or privies of the unions pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

Reasons for the strike

Following the recent adjustment of the retail price of petrol to over N160 per litre and the review of electricity tariff by over 100 per cent, the NLC threatened to call a national protest if the federal government refused to reverse the new prices.

The resolve to proceed on a nationwide protest September 28 was arrived at after the organised labour’s meeting with the federal government ended in a deadlock last week.

While justifying the hike in fuel price and electricity tariff, the government said the new fuel price was a product of the interplay of market forces under the deregulation policy in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.

The government insisted the deregulation policy and new electricity tariff were inevitable, as it could no longer subsidise fuel price due to dwindling revenues.

FG, labour meet

Notwithstanding the court order, the federal government met last night with the duo of TUC and NLC on a way out of the seeing logjam.

At the end, the meeting which lasted over five hours was adjourned at 9.30pm, with parties agreeing to continue Monday at 3.00pm.

Briefing journalists after the parley, Minister of Labour Employment Chris Ngige said the meeting was fruitful.

Ngige said: “Fruitful meeting. They are going back to their organs. When they consult their organs tomorrow, next tomorrow may be 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 to proposals with them on the palliative to cushion the effect of the rise in petroleum products and electricity. The meeting agreed to adjourn to Monday, 3pm we had a fruitful discussion.”

Similarly, NLC President Ayuba Wabba said the meeting would continue Monday as disclosed by the minister.

He dismissed reporters’ question on the court judgement stopping the planned strike.

Earlier in his opening address, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha had pleaded with  the unions to shelve the planned strike and protest.

However, labour, in a position espoused by the TUC leader, Mr. Quadri Olaleye faulted government for not consulting with the unions before taking their decisions, saying it doesn’t work that way.

At the parley which held at the Banquet Hall of the State House Abuja were Minister of Labour and Employment Ngige; Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed; Minister of State, Labour and Employment Festus Keyamo; Minister of Power Saleh Mamman and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva.

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