The organised labour reiterated that it will still oppose the elimination of the petroleum subsidy.
Rising from another session of the Steering Committee on Palliatives meeting at the presidential palace in Abuja, they also expressed scepticism about President Bola Tinubu’s ability to manage inflation and petrol costs as a result of the unification of the exchange rate.
In a statement to reporters, Joe Ajaero, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), indicated that the plan for employees to begin a peaceful demonstration on Wednesday has not changed.
He dismissed fears that the peaceful protest could be hijacked by hoodlums, saying that such had never happened in the history of workers protest.
However, he said it is the responsibility of security agencies to provide security for the protest to protect the workers.
He said the meeting of the Steering Committee adjourned till 12noon on Tuesday to enable the labour leaders to listen to the president’s national broadcast on Monday.
However, reacting to Tinubu’s plan to intervene on exhange rate over inflation and high cost of gasoline prices, Ajaero said: “By the time you have a single market and you are not having anything that has a comparative advantage, your energy is import driven, then how are you going to control it? How are you going to control somebody that exchanged dollar at about 900 (naira)? Are you going to tell him to sell below the price?
“How are you going to tell even NEPA today, with the cost of production not to increase tariff? Even corn in the villages that was sold at N18,000 by February, now it’s about 56,000. How are you going to control it?”
On his side, the Chief of Staff to the President said that issues were trashed at the closed door meeting and that they adjourned to listen to the President broadcast.
He also said that the government is dealing with the oil cabals that have brought the economy to its knees.
“We have been locked behind for a couple of hours, we had a good meeting, issues were thrashed out on the situation in Nigeria today in terms of issues centred around on government intervention on the situation in the country.
“We agreed to adjourn till tomorrow as you know Mr. President is making a national broadcast today. Based on what we anticipate that Mr. President will be telling Nigerians we decided to adjourn meeting till 12pm tomorrow before labour can decide whether or not they want to continue with the protest on Wednesday.
“But we believe that after tonight broadcast, President will speak to all the issues, he will roll out his interventions and needles to say we believe any reasonable person will tell you that at that point there will be no need for any protest.”
When asked why the government hadn’t introduced palliatives before ending the subsidy on petrol, he responded that President Tinubu was doing so to lessen the impact on the populace as the previous administration had not budgeted for the subsidy.
When asked if the security and government were at the mercy of the oil cabals, he responded, “Yes, they are, and that’s what government is dealing with. The first step is to initially remove the subsidy.
Nuhu Ribadu, national security adviser, called with organised labour in a separate speech to give the administration little chance to repair the shattered economy.
He said that President Tinubu inherited a bad economy that he is working hard to fix.
“The meeting was an opportunity for us to appeal to the labour leaders by extension Nigerians that we are facing difficulties and challenges that are not our making. We inherited a very bad situation. Most of the problems people are talking about are not a creation of this government. This government is barely two months old and since we have been facing these difficulties and challenges, we have a listening and engaging President, a president who will want to have a conversation and react.
“He is truly, genuinely, honestly doing it. Our appeal is please Nigerians give us the support that is needed and required, we are working, we are trying to change things. We inherited a very bad situation, we are trying to stop all those things we witnessed in the past, we are trying to stop the killings, stop the attacks on trains, stop attacks on prisons, stop IPOB what they are doing, stop bandits, stop Boko Haran,” he said.
Recall that on Friday of last week, the organised labour abruptly left the meeting, stating that there were no senior government officials present to bargain with them.
Ajaero, Festus Osifo, the General Secretary of the NLC, Comrade Emma Ugbaja, Nuhu Toro, and other representatives of organised labour, including Prof. Sam Amadi, were present at the meeting on Monday.
Femi Gbajabiamila, the president’s chief of staff, Kachollom Daju, the permanent secretary of the ministry of labour and employment, Mele Kyari, the group CEO of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), and Olu Verheijen, the president’s special adviser on energy, are a few of the representatives from the government.