Negotiations between the federal government and organized labor to cut gas subsidies and increase electricity bills stalled on Monday. Senator Chris Ngige, Minister of Labor and Employment, welcomed union leaders to a meeting in the Ostrich Hall of the presidential villa in Abuja and called on stakeholders to join forces to reflect on how Nigeria can address the economic challenges posed by the covid19.
Ngige said the meeting was “a two-way dialogue between us Nigerians, the economic situation and the events that led to the recent rise in electricity and gas prices.”
State Minister of Petroleum Resources Timire Silva called on workers to better understand government policy. Nigeria lost about 1 billion N per day and 374 billion N per day in fuel subsidies between 2016 and 2019, Silva said. Until 2016
“There are a lot of issues to discuss; from 10 o’clock we haven’t been able to trash out all the things; I think it will be right to set committees to further deliberate and resolve them,” he said.
But the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, argued that the recent hike in cost of fuel and electricity tariffs further aggravated the economic hardship facing Nigerians.
Wabba said workers who have lost their jobs and sources of income due to COVID-19, are being forced to make further sacrifices.
“Those issues that constitute the price are part of the inefficiency in the system which the government hitherto has been paying and christened subsidy. The government cannot transfer the inefficiency to the people. Nigeria should refine its products,” he said.
“At this point, what do you have on the table to cushion the effects on workers – their families because they have been pushed to the wall and already at the edge. Do you have anything for us? So that we can now say that despite these challenges, this is what I have for Nigerian workers that they can have something that can cushion this effect for them.”
According to him, “Already the value of minimum wage had been eroded. The purchasing power parity, when you compare with all West African countries, we are already on the ground.
“That is the reality. In Ghana, compare their minimum wage with our own; in all West Africa countries, including Niger Republic that has just started refining recently, they are now serving us with products. That is not how we ought to be.”
The meeting ended with no agreement reached, while no date was fixed to continue the talks.