ORGANISED Labour has suspended the nationwide protests following a meeting with President Bola Tinubu at the Presidential Villa on Wednesday, August 2.
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Joe Ajaero told journalists that the meeting had been fruitful and conversations were held around the work of the Presidential Committee on Subsidy Removal.
According to Ajaero, labour decided to call off the protests after the president made commitments on the revitalisation of the Port Harcourt refinery, improve minimum wage for workers, and other measures aimed at addressing the hardship caused by the removal of petrol subsidy.
“He (Tinubu) committed to an immediate restructuring of the framework for engagement in line with the input of the labour leaders. He let out a certainty that the Port Harcourt refinery will commence production by December this year. He pledged to ensure that agreement is reached on the wage award for Nigerian workers immediately.
“He promised to unveil a workable roadmap to the CNG alternative next week. On the strength of the President’s pledge and commitment, we have decided for a return to a new and reinvigorated dialogue process to allow for full implementation,” Ajaero said.
Organised Labour in Nigeria, including members of the NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC) and affiliated groups, commenced a nationwide protest on Wednesday against the economic hardships caused by the removal of fuel subsidy under the current administration.
The NLC stated during the protest that Nigeria’s recurrent fuel crisis could only be resolved if refineries in the country begin production.
“It’s a fire brigade approach, it’s a quick pill that will leave only pain for now, but the pain will remain with us perpetually.
“What will address this issue is actually the issue of production, but the elites, not more than 10% of them, don’t want production; they want importation because they benefit from importation, this is the real issue, and therefore we must insist, we must continue to insist that our refineries must work. Those elites must tell us when our refinery will work,” former NLC President Ayuba Wabba said.
The protesters, however, pointed out that Tinubu has not shown interest in reviving the nation’s economy, as the problem of refineries was not addressed in his recent national address.
In an address to the nation on Monday, July 31, Tinubu said the sum of N1 trillion had been saved since the removal of fuel subsidy.
“In a little over two months, we have saved over a trillion Naira that would have been squandered on the unproductive fuel subsidy, which only benefitted smugglers and fraudsters. That money will now be used more directly and more beneficially for you and your families,” Tinubu said.
But Ajaero insisted that according to federal government officials involved in the negotiation process, not a kobo had been saved.
“Mr President talked about N1trillion saved. The committee where we meet, they told us that no one kobo has been saved so far; therefore, we have not agreed on what to pay anywhere,” Ajaero said.
During the protest in Abuja, the demonstrators pulled down one of the National Assembly Complex gates and gained access to the premises in defiance of security operatives, who earlier denied them entry.
Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via email@example.com or @ije_le on Twitter.