In a bid to avert any possible industrial action that may arise following the hike in the price of petroleum and electricity tariff, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, to meet with the organised labour, to hear their grievances on the state of the economy and to present the finances of government to them.
Ngige disclosed this to State House correspondents yesterday after meeting with the president at the presidential Villa.
According to him, the meeting is expected to hold today in Abuja.
He said, “The President has approved for us to have a bigger government side meeting with the organised private labour; all the government institutions that have to do with the finances of government so that we meet with them and show them the books.
“So, the invitation is going out to them this afternoon, the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and their affiliates or supporters and friends in the Civil Society Organisations. The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, so, I will relate more with the chief of staff to the President and the leadership of the unions today so that we do this meeting tomorrow.
“At the meeting, government finances, challenges and everything will be laid bare on the table. Their own fears and what they think is also good for the Nigerian people especially the workers, they will also table it so that we look at it,” he said.
He further explained that the recent hike in electricity tariff was done by the regulatory body based on certain realities confronting the sector.
Ngige said: “The electricity tariff as you know, the Electricity Regulatory Commission approved the increase based on certain electricity band R1 and R2 and even in the R2 band. You have soft bands so that we can protect the rural poor and people who are in the suburbs.
“So, we are going to look at them holistically because we want a stable labour industrial union in the country so the President has been briefed and he is in tune and has given the support to talk to everybody we need to talk to.”
On the planned strike by the tripartite unions of the non-academic staff unions of universities, Ngige said government was aware of their plans and had already invited them to a meeting, to discuss, so as to address their concerns.
“The tripartite unions of university system including some colleges of education and some hospitals; Non-Academic Staff of Universities (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), we have invited them to a meeting, the leadership met with me last week and the major thrust of the challenges they have is on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) system.
“They claim and allege that the IPPIS system is over deducting some line items like taxes, the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxes they claim the IPPIS system is charging more than they are supposed to debit.
“They also claim that some allowances that are peculiar to the university system like responsibility allowance, hazard allowance, field trip allowance and education of children allowance, that the IPPIS has stopped all of them.
“At the government level, we have discussed and we now want to do a special session with them, they would come with their facts and the accountant general will lead his team, the National Salaries and Incomes and Wages will also come and the Ministry of Labour will lead and then we shall discuss and find out who is treating the other unfairly,” the minister explained.
It would be recalled that the NLC had described the new electricity tariff increase announced by the AEDC as dead on arrival as it wouldl be resisted by the Nigerian working class and people.
The NLC in a statement signed by its president, Ayuba Wabba, described the increase as “exploitation of poor Nigerians”, just as it cautioned the other DISCOs not to “bother putting their ships of exploitation to sail.”
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission had on September 1 approved an increase in electricity tariff with effect from September 1, 2020.
The price of premium motor spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol was also increased to N151.56 per litre effective from September 2, 2020.