Strike continues Monday | FG, Labour talks deadlocked again

By JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE (Abuja) & Bimola Oyesola (Lagos)
Labour and the federal government dug into their trenches last night, with no side shifting grounds as they met over the logjam on the removal of fuel subsidy.
 The meeting, which was held at the State House, Abuja, ended at 11.10p.m.
 Sunday Sun however learnt that the meeting might reconvene today.

 Speaking to State House correspondents, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abdulwaheed Omar, and his Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart, Peter Esele, said they were going into further negotiations.
 “We are going to continue our deliberation at our organisation level and then maybe we will see the way forward,” Omar said.

 Asked what transpired in the meeting, he replied, “deliberation.”
 Asked if the meeting was deadlocked he said: “Not deadlocked, but we have not reached a compromise.” On whether Labour had shifted ground as promised, Omar added: “We are going to meet with our organs, then we inform Nigerians. Like we said the other time, it means the status quo remains.”

 He said the compromise of Labour was: “Let’s go back to N65, then we agree on a new line of action.”
 Asked if is N65 or nothing he said: “For now, yes.” The Senate President however told reporters that the discussions “were very fruitful.” “We are veering on the right path to find amicable solutions that Nigerians will appreciate,” Mark said.

 On when that would be, he said: “Very soon.”
 Has agreement on a new price been fixed? “We are working on it,” Mark responded. Reminded that the NLC said it must be N65 per litre of fuel or nothing, the Senate President added: “It is a whole negotiation process, negotiation continues. We have done pretty well; we are consulting. We want to bring this to a logical conclusion at the earliest possible time.” So what is the federal government offering? Mark’s response was: “There is no question of the federal government offering a specific pump price. The essence of the negotiation and discussion is that both sides are shifting grounds and we are doing that very well.”

 Reporters: Does it bother the federal government that the strike continues?
 Mark: I think it bothers everybody. If it doesn’t we won’t be here by now. We were here at 6pm and some people were here two hours before then. The mere fact that we have spent this amount of time means that it is an indication of the fact that we are worried about the current situation and we have to sort it out as soon as possible.”
 The meeting started immediately the Labour leaders arrived at 7.20p.m one hour thirty minutes later than the stipulated time at the First Lady’s wing of the Presidential Villa, after their National Executive Committee meeting at the Labour House in Abuja.

 Present at the meeting were Senate President, David Mark, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and Senate Majority Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba. Others were Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, and Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha. Also in attendance were Governor Peter Obi of Anambra, Chubuike Amaechi (Rivers), who is chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Theodore Orji (Abia), Magatakarda Wamakko (Sokoto), Gabriel Suswam (Benue) and Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State.

 The Federal Government team was led by Justice Alpha Belgore, former Chief Justice of Nigeria CJN and the Ministers of Trade and Investment, Finance, Labour, Petroleum and Health. Earlier in the day, the National Executive Councils (NEC) of the NLC and TUC met and resolved that the federal government must revert the pump price of petrol to N65 per litre before they would call off the strike that ground activities in the country between Monday and Friday.

 The organised labour also directed that after the break on Saturday and Sunday, the strike would continue tomorrow if the government failed to revert to the former price. A reliable source at the harmonization meeting said: “We have resolved to insist on President Jonathan reversing the fuel subsidy removal policy that made organised labour in collaboration with the civil society allies to declare indefinite strike since Monday, January 9.

 “We have also resolved, among others, that Mr. President should not initiate any anti-people policy as well as not use security agencies to kill, arrest and maim innocent Nigerians that voted for him in the April 2011 general election,” the source said. The source, however, revealed that the two labour bodies have called on their affiliates, especially the oil and gas workers, to commence action to shut down oil and gas production if the government refused to “listen to the voice of workers.”

 Investigation revealed that Labour has resolved not to let Nigerians down in its determination to negotiate a better deal for the Nigerian people. “And as a result of the pains, agony and hardship inflicted on Nigerians by President Jonathan’s administration between January 9 and 13, Labour will not go into discussions or negotiation with Jonathan until he reverts to N65 pump price of petrol as well as apologise to Nigerians that voted him to power for the pains he caused them in the last few days,” the source said.
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