President Bola Tinubu’s team responsible for handling petrol subsidy discussions with organized labor appears to need more negotiating skills and urgency to effectively resolve the current deadlock regarding short-term relief measures and other strategies aimed at improving the well-being of Nigerians. NLC President Joe Ajaero voiced these concerns.
Ajaero, the leader of the labor union, also raised questions about the credibility of the social register designed to support economically disadvantaged citizens, a program initiated during the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
These remarks were made during a meeting between organized labor leadership and the Senate leadership led by Godswill Akpabio.
Ajaero pointed out that the wage review committee had not convened for two months following the subsidy removal.
“Our predicament partly arises from the committee’s efficacy. Throughout previous administrations, we engaged in negotiations. However, this time, even the Chief of Staff to the President, a busy individual, has not initiated or led negotiations. This delay has hindered progress,” explained the NLC chief.
He added, “Since our protest, another meeting has not been scheduled, despite the President’s commitment to streamlining government engagement mechanisms to expedite issue resolution. We had also agreed on wage adjustments, yet the wage award committee has yet to convene.”
Ajaero expressed concern about the difficulties faced by Nigerians due to the subsidy removal without any provisions to mitigate the negative impact on the population.
He highlighted that while labor leaders were still deliberating on N537 per liter of fuel, the federal government chose to raise the petrol price to N620 per liter despite a court ruling to maintain the status quo.
Regarding the government’s pursuit of an $800 million loan, Ajaero urged Mr. Tinubu to refrain from replicating the disbursement approach used during the Buhari-Osinbajo administration.
“No progress has been made on the $800 million loan proposal. We have not finalized the list of beneficiaries,” clarified Ajaero. “We should not adopt the 2019 record, as we have reservations about its accuracy, and no criteria have been established to identify those classified as economically disadvantaged.”
The Senate president praised NLC, TUC, and other unions for their patience, acknowledging that although the removal of the subsidy regime by Mr. Tinubu saved N1 trillion, the current President inherited a debt exceeding N30 trillion.
“Rest assured that the federal government will soon alleviate the impact of the fuel subsidy removal, which is currently affecting both workers and Nigerians at large,” he reassured.