Why FG, labour meeting on palliatives failed to hold

Facts have emerged on why representatives of the organised labour stormed out of a meeting with the Presidential Steering Committee on Subsidy Palliatives scheduled to hold at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, Friday evening.

The President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, led the delegation to the office of the Chief of Staff to the President around 5pm but was soon spotted exiting the building.

The steering committee members met the government delegation on Wednesday, where the two parties agreed to reconvene on Friday to get a brief from the government’s subcommittees on mass transit, compressed natural gas and cash transfer.

The steering committee was set up by the Federal Government to draw up intervention plans to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal on Nigerians.

On their way out of the CoS office, the labour members accused the Federal Government of using the meetings as a ploy to deceive Nigerians.

A member of the committee from the organised labour, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said “They are not prepared for the meeting. That’s the truth.

“They are using cover to deceive Nigerians. There are supposed to be three subcommittees – the mass transit subcommittee, the CNG and the cash transfer – to brief us in the steering committee, but the government was not prepared for the meeting.”

“In their introductory remarks, they made excuses and wanted the meeting to continue; the meeting did not form a quorum. We are a people that operate on the basis of process. So, if there’s no quorum in a meeting, what do you do? You will adjourn for lack of quorum.

“There was nobody to meet with. The Chief of Staff was not there; they are taking us like children.”

However, our correspondent learnt that the CoS to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, waited for the labour delegation alongside other team members.

But the organised labour delegation from the NLC and the Trade Union Congress suffered slight delays upon entering the State House over clearance issues. The reason for the delay was that the names of members of the delegation were not sent to the gate early enough for clearance.

Gbajabiamila later excused himself to attend to other official matters within the Villa, while other government team members waited for the organised labour team to arrive.

“We were detained at the gate,” one of the leaders of the labour delegation told journalists.

Friday’s gathering would have been the fourth in a series of meetings between the Federal Government and the organised labour since the removal of petrol subsidy.

The steering committee last met on Wednesday, but the Federal Government’s representatives could not convince the labour leaders to shelve the protest.

“We are going ahead with the protest because we have to be emphatic on what we put in our communiqué to say we’re commencing protests from the 2nd of August,” Ajaero had insisted.

But the Federal Government noted that the meetings had made some progress.

“We’ve agreed to continue to make progress. It was a very productive meeting. The focus was really on how to fast-track a lot of the interventions that will bring relief, particularly around CNG, mass transportation, cleaner energy, transportation, and reducing the impact of the cost of transportation, and the increased cost of transportation. So, we’ve made good progress,” the Special Adviser to the President on Energy, Ms Olu Verheijen, told journalists.

Meanwhile, the National Executive Council of the NLC has endorsed the August 2 nationwide strike and mass protests proposed by the body over the recent hike in the pump price of petrol.

The Federal Government had told the NLC that it was legally restrained from embarking on the planned nationwide strike.

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