May Lead Govt./NLC Negotiations Over Fuel Price Hike Strike
Banks Join Action As Abuja, Calabar Residents Are Caught unawares
The National Leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, may lead the negotiations between the Federal Government and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) as both parties review their positions on day-three of the strike action against hike in the pump price of petrol.
Also, most financial institutions closed their doors to businesses in Abuja yesterday, which led to panic amongst the population. Many had gone to the bank at noon to begin preparations for the weekend when they discovered that some banks did not open to customers.
In Calabar staff of two banks also complied with NLC directive to join the strike , even though they belong to the TUC.
Speaking when he paid an official visit to the President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, at the Labour House in Abuja yesterday, Tinubu said he was optimistic that President Muhammadu Buhari would listen to him and the team of negotiators that will include members of the National Assembly in a fresh bid at finding solution to the industrial disagreement.
His words: “You and I, including the National Assembly, would sit down and look at the options and then see how the other option, which I don’t want to disclose here, will work for the betterment of Nigeria. I can take a bet that it would work and Buhari would listen to us.”
Justifying the hike in the price of petrol, Tinubu explained that the refineries have not served the Nigerian people optimally because they have not worked at their full capacity and there is lack of investment in the sector. “Let us look at budgets and budgets since the 1980s. Yes, we built refineries but the question is are the refineries serving our people today? No. Reasons such as vandalisation, failed Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) and militancy have been given by successive governments.”
The one-time governor of Lagos State observed that what was missing was communication gap in passing across the pricing policy. He argued that year after year, Nigeria keeps oiling the economic prosperity of other countries saying the time to stop the prosperity migration is now. “We are shipping our labour, opportunities and money overseas for the benefits of non-Nigerians, if that is the method we have been using since 1985, that method needs a change. It has expired and the time to try new things is now,” he said.
Tinubu asked why has Nigeria failed to utilize its massive population as an instrument for building an economic empire where no one would lack. He added: “The population that inhibited the country in the 80’s is no longer the type we have today. The vehicular density is no longer the same. This should be a sign of progress and we must ask ourselves if our population strength is an asset or liability? We have the largest economy in Africa, why can’t we take advantage of that to develop our nation? We have to change from the old method to new ones in order to make progress. I can swear on behalf of Buhari, not just APC as our party alone, that he will not touch a penny for personal gains because he has that character of honesty to steer the ship of our country.”
He stressed that his mission at the Labour House was for peace, to return to the negotiation table, adding, “even in war, participants will always come to the table for discussion. Therefore, let us build Nigeria by making it the centerpiece of the continent. Wherever there is anger, we must adopt anger management skills, I appeal to NLC to go back to the negotiation table. Let us call off this strike and discuss. I came to NLC today on behalf of my party, APC, and I also came on behalf of our government.”
While welcoming the National Leader of the APC, President of Congress, Ayuba Wabba, said the action is not about personal interest, but about engaging policies, which has been upheld by the NLC over the years. Wabba noted that Congress would discuss Tinubu’s plea of calling on NLC to suspend the action, saying, “the request of this delegation would be presented to the appropriate organs of NLC. As you know, our organization is democratic where decisions are taken from beneath.”
Wabba said Congress has never at any time refused discussion or negotiation. He also beamed a searchlight into what transpired at the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) on the night the Congress negotiation team staged a walkout.
He revealed: “What actually happened was that when we reached a deadlock situation, government team said we should excuse them and they started planning divide-and-rule tactics. NLC has 43 affiliates and, as I speak, there are 37 affiliates under my leadership including the biggest ones. So, if someone controls just six and government on record has said many times that the Ayuba Wabba-led NLC is what government recognizes, I don’t think it would augur well. They were having meetings with many groups concurrently and we thought that was unhealthy.”
The NLC chief assured the delegation that its leadership would be considerate and open to dialogue and discussion in the overall interest of the country.