The meeting between the Federal Government and organised labour on the recent increases in pump price of fuel and the electricity tariff came to an abrupt end on Sunday ended as the labour leaders stormed out of the venue in anger.
The parley which was meant to take updates on the implementation of resolutions reached during the three previous meetings ended without ceremonies barely 10 minutes after it commenced at the Presidential Villa banquet hall, Abuja.
The meeting had started at 8.18p.m when the Trade Union Congress President, Quadri Olaleye, raised the issue of the latest hike in fuel pump price from N160 to N170, insisting on the reversal of the hike before the meeting can proceed.
He accused the federal government of insensitivity saying it was trying to knock Labour leaders’ head with the masses.
His words: “Government is showing a high level of insincerity in discussions with us and is also putting us at risk with the people we are leading, with the masses. We find it difficult to move freely but the people in government are moving freely.
“I came to the conclusion that the major problem we have in this country is insincerity and this cannot continue.
“So, I want to put it to the government that if today’s meeting does not look promising to solve those problems, honestly, we would mobilise to walk out of the meeting. The situation is getting tense and you are putting us at risk.”
Towing the same line, the Deputy President, Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, also pointed out that the union had been facing attacks over the slow pace of implementation of resolutions reached at the meetings with the government.
At this point, the Minister of Labour and Employment, and leader of the government’s delegation, Dr. Chris Ngige, assured that the issue would be discussed during the business session and asked journalists to be excused from the hall.
It was gathered that as soon as journalists left the hall, the minister reportedly said the issue of palliatives would be discussed first while the labour leaders insisted on discussing the fuel pump price hike.
It was at this point that the labour leaders angrily walked out of the meeting.
Addressing journalists outside the hall, the General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Emmanuel Ugboaja, stated that the union leaders stormed out of the meeting because the government team was unwilling to address the latest hike in fuel pump price which he said violated the understanding they had with the FG.
“We felt we should address the issue of petroleum prices before whether there is need for palliatives or not. On that strength, we felt we could not continue with the meeting whose agenda is wrongly prioritised,” he stated.
But Dr. Ngige thought otherwise.
He said: “We felt that the item of increase in PMS, having been listed at all as an additional item, would have satisfied everybody.”
Representing the federal government at the meeting, in addition the Minister of Labour and Employment, were; the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Petroleum, Timiprye Sylva, Minister of state for power, Goddy Agba and the Secretary to the Government, Boss Mustapha.