By Christiana Ekpa
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, on Sunday implored the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to give room for enough time for negotiations with the executive arm of government over the proposed industrial action for commencement on Monday.
This is as the the Speaker later met with the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, to deliberate on the outcome of his meeting with the labour leaders.
The labour unions had threatened to embark on industrial action from Monday if their demands for the reversal of the increase in electricity tariff and Premium Motor Split (PMS) were not met.
Gbajabiamila, while meeting with the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, and the President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Quadri Olaleye, in his office on Sunday, expressed concern over the consequences of a shutdown of the nation’s socio-economic activities on Nigerians, while disclosing his intentions to interface with the executive for a possible amicable resolution of the demands of the Labour unions.
Gbajabiamila said it is incumbent upon the House as elected representatives to see how they can intervene and perhaps a third voice, would be able to broker some kind of amicable solution to the ongoing impasse while citing instances where the House had successfully intervened in such matters before now.
He said: “In good conscience, we are on the same page, or most of the time, we’re on the same page, and you know, that we, the leadership of the House of Representatives are on the same page with you.
“But what is the consequence, and that’s the bigger picture of going on strike. When we have a complete government shutdown, the people we seek to protect, invariably end up holding the short end of the stick.
“So it ends up defeating the purpose. You know, sometimes, no matter how long negotiations or talks last, sometimes at the end of the day, it may be the better route to take.
The Speaker emphasized the need for patience by the labour unions while adding that the timing of the implementation of the issues at stake by the government should be well looked into by both parties since both parties considered some of the issues at stake as inevitable.
“The budget is coming to the National Assembly. Some policies that are being considered and that will make sure to cushion the effect of this includes the provision of food items, distribution of grains, reduction on taxes on minimum wage, payment of some special allowances from October to January 2021, involvement in the ownership of housing programs through household and mortgage outlets by the NLC and TUC members, and special policy of government vehicles autogas, which is an alternative to PMS for public establishments.
“I think these policies and more will go a long way and this can be provided in the budget but it is a couple of weeks away or less. So this is an appeal”.
“I think we can achieve a lot more by being patient because they say when two giants fight, it’s the grass that suffers. We don’t want that to happen here. We all have children, we have wards, we have people who work with us, we have family, and we have friends who suffer the consequences of this”.
After the meeting, Wabba said the outcome of the interface with the executive as promised by the Speaker would determine the next line of action of the Labour unions.
He said: “We told the Speaker how the discussion with the Federal government went and how the meeting was adjourned, so, he has also promised to try and intervene at his own level to see to it that we don’t inflict more pains on Nigerians.
“In the course of the discussion, we had also realized that the House of Representatives has actually done a lot on these issues, including recommendations to the government which we have shared mutually
“But the bottom line is that we want this burden that has now been shifted to Nigerians as consumers is also lifted so that we can have a decent life”.
On the strike, he said, “If the issues are not addressed, we have given notice and that notice will certainly expire by tomorrow (Monday) and all the actions we have pronounced will take effect”.
The Speaker immediately left for the State House where he met with Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo over the issues.
Present at the meeting were Deputy House Leader, Rep. Peter Akpatason; Chairman, House Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity, Rep. Mohammed Ali Wudil and the Chairman, House Committee on Power, Rep. Magaji Da’u Aliyu.