The organized labour has reiterated its decision to go ahead with a planned protest against the removal of petroleum subsidy, expressing doubts about President Bola Tinubu’s ability to control inflation and gasoline prices due to the unification of the exchange rate. The announcement came after another round of discussions between the Steering Committee on palliatives and the presidential villa in Abuja.
Joe Ajaero, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), told reporters that despite fears of the peaceful protest being hijacked by hoodlums, the workers are determined to proceed with their planned protest, which is scheduled to begin on Wednesday. Ajaero dismissed concerns about security, stating that in the history of workers’ protests, such occurrences have never happened, and it is the responsibility of the security agencies to ensure the safety of the workers during the protest.
The Steering Committee’s meeting concluded with an adjournment until 12 noon the following day to allow the labour leaders to listen to President Tinubu’s national broadcast. However, the labour leaders expressed skepticism about Tinubu’s ability to control inflation and high gasoline prices, especially with the unification of the exchange rate. Ajaero raised concerns about the import-driven energy market, which makes it challenging to control prices and tariffs in the face of increasing costs of production.
Meanwhile, the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, stated that several issues were discussed during the closed-door meeting, and they decided to adjourn to listen to President Tinubu’s broadcast. Gbajabiamila emphasized that the government is dealing with oil cabals that have been detrimental to the country’s economy. He reassured the public that after the President’s broadcast, interventions would be rolled out, and a peaceful protest might no longer be necessary.
Responding to questions about the timing of palliatives in relation to the removal of petrol subsidy, Gbajabiamila clarified that the previous government did not budget for subsidy, and Tinubu’s administration is taking measures to cushion its impact on the citizens.
The National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, also appealed to the organized labour to give the administration some time to fix the country’s battered economy. He emphasized that President Tinubu inherited a challenging economic situation and is genuinely committed to making positive changes.
It should be recalled that the organized labour had walked out of a meeting last Friday, citing the absence of top government officials to negotiate with them. However, this time, both parties engaged in discussions, with representatives from the organized labour, including Ajaero and Festus Osifo from the TUC, while the government side was represented by Femi Gbajabiamila, Kachollom Daju from the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mele Kyari from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), and Olu Verheijen, the Special Adviser to the President on Energy, among others.
As the planned protest draws nearer, tensions rise as the organized labour and the government attempt to address the pressing economic issues facing the nation. The outcome of President Tinubu’s national broadcast is awaited with keen interest by all stakeholders, as it may provide the much-needed direction for resolving the crisis surrounding the petroleum subsidy removal and its effects on the economy.