Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has intervened in the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress’s (TUC) planned nationwide strike over hike in electricity tariff and pump price of petroleum products, scheduled to commence today.
Speaking with leaders of NLC led by Ayuba Wabba and Emmanuel Ogboja at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja, Gbajabiamila urged them to reconsider their stance on the issue in the interest of Nigerians.
Gbajabiamila, who supported labour’s position on the issue, however, maintained that the timing for the industrial action was wrong, as it would worsen the plight of Nigerians.
He said it behooved the labour leaders to wait for a while for the passage of the 2021 budget, which would accommodate their key demands on the need for palliatives to cushion the effect of the increase in electricity tariff and fuel price.
He said, “We can’t go on strike. We can’t do this in good conscience. We are on the same page with you on most of these issues. The leadership of the House is on the same page with you. But what are the consequences?
“When we shut down government, the people we seek to protect invariably will be affected. No matter how long the negotiation, at the end of the day, there is still a better route to take. I am a comrade in my own right. We share your cause, your philosophy with regard to workers’ plight.
“We have to be flexible. Our concern is about the Nigerian people, about shutting down markets, banks and other essential services. That is our worry and for how long and what would be achieved at the end of the day. When we go into a battle we must try to understand what is the endgame.
“I will want government to reverse the policy, but we must understand that rarely does government reverse policy decisions. In fact, it’s called policy summersaults. More than one way, there are many ways to skin a cat rather than going straight jacketed.”
The Speaker recalled earlier resolutions of the House against estimated billing and hike in electricity tariff to buttress the fact that the lower chamber was on the same page with the labour leaders.
IN its response, the organised labour insisted that there was no going back on the nationwide strike over the recent hike in the price of fuel and electricity tariff.
Wabba claimed that members of the NLC were not consulted before the policy on electricity tariff and fuel price increase was implemented.
He said this led to a lot of dislocations in the wellbeing of workers, who could no longer afford basic goods and services with their meagre salaries.
He wondered why government would transfer the cost of inefficiency in the power sector, which was privatised over seven years ago, to Nigerians through the latest increase in electricity tariff.