By Ukpono Ukpong
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, has said that the there is no going back on the increment of fuel price as well as the hike in electricity tariff.
Boss Mustapha said this during the bilateral meeting between the FG and organized labour at the Presidential Villa banquet hall, to avert the planned nationwide strike as well as national protest billed for Monday, September 28.
Mustapha explained that no government decision taken is intended to cause any pain or harm to the people, adding that the decisions was taken in utmost interest to all people and working class.
“I have the privilege of working in Presidential transition committee set up by President Buhari and I remember the decisions that were presented to him.
One of the decisions by the team considered as low hanging fruit in 2015 was deregulation, and I think president Buhari objected to it.
“Thereafter the issue was reflected in the final report. When the report was submitted to Buhari, his reaction was that the Nigerian people elected him not to inflict pain on them.
He said though he considers that economically as a low hanging fruit, he felt that the time was not yet ripe for it.
That the important thing is to manage before such decision will ever be taken. Five years down the line, that decision has become imperative and cannot be escaped.”
According to sources, Daily Times gathered that instead of discussing on the price reversal, FG is proposing a kind of palliative measures for workers to help cushion the effect of the price increment.
Meanwhile, in another development, drama played out during the meeting when the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige and TUC President, Comr. Quadri Olaleye, engaged in war of words over the Congress letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, questioning why they had to bypass his office.
Ngige who was physically provoked told the TUC President that he has no right to write directly to the President, just as he warned that as long as he remain as the Minister of Labour, no such behaviour will be condoned by his office.
“I have been the Minister of Labour and Employment for five years plus. I have attended all International Labour Organisation (ILO) sessions, Governing Board and General Assembly, I have not missed any.
I am also a member of the Governing Board of ILO. The statue of ILO is very clear to me and the Labour laws of the country is very clear to me.
In the ILO Presidents and head of states are invited as honourary members to come and address.
“The Minister of Labour is the competent authority of any country.
In those countries too, labour matters are first addressed to the Minister of Labour.
We have not tried to enforce this rigidly as it should be but in other climes, all labour and industrial matters and social security are channelled to government to Head of State through the Minister of Labour.
“So my friend, the new President of TUC, I don’t want to start altercation before we start our technical session but I want to put the record straight for you so that incase your Secretary General have not educated you properly, then let him do so.
You have no business with the President of Nigeria.
Your place of business is with Ministry of Labour and Employment of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
You have talked about that the issue is not labour dispute such as wage negotiation but in the same vein, you have talked about your earnings as workers being eroded.
“If you want to address social and socioeconomic issues, the Civil Societies and Political Parties are there.
You can belong to those ones and then you can write to Mr. President and castigate him but when you talk about the working class in Nigeria and their welfare, erosion of their wages and anything that has to do with them and their families concomitantly, you address it through the Ministry of Labour.
“So, there is nothing to withdraw from my earlier statement and I still stand by it… You don’t address Minister of Labour on the social media. I needy my letter. You must respect my office and I will also respect your own too but if you don’t respect my office I will not respect your own, simple.”
On his part, the TUC President maintained that FG must first revert to the previous price template for both fuel pump and electricity tariff before it would dialogue with government on the economic recovery solutions.
While noting that TUC maintains its last week’s position, said that the Congress on many occasions have advised FG to diversify the economy saying “we even mentioned the introduction of the issue of modular refineries and we have never had any feedback from government. So we are here to listen to the feedback”.
Speaking further, he responded to issues raised by the Minister of Labour and Employment that they have no right to address a letter directly to the President without passing through his office.
“I want to disagree with you. This issue is the issue that Mr. President himself has to handle, we are not talking about the minimum wage, increase or any price with government, we are talking about economic issues and we have elected Mr. President to lead and that is why we have addressed that issue to him.
“But if you want to insist, that because the letter is not referred to you, then TUC can excuse you.
I know it’s a statement of divide and rule which will not be acceptable to this congress Sir.
I will prefer that you withdraw the statement and let us continue the meeting. Let us know what solution are you bringing on board.
Reacting to a statement by Ngige that the country belongs to all Nigerians, Olaleye strongly argued saying “I heard when the Minister mentioned that the country belongs to all of us.
I as a person except you change my impression, I believe the country belongs to the few politicians that take decisions and make policies that are very hard for us to live in this country.
“If the country belongs to all of us, the question is why are people running out of this country, our youths are running out of this country despite all the dangerous obstacles on the road, many have lost their lives.
“This hardship is getting too much, so whatever solution we are bringing, must be holistic, something that everybody will make us feel that the country belongs to all of us.”