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Labour suspends strike as FG reverses electricity tariff hike

The strike scheduled by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress to commence today, to protest the hike in petrol pump price and electricity tariff has been suspended.

This occurred following an agreement the unions reached with the Federal Government at a meeting that began at 8.30pm on Sunday and ended at 2:50am this morning.

Following exhaustive deliberations on the issues raised by the unions, the federal government agreed to suspend the application of the cost-reflective electricity tariff adjustments for two weeks.

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The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, read the five-page communique signed by the representatives of the government and labour.

Those who signed the communique included the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba; and his Trade Union Congress counterpart, Quadri Olaleye, amongst others, who signed on behalf of Organised Labour. On the other hand, the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige; Minister of State Petroleum, Timipre Silva; Minister of State Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN); Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed; and the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and others, signed on behalf of the government.

The Trade Union Congress President, Olaleye confirmed the latest development on Monday morning.

He said, “[This is] Definitely correct. We just left a press conference. We signed a document to suspend the action for two weeks for the government to implement those things that we agreed in the agreement. So, we are suspending for two weeks. We don’t need a notice again to re-convene if there is a need to do that.”

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The parties agreed to set up a technical committee comprising Ministries, Departments, Agencies, NLC and TUC, to work for a duration of two weeks effective September 28, examining the justifications for the new policy “in view of the need for the validation of the basis for the new cost-reflective tariff as a result of the conflicting information from the fields which appeared different from the data presented to justify the new policy by NERC; metering deployment, challenges, timeline for massive rollout.”

The members of the committee include the Minister of State Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN) as Chairman; Minister of State Power, Godwin Jedy-Agba; Chairman, National Electricity Regulatory Commission, James Momoh; Special Assistant to the President on Infrastructure, Ahmad Zakari as the Secretary.

Other members are Onoho’Omhen Ebhohimhen, Joe Ajaero (NLC), Chris Okonkwo (TUC) and a representative of electricity distribution companies.

The committee’s terms of reference are to examine the justification for the new policy on cost-reflective electricity tariff adjustments; to look at the different DISCOs and their different electricity tariff vis-à-vis NERC order and mandate; examine and advise government on the issues that have hindered the deployment of the 6 million meters, among others.

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FG’S AGREEMENT WITH LABOUR

The communique noted that, “During the two weeks, the DISCOs shall suspend the application of the cost-reflective electricity tariff adjustments.”

It also pointed out that the federal government has planned palliatives the areas of transport, power, housing, agriculture and humanitarian support, to ease the effects of the hike in cost electricity tariffs and the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry on Nigerian workers.

It was also resolved in the meeting that the 40 per cent stake of government in the DISCO and the stake of workers should be reflected in the composition of the DISCO’s boards.

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The parties involved agreed that “an all-inclusive and independent review of the power sector operations as provided in the privatization MoU to be undertaken before the end of the year 2020, with labour represented.

“All parties agreed on the urgency for increasing the local refining capacity of the nation to reduce the overdependency on importation of petroleum products to ensure energy security, reduce cost of finished products, increase employment and business opportunities for Nigerians.”

To address this, the parties resolved that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation should expedite the rehabilitation of the nation’s four refineries located in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna to achieve 50 per cent completion by December 2021, while timelines and delivery for Warri and Kaduna will be established by the inclusive steering committee.

“To ensure commitment and transparency to the processes and timelines of the rehabilitation exercise, the management of NNPC has offered to integrate the national leadership of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association into the steering committee already established by the corporation,” the communique stated.

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OTHER DETAILS

The communique added that a validation team would be established and it would comprise the representatives of the NNPC, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, NUPENG and PENGASSAN. They would be responsible for monitoring the progress of the rehabilitation of the refineries and the pipelines/strategic depots network and advice the steering committee periodically.

It also said that post-rehabilitation, NNPC shall involve the PENGASSAN and NUPENG in the process of establishing the operational model of the nation’s refineries.

The statement added, “The Federal Government will facilitate the delivery of licensed modular and regular refineries, involvement of upstream companies in petroleum refining and establishing framework for financing in the downstream sector.

“NNPC to expedite work on the Build, Operate and Transfer framework for the nation’s pipelines and strategic depots network for efficient transportation and distribution of petroleum products to match the delivery timelines of the refineries as agreed.”

The government and its agencies agreed to ensure delivery of 1 million CNG/LPG AutoGas conversion kits, storage skids and dispensing units under the Nigeria Gas Expansion Programme by December 2021 to enable delivery of cheaper transportation and power fuel.

A governance structure that will include representatives of organized labour shall be established for timely delivery.

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To cushion the impacts of the downstream sector deregulation and tariffs adjustment in the power sector, the FG agreed to announce in two weeks a specific amount to be accessed by workers with subsequent provision for 240,000 workers under the auspices of NLC and TUC for participation in agricultural ventures through the Central Bank and the Ministry of Agriculture.

The timeline will be fixed at the next meeting.

The meeting further resolved that the FG will facilitate the removal of tax on minimum wage as a way of cushioning the impacts of the policy on the lowest vulnerable.

The government would also make available to organized labour 133 CNG/LPG-driven mass transit buses immediately and provide to the major cities across the country on a scale up basis thereafter, to all states and local governments before December 2021.

“On Housing, 10 per cent to be allocated to Nigerian workers under the ongoing Ministry of Housing and Finance initiative through the NLC and TUC,” the communique disclosed.

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