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Petrol price/electricity tariff hikes: TUC, NECA, ASUU talk tough as FG meets Labour today

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities on Monday said the Federal Government had surrendered the growth and development of the country to the International Monetary  Bank and the World Bank.

The National President of the union, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, who said this in a telephone interview in Lagos, said the Federal Government should prepare for more crises as people’s anger against the government would worsen as a result of hunger in the land.

He also said those running “Nigeria today do not love Nigerians,” but relied on the advice of some “outside forces.”

Also on Monday, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria gave the Federal Government a seven-day ultimatum to reverse the recent increase in electricity tariff and the price of petrol.

The TUC gave the ultimatum in a letter addressed to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and dated September 14, 2020.

The letter titled, ‘We cannot bear the burden any longer, issuance of seven days ultimatum,’ was signed by its President, Mr Quadri Olaleye, and the Secretary-General, Mr Musa Lawal.

The congress made the letter available to journalists shortly after its national executive meeting in Abuja on Monday.

The ultimatum was issued 24 hours to the Federal Government’s meeting with the TUC and the Nigeria Labour Congress. The meeting was convened by the government to explain the financial condition of the country and the reasons for the increase in electricity tariff and the fuel price.

Recall that the Federal Government two weeks ago increased the ex-depot price of petrol from N 138.62 to N147.67,  prompting marketers to adjust their petrol prices to between N158 and N162 from N148 to N150 in August. The ex-depot price is the price at which the government sells petrol to marketers.

The hike was the third within three months and it came at a time when electricity distribution companies increased their tariff.

Although the Federal Government had defended its action, saying the sharp drop in its revenues could not sustain the subsidy regime, labour leaders and civil rights groups said the government was insensitive.

They said the decision was taken at a time when other countries were introducing measures aimed at mitigating hardship caused by COVID-19 lockdown.

The president of ASUU, Ogunyemi, in the interview, said the government did not have any respect for Nigerians.

He stated, “If we are to operate in a country where our votes count, they will think twice before they ignore trade unions’ demands.  They will think twice before they rubbish agreements and memoranda.”

Ogunyemi said the government found it difficult to respect agreements it willingly signed with trade union leaders.

He also cautioned government on its over-reliance on external agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank.

He said, “You will agree with me that there is hardly any work that can boast of meaningful existence with his or her honest income. And if the government is ready to take some fundamental steps to redirect the growth and development of Nigeria, if the government will continue to surrender the growth and development of this country to external agencies such as the IMF and World Bank, then the government should be prepared for more crises because the people will become angrier when they are hungry and that is what they are beginning to see.  There will be more of labour unrest.”

He stressed that despite ASUU’s constant negotiations and agreements with the government, it had never paid attention to the university education system.

Ogunyemi stated, “From the perspective of our union, we believe that government has neglected the education sector for too long, particularly the university education sub-system.  As much as we have been trying to keep the government on track, by reaching agreements, signing memoranda with the government, the government has been unfaithful.

“Successive governments in Nigeria have been setting aside our collective bargaining agreements. Just as it is happening to ASUU,  we know it is happening to other trade unions. What should be done is to draw out the government very clearly. How do they see trade union agreements?  Are they just for the sake of placating labour leaders when they come up with issues the same way they deceived Nigeria with manifestoes which they set aside immediately they came to power?

“Or is it because they have some other forces outside Nigeria that are making them disrespect collective bargaining agreements to set aside every agreement they sign with trade unions.”

Nigeria not being operated by those who love Nigerians – Lecturers

Accusing the government of insensitivity, Ogunyemi stated,  “Our own understanding of the situation is that government, as we have in Nigeria today, is not being operated by those who love Nigerians.”

Ogunyemi said the government was always using verbal harassments on labour leaders instead of solving tactical issues presented to them.

He, therefore,  stated,  “No matter how tough the operators of government are talking, it is not about talking tough to labour leaders that will bring solutions. It is about addressing tactical problems that they put on the table; enough of these verbal harassments and intimidations of trade union leaders. Of course, they know ASUU will never take that from anybody. If that’s what they want to do, thinking they can intimidate any labour leader, they should be prepared for the consequences.”

Your actions annihilating Nigerians, congress tells Buhari

In its letter to the President, the TUC stated, “We have observed the gradual and steady annihilation of Nigeria and Nigerians in the light of government actions for the umpteenth time.”

It said the working class, their families and the masses were worried by the sudden increase in the price of petrol without any definitive and concrete efforts to make the nation’s refineries functional.

The TUC said the increase in electricity tariff was done without proper consultation and consideration of the effect of COVID-19, commensurate electricity supply and the provision of prepaid meters.

It noted the non-implementation of the negotiated national minimum wage by most of the state governments, and the Federal Government’s inability to create and sustain salary date and calendar to ensure transparency.

Other issues, according to the union, include corruption in government agencies such as the Niger Delta Development Commission, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Federal Ministry of Health as well as the loss of jobs across industries.

The letter lamented the loss of jobs across the industries, high cost of living and the impact of the pandemic on businesses, stating that the palliatives reportedly shared by the government never got to those that needed them.

The TUC said it resolved at the just-concluded meeting of its organs that the “government should take immediate steps to reverse the hike in prices as it affects electricity, petrol and all other social services in the country to status quo ante (prior to increase) within seven days.”

It also called for the provision of adequate and quality health care and education for all to save the poor and the vulnerable at all levels.

It said, “These demands are made in good faith, and to save the dying masses and the vulnerable in our society.

“In the event of not showing empathy for this class of people by adhering to above demands, we shall, together with our civil society and allies sympathetic to the suffering masses of our people, commence an indefinite industrial action and national protest  from September 23, 2020.”

The TUC has about 29 affiliate members spread across various sectors, including the oil and gas, aviation, finance, construction, health and education.

They include the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, National Union of Allied Health Professions;  Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions as well as the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospital, Research and Associated Institutions.

The TUC President told one of our correspondents on Monday evening that the congress would attend the meeting with the government.

We will convince TUC on  price increase – FG

But the Federal Government said it would convince the congress not to go on strike during today’s meeting.

Reacting to the TUC ultimatum on Monday, the spokesman, Ministry of labour, Mr Charles Akpan, said, “We would try to convince them on the reasons for the hikes in electricity tariffs and PMS pump prices at the meeting; Maybe, they would suspend the proposed industrial action.”

NECA berates FG for not repairing refineries

On his part, the Director-General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, Mr Timothy Olawale, berated the government for not repairing refineries.

He said what the private sector had demanded was total deregulation, not price control.

He said, “Our opinion is that what we have now is not deregulation. It is price control. You cannot say you have deregulated and you are still tampering with the price of fuel. International prices of fuel should also influence the local prices.

“If the welfare of the citizens is the responsibility of the government, why is it difficult for the government to fix the refineries as it promised before?

“Government should now be able to tell Nigerians it is giving a timeline. It should not be just a blanket promise that it will fix the refineries.”

He, however,  commended the government for opening its door for dialogue and labour for also accepting to discuss with the government.

He said, “Typically on the issues that they are concerned about, the issue of change in the tariff of electricity and the increase in fuel, there are justifications that government has given, whether those justifications are convincing enough is a different ball game.

“As a matter of fact, the major responsibility of government is the safety and welfare of the citizenry. But overall, I think what the government needs to do is to put all the cards on the table.

“Part of the justification for the electricity increase is that the right price must be paid for the right consumption of electricity.

“However, the question is the consumption because Nigerians don’t believe that they are really supposed to pay for the darkness which is why the government is supposed to enforce the issue of metering.

“So, I expect the government to be able to convince labour movement and its associates on its plan to enforce and insist that metering should be done by the distribution companies.”

The spokesman for the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Gerald Katchy, in an interview, said, “The primary aim of the NLC is to promote and defend the nation.

“In the light of this aim, the simple agenda of the NLC towards this meeting should be to demand that the government remove its knee from the masses’ necks as we cannot breathe again.”

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NIGERIA

Enforce Public Procurement Laws – CSOs tells Buhari

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Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center CISLAC has called for the enforcement of public procurement laws in all contract bidding especially one that has to do with international organisations.

Citing the Process and Industrial Developments Limited P&ID case, the agency said the international scam would not have been possible if due diligence was followed and public officials, patriotic and honest.

The agency also decried the connivance by Nigeria public officers with foreign companies to defraud the country of monies that could be spent on providing basic amenities for the citizens.

While lamenting the non interest of National Assembly in the case, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Musa expressed regrets over efforts by the lawyers representing the country to frustrate the case.

The CSO commended the proposed Database for recovered assets, but however called on the government clarify if the database will be accessible to the ordinary citizens.

CISLAC therefore called on citizens to continue to hold public officers accountable.

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NIGERIA

Nigerian Navy deploys 6 warships, 60 gunboats for operation in 4 States

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The Nigerian Navy on Tuesday deployed troops on board six warships and 60 gunboats for a special military exercise.

The drill targets pirates, oil smugglers and other criminalizes in the nation’s waters.

Rear Admiral David Adeniran, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command (ENC), Calabar, made the announcement.

He spoke at the flag-off of the exercise in Onne, Rivers State

The operation code-named, ‘Exercise Sanga Sung,’ means ‘Safe Transit’ in Ibibio dialect.

The States to be covered are Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ebonyi and Rivers.

The commander explained the operation would consolidate ‘Exercises Bekan Mmon I and II’

Adeniran added that the purpose was to train personnel and check the state of preparedness of fleets.

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NIGERIA

Buhari reports Boko Haram, bandits to UN

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday told the international community that Nigeria was still battling Boko Haram and bandits.

Buhari’s message was contained in his pre-recorded address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

He urged countries to take a strong action against illicit flow of small arms and light weapons.

“Nigeria remains deeply concerned over the illicit trade, transfer, and circulation of small arms and light weapons, particularly on the continent of Africa. In Nigeria, we are still facing violent extremism from the insurgency of Boko Haram and bandits,” he said.

He noted that Nigeria counts on cooperation with neighbours and UN counter-terrorism bodies to overcome terrorists in the Lake Chad Basin and the wider Sahel Region.

The President said his administration will sustain the rehabilitation, reconstruction and resettlement of victims of terrorism and insurgency in the North-East.

On COVID-19, the Nigerian leader added his voice to supply of safe and effective coronavirus vaccines for all.

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