Plans by the Federal Government to stop petrol subsidy payment and introduce N5,000 monthly transport grants is not intended to impose more hardship on Nigerians, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, assured yesterday.
He said nothing has been decided as talks with Labour continues.
According to him, such policies will not be implemented without Nigerians, through Labour, being carried along.
He said the government has lined up palliatives to cushion the effect of the planned subsidy removal.
These, he said, include the roll-out of gas-powered vehicles for mass transit, soft loans to farmers, conditional cash transfers to workers, among others.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer Mele Kyari said on Tuesday that petrol will sell between N320 and N340 per litre from February.
He said Nigeria would be out of the subsidy regime in the first quarter of 2022, but that the Federal Government plans to give N5,000 each to 40 million citizens to cushion the effects.
On Wednesday, Organised Labour rejected the planned removal of petrol subsidy, saying the thoughts are “cloudy and appear to be a ‘penny wise-pound foolish’ gamble.”
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) warned that any attempt to unilaterally end the subsidy regime without meeting its demands would be met with stiff resistance.
Ngige said: “The government will not go ahead and do as it pleases; the government has never been doing so.
“Government will always engage labour in the scheme of social dialogue which is one of the cardinal principles of decent work of the International Labour Organisation.”
According to Ngige, the tripartite committee – consisting of labour, Federal Government and employers have only done phase one of its work.
He said the larger house is awaiting the report of the NNPC in the second phase on what needs to be done for the subsidy to be removed.
Ngige said: “We don’t intend to jettison social dialogue. However, the committee we put in place, even the one led by NNPC on fuel subsidy and the palliative that is going to follow it, we have only done phase one of the work.
“The second phase of the work is for them (NNPC) to come and present to us what we are supposed to do if the subsidy is to go.
“How much the removal will save and how much it is going to be used for the benefit of the people?
“We have not reconvened. I chair that committee. When we reconvene, we will cross the bridge as we get there.
“The people who have spoken on it are speaking as fiscal people because this is a budget season, so the finance minister might have had some reasons for saying what she is saying; same with NNPC GMD who generates revenue from NNPC.
“But they will not take workers or Nigerians for granted. I am hopeful; I am optimistic that there will be discussions in the coming weeks.
“The meeting has not been reconvened because we are still waiting for the final report. Most of these meetings are tripartite.
“We have the government people there; we have labour and we have NNPC on one side.”
The minister also said the tripartite committee may reconvene its meeting before the end of the year to address the fears of labour.
“As the chairman, I will contact them all – NNPC and the rest of them, invite them and we will fix our meeting. There is a likelihood that the meeting will hold this year.
“What the Labour people are kicking against is taking a unilateral decision against them or shaving their heads behind their back.
“There is no implementation yet. Minister of Finance and GMD of NNPC – as the managers of revenues are telling you what they think we should do in 2022. That is what is there. This is not a one-off thing.
“It will be done in such a way that it conforms with the discussions we are already having. There must be a discussion.
“Labour and Nigerians should not worry. We are not interested in punishing anybody,” the minister added.