Fuel, electricity price hike: FG rules out wage increase

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THE Federal Government has ruled out wage increase on the heels of the latest hike in fuel price and electricity tariffs.

But it could come up with palliatives to cushion the effects of the new price and tariffs.

Some ministers and top government officials are due to meet in Abuja on Sunday to discuss the demands of workers who have served notice of a strike through the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

The workers want the fuel price and electricity tariffs scrapped immediately.

Tomorrow’s meeting, tagged “Government Side” is expected to take far-reaching decisions which could avert a shutdown of the country in the next two weeks.

A top government official told The Nation on Friday that Nigeria’s current economic situation could not accommodate any wage increase.

“Of all the demands of the NLC, we will not accept wage increase when it is obvious that we have lost 60% of our revenues because of fall in crude oil prices and COVID-19,” the source said.

“Increase in wages will trigger more inflation and lead to social discomfort for . This option does not look feasible at all.The nation’s economy cannot accommodate it.

“We are however weighing different options for a win-win situation for the government, the labour and Nigerians in general.”

Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Ayuba Wabba said on Tuesday that the gains of the nation’s minimum wage had been eroded by the new fuel price and the hike in electricity tariffs.

Wabba, who spoke at a session with government representatives, said: “The question now is what do you have on the table to actually cushion the effect on workers and their families because they have been pushed to the wall. They are already enraged.

“Already the value of the minimum wage has been eroded; that is the reality. If Ghana compares their minimum wage with our own, you will see their minimum wage.”

Expected at tomorrow’s meeting of government officials are Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige and the Minister of State r, Mr. Festus Keyamo; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipreye Sylva;Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed; Power Minister Saleh Mamman, Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola and others.

Some of the issues that may be considered at the meeting are as follows:

Reversal of fuel pump price. How practicable since the oil sector has been deregulated?
Electricity tariffs: Complaints against Distribution companies, the fault lines and remedies
Compilation of facts and figures on the state of the economy
Indices which make wage increase unrealistic
Immediate, medium term and long term palliatives to cushion the effects of fuel price and electricity tariffs.
Minimum demands acceptable to the government which delegation will take to the next meeting with the Labour

Ngige said on Friday that government was “not taking the ultimatum of the Labour lightly but we are not expecting Armageddon.”

He hailed the “maturity of the NLC” and said government was “open to further discussion with Labour.”

He added: “Nobody owns this country, we all own Nigeria. We are all working together for the benefit of our country.

“Government officials are not immune from the increase in fuel price and electricity tariffs. I live in Asokoro, I bear the brunt of these increases too.

“Even if you assume I don’t bear the brunt, I have brothers, cousins, nephews and other relations who feel the effects of the increases.

“We are discussing. We do not want to inflict pains on Nigerians. President Muhammadu Buhari is also concerned to protect the masses. As the President of the common man, he has asked us to meet on some of these demands.

“Some ministers and top government officials will hold a session on all the issues raised by the labour.”

Responding to a question, Ngige said: “So many options are on the table. We are working on palliatives to enable Nigerians cope with the new fuel price and electricity tariffs.”

He said the government has also tasked the Labour on what it thinks as alternatives to fuel price increase.

Ngige added: “We told them to go back and bring their proposals. They are saying that if they want us to reverse the fuel pump price, should we revert to N120 per litre or N125, or N130? We have asked them to give us suggestions as stakeholders.”

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