The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, yesterday threatened to shut down the economy without giving notice to the government, if the petrol pump price was increased again.
It also raised alarm over the alleged hijack of the duties of the Ministry of Labour and Employment by the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, and the Federal Ministry of Justice.
But the Presidency in a swift reaction, said President Bola Tinubu is concerned about economic hardship in the country and is working hard to ameliorate the situation.
This is even as oil marketers yesterday in Abuja, urged the Federal Government to act urgently to halt the consistent slide in the value of the naira against the dollar, saying the development had significantly impacted the pump price of petrol.
NLC President, Mr Joe Ajaero, issued the threat while responding to the advice of the Director, Trade Union Services, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Emmanuel Igbinosun, that Labour should explore due process in its agitations before embarking on strike.
Igbinosun gave the advice in his remarks at the on-going African Trade Union Alliance meeting holding in Abuja.
Ajaero warned that Nigerians had suffered enough from the policies of government and will not take kindly any increase in petroleum pump price that would worsen the situation.
He said: “I commend the Director of Trade Union Services for his labour-friendly disposition and for finding out time to be here. We need to commend you. But I was feeling uncomfortable when you had legions of advice to the Labour movement. In actual fact, the centrality of your office is to advise government on some of these issues.
“Maybe I will advise that we engage you as adviser of labour, adviser of trade union services, since you appear to be closer to us than the Nigerian state who you are employed to serve, that we should concern ourselves with issues of wages, issues of employment relations but you didn’t say anything about those issues that depreciate our wage, those policies of government that reduce our wages to nothing.
“For you, those are exclusive preserve of the Nigerian state to take decisions probably to increase pump price of petroleum product and our wages will be next to nothing. You didn’t speak on it and maybe we should concern ourselves with those issues.
“But I want to plead with you that those bad economic policies by the state that make our wages next to nothing should be checked. If you check those policies that lead to inflation and the devaluation of the currency, even where we are, we will be comfortable.
“If naira is at par with dollar today, we will ask you to leave the minimum wage at N30,000, it will make sense. If inflation is checked to zero, we will ask you to leave it where we are but if inflation is flying, if even by the admittance of the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, we have over 130 million Nigerians that are multi-dimensionally poor. I think you should address those issues.
If we go for even wage increase tomorrow, the inflation that will come up will destroy it.
“As we are here now, they are contemplating increasing the pump price of petrol and the Ministry of Labour for sometime now, will only go to Ministry of Justice to come up with so-called injunction to hold the hands of Labour not to respond.
“I didn’t want to say some of those things you will not be comfortable with because probably if they ask you to represent them tomorrow, you will not be around.
“But let me say this, Nigerian workers will not give any notice if we have not addressed the consequences of the last two increases and we wake up from our sleep to hear that they have tampered with the prices again. They have started floating ideas of a likely increase in the pump price of petrol.
“Lastly, the Inspector General of Police is now performing the duty of the Ministry of Labour. The duties of the Ministry of Labour includes addressing the issues, both inter and intra-union disputes. They’re not within the purview of the Inspector-General of Police.
‘’I think there is the need for the Ministry of Labour to know that they don’t have the right to usurp your function. If they do that, the Ministry of Labour will go into extinction and there will be no basis for the ministry to remain.
“I say it’s illegal, we demand an apology from the IGP to have arrested or even contemplated to arrest the President of the National Union of Road Transport Workers for whatever reason, on the eve of an election. It’s unheard of in the history of this country and never again should that be entertained.
“The Nigerian Police are Nigerian workers and we will not waste time to march to their office. Let them use the same gun that was bought with workers’ salaries and tax to now engage us. So I felt I should balance.
‘’You have advised us, we have to advise you too. Go and collect your functions from Police and from the Ministry of Justice.
“We can now see that even when there is a dispute, intra or inter, it’s your function to refer such to either Industrial Arbitration Panel, IAP, and in the most instances to National Industrial Court, NIC, but this doesn’t come from you again.
“As Nigeria Labour Congress that relates with the Ministry of Labour so much, we are afraid that your work is going to extinction. Please I am not sure there is a routine change of Permanent Secretaries today but your Permanent Secretary has moved.
‘’Only God knows who will come there and the minister that will come there. But we are ready to cooperate with you, laugh with you and fight with you at the appropriate time.”