Stop Threatening Us, FG Warns NLC
The Federal Government has warned the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to stop overheating the nation's polity with its threats of a general strike and mass protest over government's plan to remove fuel subsidy. This is coming at a time President Goodluck Jonathan has said though he understands the plight of Nigerians, he would go ahead with the removal of fuel subsidy in their interest. The NLC has vowed to make the country ungovernable if he continues with the removal.
It further stated that it had started mobilising the people against the action which it described as anti-people. While warning the umbrella body of Nigerian workers, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, at the second National Consultation on Child Labour Policy and National Action Plan for the Elimination of Worst Forms of Labour, said NLC has not thought it wise to look critically at the issues posed by the government, but has been acting on mere speculation.
He advised that rather than continue with its threats, the union should work with the government to make its goals achievable. Wogu, while claiming that the 2012 budget proposal presented to the National Assembly was clear on the subsidy issue and that Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, further explained the issue in clear terms, stressed that "it is for them to be patient with government and avoid speculations that will overheat the system.
The budget is clear and the explanation of the minister of finance is clear." Maintaining that the government would continue to discuss the issue with organised labour, and that President Jonathan's administration was working frantically in the interest of the nation, he added "the big question is: does it (the fuel subsidy issue) qualify as a condition to go on strike? You know if a strike is declared, people will not go to work. If you listen to the further break down of the budget by the Coordinating Minister of Economy and Minister of Finance, she has spoken on the budget Mr. President presented, so why are there speculations.
"In the presentation of the budget to the National Assembly and the breakdown by the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of Economy, there is no ambiguity...We are going to dialogue with them (labour). We will invite the labour.
" President Jonathan had Thursday night, during a religious service, said he knew Nigerians were passing through hard times, but that he would not deliberately increase the suffering of the citizens but that his action is a courageous move to develop the country. President Jonathan said:
"There is no way we can continue to run the economy this way. People find it difficult to do things that appear not to be popular and I know that one of the things that worry us is the fear of the unknown. If there is no subsidy, what will life be? Yes, we know there will be little pain because we know ourselves as Nigerians, sometimes, we exploit opportunities."