Barely 24 hours to the deadline given by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) for the federal government to end the currency and petrol scarcity in the country, the leadership of the labour movement has summoned a meeting of its National Executive Committee today, to assess the situation and decide whether to proceed with the national protest or not.
We learnt that the NLC intends to brief the media and members of public on plans for the picketing of CBN Offices Nationwide scheduled to begin on Wednesday.
But the federal government made a move yesterday to dissuade the workers from embarking on the picketing of the Central Bank offices nationwide by arranging a meeting between the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele and NLC leaders in Abuja.
Sources said the NLC has summoned a meeting of its NWC today to deliberate on burning national issues and to review the progress made at restoring normalcy in currency availability and petrol distribution.
It was also gathered that at the meeting held at the conference room of the Labour Ministry, both Ngige and Emefiele explained to the labour leaders efforts being made to alleviate the current cash crunch and progress so far made in reducing the currency drought across the country.
On Monday, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige took steps to avert the impending nationwide protest by the workers.
Ngige brokered a meeting between the NLC and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over the scarcity of the naira in the country.
The congress had threatened to embark on the nationwide industrial action, if the cash crunch, fuel scarcity and electricity tariff increase were not addressed.
A statement signed by the Director, Press and Public Relations Nr. Olajide Oshundun said that NLC was represented by a 10-man delegation led by its President, Joe Ajaero and the General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja while the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele was accompanied by two Deputy Governors, Kingsley Obiora (Economic Policy) and Ade Shonubi (Operations).
The statement said that Ngige in his opening remarks refuted the allegation of the NLC that his Ministry did nothing about the matter.
He said that on receiving the letter from NLC, he forwarded same to the CBN Governor before travelling out of the country for an International Labour Organisation (ILO) Governing Board meeting and directed the Permanent Secretary and Trade Union Services and Industrial Relations Department to follow-up.
He maintained that his Ministry took the necessary step by sending the letter to CBN Governor who received the letter and assured that action would be taken.
The minister however assured all that whether the NLC is embarking on dispute of right or dispute of Interest, the dispute has been apprehended and can only result to more dialogue and not strike.
On his own part, Emefiele explained that when he received the letter from the Labour Ministry, he called the President of NLC to brief him on steps taken to alleviate the sufferings of the masses and equally made appointment and had discussion with NLC president and had fruitful discussion which resulted in the large volume of funds made available to the deposit money banks.
He said the banks were directed to open their branches on Saturdays and Sundays and they complied under strict supervision by the CBN.
Earlier, Ajaero said they only got a reply to their second letter to the ministry and subsequently, an invitation to the meeting.
He said there had been some improvement in the currency circulation, but urged the CBN to improve on its services.
He noted the information gap in the implementation of the Naira Redesign policy.
Ajaero said: “NLC could not have stopped CBN from taking good decisions and implementing them in the interest of the nation. If stakeholders were invited and briefed on the policy, when the people complain, NLC would explain everything to them.
“But in this case, the CBN did it alone. Moreover, it is a wrong time for administering such a national policy.”
He assured that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of NLC would meet today, where members from states and Local Government Areas were expected to report on availability of money, after which a decision will be taken on the strike.