Against the apparent rigid stand of organised labour to call out its members on strike against the recent hike in the price of petrol, the federal government yesterday intensified efforts to pressure the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC to abandon its declared resolve and embrace peaceful negotiations on the way forward.
This is coming just as the critical economic indicator; inflation hit an all-time high of 13.7% suggesting hard times ahead for the purchasing power of the Naira.
Following last week’s announcement increasing the pump price of fuel per litre from N86.50 to N145, the NLC immediately rejected it saying it was unfair to the Nigerian worker. The rallying centre of Nigerian workers argued that government ought to have put needed palliatives in place and engage stakeholders in required dialogues before announcing the pricing regime.
“The allusion to the fact that the this increase was arrived at after due consultation with stake holders is not only ridiculous and fallacious, it goes to show that the brief meeting held today during which government was advised shelve the idea until at least it meets with the appropriate organs of the Congress was in bad faith,” the NLC argued.
Indeed pressure on the NLC to dump the strike option came first from the federal government with minister of state for petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu urging organised labour to opt for negotiations.
Also part of the carrots thrown up by government to pressure labour not to strike were palliatives announced by the Office of the vice president, Sunday. A statement by media aide, Laolu Akande stated that: “All together the federal government would be directly impacting the lives of more than 8 million Nigerians in different social investment 2016 budget spending that would provide succor and be a ready-made palliative to ordinary Nigerians.
The statement added: “the direct payment of N5000 monthly to one million extremely poor Nigerians for 12 months as provided for in the 2016 budget for which N$68.7bn has been appropriated.”
He continued; “in the same vein, the government has also made available a “direct provision of very soft loan -cash for market women, men and traders, including artisans and Agric workers. This would be for a total of 1.76m Nigerians, without the requirement for conventional collateral. Some of the traders will likely get about N60,000. A total sum of N140.3bn has already been appropriated for this in the budget”.
Apparently realising that labour remained adamant, the stakeholders meeting called last night to chart a way forward out of the imminent labour strike had the NLC factional leader locked out while representatives of NUPENG, PENGASSAN, TUC, among others were in attendance. Also, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal who chaired the meeting represented President Muhammadu Buhari with the ministers of Labour, Chris Ngige, Information, Lai Mohammed, Budget, Udoma Udo Udoma as well as presidential aide on National Assembly, Senate, Eta Enang among others.
According to a top government official, “Ajaero should realise that he is a factional leader of NLC. To allow him to participate would mean official recognition of one faction of the NLC. But if they come in as stakeholders without touting the NLC threat, that would be different. Moreover, the affiliated stakeholders that are really central to the crisis endorse the price hike. What is left is to work modalities that would save the ordinary Nigerian from any adverse effect of the increment and not the strike threat which we are very sure Nigerians will not buy.”
At press time last, the meeting was still on.
Inflation skyrockets to 13.7%
IN an unprecedented fashion, inflation in April ballooned to 13.7 percent, from the 12.8 percent recorded in March, indicating a strong increase for the third consecutive month.
Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, in Abuja yesterday attributed the higher rate of increase relative to March, to a reflection “in faster increases across all divisions which contribute to the index with the exception of the Restaurants and Hotels division which increased, albeit at a slower pace for the third consecutive month”.
The NBS said “lingering structural constraints continue to manifest spill overs in April as Electricity rates, Kerosene prices, the impact of higher PMS prices and Vehicle Spare Parts were the largest contributors to the Core Sub index during the month.
“These items as well as other imported items continued to have ripple effects across many divisions that contribute to the Core. The index increased by 13.4% in March, roughly 1.2% points from rates recorded in March.”
It noted that in “April, the Consumer Price Index, CPI, which measures inflation recorded a relatively strong increase for the third consecutive month. The Headline index increased by 13.7% (year-on-year), roughly 0.9% points higher from rates recorded in March (12.8%).
“The Food index reflected tighter supplies across most groups that contribute to the sub index. The sub index increased by 13.2% in April, up by 0.4% points from rates recorded in March as all major food groups which contribute to the Food sub index increased at a faster pace driven by higher food prices in Fish, Bread and Cereals, and Vegetables groups.
“Month-on-month, while the Headline Index increased in April, the index slowed for the second consecutive month. The index increased by 1.6%, in April, 0.6% points from rates recorded in March. All divisions which contribute to the index increased at a slower pace, during the month with the exception of the Housing Water, Electricity, Gas & Other Fuel division.”
The NBS said both the Urban and Rural indices recorded marked increases for the third consecutive month in March, Year on year.
“The Urban index rose by 15.1%, 1.6% points from 13.5% in March. While the Rural Index increased, upward pressure on prices were relatively less severe in the rural areas as the index increased 12.8% year-on-year, 0.7% points from 12.0% in March. On a month-on-month basis, while the Urban index increased at a faster pace, from 2.0% in March to 2.2% in April, the Rural index increased at a slower pace, from 2.1% in March to 1.4% in April.”
The percentage change in the average composite CPI for the 12 months period ending in April 2016 over the average of the CPI for the previous 12-month period was 10.2%, higher from 9.8% recorded in February.
The corresponding 12-month year-on-year average percentage change for the Urban index increased from 9.9% in March to 10.5% in March, while the corresponding Rural index also increased from 9.6% in March to 9.9% in April.
Increases in imported as well as domestically produced foods resulted in a higher increase in the Food Sub index in April.
The index increased by 13.2% (Year-on-year) during the month, 0.4% points higher from rates recorded in March. All groups which contribute to the index increased during the month with the exception of the Fruit and “Potatoes, Yams and Other Tuber” groups.
On a month-on-month basis, the Food sub-index increased by 1.3% in April, 1.0% points lower from rates recorded in March.
All groups which contribute to the Food Sub-index increased at a slower pace during the month with the exception of the “Milk, Cheese and Eggs” group. Month-on-month, the highest price increases were recorded in the Bread and Cereals; Oils and Fats, and Meats groups.
The average annual rate of change of the Food sub-index for the twelve-month period ending in April 2016 over the previous twelve month average was 10.8%, 0.3% points from the average annual rate of change recorded in March.
The index increased by 13.4% in April, 1.2% points from 12.2% recorded in March. All key divisions which contribute to the index increased at a faster pace with the exception of the Restaurants and Hotels division which increased at a slower pace for the second consecutive month.
“On a month-on-month basis, the Core Sub-index increased at a slower pace for the second consecutive month in April, increasing by 1.7%, 0.2% points lower from 1.9% in March.
“In April, on a month-on-month basis, the highest price increases were recorded in the Electricity, Motor Cars, Fuels and Lubricants for Passenger Transport (PMS), and Liquid Fuels (kerosene) groups.
“The average twelve month annual rate of rise of the index was recorded at 9.6% for the twelvemonth period ending in April 2016, 0.5% points higher from the twelve month rate of change recorded in March (9.1%),” said the NBS.