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The organised labour on Friday walked out of a scheduled meeting of the Presidential Steering Committee on subsidy palliatives at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Joe Ajaero, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), had led his delegation to the Chief of Staff’s office, venue of the meeting around 5pm but were soon on their way out of the villa.

The Steering Committee had met with the government delegation on Wednesday where the two parties agreed to reconvene on Friday to get brief from the three subcommittees set up to look into various demands.

The committee was constituted by the government to come up with palliatives that would cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal on workers.

But the meeting could not proceed because according to some members of the Steering Committee, there was no quorum.

The labour union accused the federal government of using the meetings as a pretext to deceive Nigerians.

A source at the meeting confirmed that three subcommittees, the Mass Transit, the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Cash transfer subcommittees, were supposed to be present to brief the Steering Committee on the measures put in place to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal on the workers.

But labour claimed that government officials, who are members the subcommittees were nowhere to be found.

A member of the Steering Committee from labour who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said “They are not prepared for the meeting. That’s the truth,” adding that “the government representatives had insisted that the meeting should proceed even though no quorum was formed.”

He said, “They are using cover to deceive Nigerians. There are supposed to be three subcommittees – mass transit subcommittee, the CNG and the cash transfer, to brief us, the steering committee but government was not prepared for the meeting.

“In their introductory remarks, they made excuses and they wanted the meeting to continue, the meeting did not form a quorum. We are a people that operate on the basis of process. So, if there’s no quorum in a meeting what do you do? You will adjourn for lack of quorum.

“There was nobody to meet with. The Chief of Staff was not there, they are taking us like small children.”

It was, however, gathered that the Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila, had earlier waited for the labour delegation with other members of the team at his Conference Hall.

He later stepped out to attend to other official matters within the Villa while other members of the government team were waiting for the organised labour to arrive.

The representatives of the organised labour from the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) were said to have been delayed at the State House entrance gate otherwise known as Mopol gate for clearance.

Information has it that the names of the labour delegation were not sent to the gate for clearance which led to their delay for the meeting.

One of the leaders of the labour delegation had told journalists, “We were detained at the gate.”

When journalists sort to hear from government officials at the villa, they declined comment.

Yesterday’s botched meeting would have been the fourth in the series of meetings between government officials and labour would have held since the implementation of the petroleum subsidy removal.

The organised labour has already scheduled a nationwide protest for August 2 to press home their demands over the petroleum subsidy removal.

The last meeting of the steering committee held last Wednesday but government representatives were unable to convince the labour leaders to shelve their plan for the action.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting on Wednesday, the NLC President had said: “We are going ahead with the protest because we have to be emphatic on what we put in our communique, to say we’re commencing protests from the 2nd.”

On his part, the TUC President, Festus Osifo, said that both sides listened to the presentations from the Steering Committee secretariat and Labour made its input into it.

“Some of the things they presented we did not agree with them. So, in the areas we did not agree, we also made our impute known because when you come to such meeting, it is for government or its representatives to do a presentation.

“But it’s left for us to either agree or disagree. So, during the meeting, we gave them sufficient feedback. And they also agreed to go and look at those feedbacks and get back to us on Friday,” Osifo stated.

However, the Special Adviser to the President on Energy, Ms. Olu Verheijen, who also spoke on the government’s side on Wednesday, had said progress had been made in the discussion.

She explained: “We’ve agreed to continue to make progress. It was a very productive meeting. The focus was really around how we fast-track a lot of the interventions that will bring relief, particularly around CNG, mass transportation, cleaner energy transportation, and to reduce the impact of the increased cost of transportation.

“So, we’ve made good progress. And we’re going to continue to do so, so that we can start rolling out these opportunities and relief measures as quickly as possible.”

On why government is dragging its feet in rolling out palliatives, she said: “We have to get it right. It’s important that we do this well, and we keep our promises. So, it’s important that whatever is announced actually gets done because we don’t want to make big announcements and continue to lose people’s trust.

“It’s important that we build trust, and that most of the announcements and plans that we roll out are credible and impactful.

“President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is working assiduously to address all of these issues. And as quickly as he can. He’s very empathetic; he is concerned about it, as you’ve seen all of us working round the clock here to make sure that we are able to announce these measures as quickly as possible. It’s a whole package of issues that we’re rolling out as quickly as possible,” the presidential aide had assured.

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