The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, Monday moved swiftly to avert the impending nationwide strike of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, billed to commence on Wednesday.
Recall that the NLC had on Wednesday last week directed all its branches across the country and the affiliate unions to embark on mobilisation of members for the proposed strike due to the scarcity of naira notes that has caused untold hardships to Nigerians.
It threatened to embark on the industrial action, if the cash crunch, fuel scarcity and electricity tariff increase were not addressed.
The NLC also advised its members to stockpile food stuffs, saying that it will occupy all branches of the Central Bank on Nigeria, CBN, nationwide and its headquarters from Wednesday.
However, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige in a bid to stop the NLC from paralysing economic activities at the nation’s apex bank, intervened in the dispute between labour and the CBN over the latter’s Naira Redesign Policy, which caused a cash crunch in the country.
In response to the strike threat, Ngige in a statement by Olajide Oshundun, Director Press in the ministry invited the leadership of the Congress and the CBN management to a meeting in his office on Monday, to resolve their differences.
The ten-man delegation of the NLC was led by the President, Comrade 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 (Organised Private Sector).
According to the statement, Ngige in his opening remarks, refuted the allegation of the NLC that his Ministry did nothing about the matter.
He said 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.
On his part, the CBN Governor, Emefiele said 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 a fruitful discussion with NLC president.
He said large volume of funds were made available to the deposit money banks and they were directed to open their branches on Saturdays and Sundays and that they complied under strict supervision by the CBN.
According to Emefiele, following the steps taken Nigerians have been enjoying their money.
Earlier, Comrade Ajaero said they only got a reply to their second letter to the ministry and subsequently, an invitation to the meeting.
He said they no longer envisage any problem, since CBN has started sending cash to the banks and Nigerians were now accessing their money, acknowledging that meetings has been taking place in the spirit of good dialogue.
He, however, urged the CBN to improve on their services, regretting the information gap created in the implementation of the Naira Redesign.
He 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 will meet tomorrow Tuesday 28th of March, 2023 where members from states and Local Government Areas are expected to report on availability of money, after which a decision will be taken on the strike.
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.
The Minister thanked all for honouring the invitation.