- The Nigerian government and labour unions failed to break the deadlock over the ongoing national strike, the Secretary to the Nigerian government, Babagana Kingibe, has confirmed.
He told journalists that the nine-hour talks involving the two sides "have not made any sufficient progress to enable a resolution of the strike".
“Labour stuck to its position that it must have all its demands met, irrespective of the fact that the government had made other concessions," Mr Kingibe said, expressing disappointment about the uncompromising stance of the union leaders. He said it is common knowledge that negotiations never worked that way.
“You do not go to the negotiating table on the basis that you have all your wishes met,’’ he said.
Mr Kingibe said the government would be unwilling to consider other options it had never wanted to take to put the days of strikes to an end.
He said by meeting all of the labour’s demands would be too expensive for the government because it would be short of money to carry out other priorities this fiscal year.
“Arrears of the 15 per cent salary increase from January to April alone would cost us N18.3 billion (US$140 million), which is not budgeted for and if the government pays these arrears in a lump sum, it will only be able to fund its activities until the end of August.”
Unions are also striking against the sale of two oil refineries to associates of the outgoing President, Olusegun Obasanjo.
But Kingibe defended that the government had sold only 51% of its equity holding in the plants and not the entire refineries. He said 10% of the remaining balance would be sold to labour and another 10% to the host communities.
“The laws governing strikes will now be fully enforced and effected. I do not think the Nigerian people deserve to be held hostage indefinitely by a group of people purporting to be representing the wishes of the people,’’ he said, assuring that every measure would be put in place to ensure that Nigerian citizens who want to return to work do so without being molested.
The unions still remain defiant in their attempts to make life difficult for the government. After failing to reach a deal with the government, the unions and a coalition of civil society groups today issued a joint statement, calling for an all-out national strike. They threatened to shut down essential services such as water, electricity, among others in the country.
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