President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has appealed to the organised labour to give him more time to look into their grievances rather than embark on industrial action.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, disclosed this after leading members of his leadership to brief the president on the outcome of their engagement with the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), which had declared a nationwide strike action.
The speaker, while fielding questions from State House reporters after the meeting to also introduce new leadership of House, said the president appealed that he was new in office and needed time to evaluate the issues being raised by workers over which he is yet to be briefed.
He said the House leadership invited NARD following their intention to go on strike, saying that the lawmakers succeeded in persuading the union to shelve the plan.
Abbas said the purpose of the visit to the presidential villa on Wednesday was to intimate the President of the progress made with the doctors association.
Asked to give the importance of the two -day consecutive meeting with the president, he said: “Yesterday’s visit was primarily to brief Mr President on our engagement with National Residents Doctors Association whom we got wind were planning to embark on strike. So, we invited them and we persuaded to withdraw that plan. Sequel to the meetings we had with them, there were series of conditions that they gave that we felt that we need to share with Mr President. And that is what brought me yesterday, to intimate him on what we have discussed and the agreements so far reached them and issues that they have raised that need his attention.
“And today’s visit, as you can see, we are together, the whole leadership of the House is here. Since our election, as leaders of 10th House of Representatives, we didn’t come formally to present them to Mr President. So, today, we requested for this audience primarily to bring and introduce them for him to get to know them and for them to get to know him. That’s just what we are here for.”
On the next step for the government after the doctors had gone ahead to start industrial action despite his intervention, speaker said: “Well, it’s a work in progress. I’m sure some of the issues that they have raised, if we can be able to meet some of their expectations halfway of which we are on it, we already set up an adhoc committee chaired by the Majority Leader of the House to look at those issues. I’m sure one or two interventions in their areas of concern, we will prevail on them to come back to the negotiating table and also accept to withdraw that strike.”
Asked if there was any immediate commitment from the President on the issue, Abbas said: “Yeah, what he said was that he was just coming on board. We should ask and beg them to please give us a little more time. Most of the things they mentioned, he is completely unaware of them. He is yet to be briefed about all those issues. But from what he heard from me, he also advised that we should channel all those issues to his Chief of Staff for him to look at them one after the other. I believe within the next coming days, some concerted actions will be taken.”
On what would be done by the House to arrest the plan to embark on protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on August 2 if anti-people policies were not reversed beyond residents doctors’ strike, the speaker said: “In the same manner, same way, we will also invite them to come and sit so that we hear their grievances and then we follow the same pattern of engaging and persuading them to give us a little time so that we can be able to meet their expectations.”
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to the President on Energy, SA on Energy, Ms Olu Verheijin, has said the Federal Government is meeting with the leadership of the organised labour to prevent strike.
She said this after a meeting of Federal Government’s Steering Committee on Palliatives that comprised leadership of NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC).
Verheijen led FG’s team during the meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja in continuation of continuation of their talks on palliatives to cushion the effect of subsidy removal.
She said the labour unions would speak on the threat of the NLC to protest but added that the steering committee meeting focused on how stakeholders could fast-track interventions that would bring relief, particularly around Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), mass transportation, cleaner energy, transportation, and reduce the impact of the cost of transportation.