PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan’s meeting with the leadership of Labour failed last night to resolve the petrol price crisis. It was inconclusive. The talks continue tomorrow.

President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Abdulwaheed Omar declared after the meeting that the strike, which started on Monday, will continue today.

But he said Labour and the government shifted grounds.

The government asked Labour to call off its strike, besides insisting on “total” deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry – an action that shot up the price of petrol from N65 to between N138 and N200 per litre.

Labour insisited on reversal to N65.

But Omar did not give the details of the shift in positions.

After the five-hour negotiation, the government offered N120 per litre for petrol, down from N138 and N200 that it has been sold since January 1.

The government team said they would not go back to N65.

But Labour insisted on the mandate from workers – N65 per litre.

A source at the meeting said: “The President set the tone for the meeting with preliminary remarks which bordered on his usual points that everything was done in the interest of the nation and not to punish Nigerians.

“Shortly after the opening remarks, he left the negotiation hall with the Vice-President. But Senate President David Mark took over to moderate the session.

“After the usual appeal and justification for deregulation by all the governors and other Federal Executive Council members, the government said it would not go back to N65 per litre. It, however, said it will be willing to peg the pump price of PMS at N120 per litre.

“The government was emphatic that it will not go below N120 per litre although some government officials were saying in confidence that if Labour pushes for N100 per litre, the government may concede.

“The way the government presented its arguments, they were not too keen on return to N65 per litre, they were more interested in security implications of the ongoing action. They were raising issues on how things will not get out of hands. That made the Labour to be suspicious.

“The governors were still raising the issue of high cost of governance and why the government cannot reverse the pump price to N65 per litre. Governor Adams Oshiomhole said he knew the thinking of the labour but now that he is on the other side, he knows what he is experiencing. He, however, did not said what he is going through in office.”

“The NLC President and TUC President Peter Esele spoke on why the labour will not trade away the N65 per litre mandate given to them by workers.

“The Labour went further to say that the government must reverse the pump price to N65 with a 90-day moratorium to enable all stakeholders look at the challenges of subsidy, pump price and find ways for appropriate pricing for the PMS!

“The idea is that within 90 days, a larger committee will look at the entire subsidy picture and the deregulation plans of the government and find a common ground. But this window was not acceptable to the government.

“When the deadlock was evident, the Labour leaders said they will go and consult with their National Executive Committee on Saturday and get back to the government the same day. No time was fixed for the resumption of negotiation on Saturday.”

The negotiation session was facilitated by the Senate.

Omar said: “The outcome is that we have not concluded discussions yet but we have had fruitful discussions and we re to continue on Saturday.”

On whether both parties shifted ground, he said: “Yes; it’s part of it.

Of course, all of us are trying to shift ground, that’s why I told you that we have had fruitful discussions.”

On the possibility of the strike being called off, Omar said: “Unless and until we get a conclusive conclusion from the discussion; that means we’ll maintain status quo.”

The meeting, which was held at the Presidential Villa, started at about 4pm.

Senate President David Mark led a team which included Senators Ike Ekweremadu and Victor Ndoma-Egba. 

Nigeria Governors’ Forum Chairman Rotimi Ameachi (Rivers) led the governors’ seven-man delegation, including Babatunde Fashiola (Lagos), Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Peter Obi (Anambra), Babangida Aliyu (Niger) and Gabriel Suswam (Benue).

Vice President Namadi Sambo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation Anyim Pius Anyim, Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Trade and Investment Olusegun Aganga, Justice Minister Mohammed Adoke, Minister of Labour Emeka Wogu, Minister of Petroleum Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke and National Security Adviser Patrick Azazi represented the executive.

With Omar on the Labour side were Peter Esele of Trade Union Congress (TUC) and with 14 others. There were also Civil Society Organisations, representatives.

The President, the Vice President and the ministers left the meeting about 10 minutes after the arrival of the labour leaders.

The secretary to the Government of the Federation remained.

It was learnt that the President gave room for the Senate President, the governors and SGF to interface with labour and hammer out an agreement.  

The meeting went on break at 8.20pm.

The Vice President rejoined the meeting when it resumed, before finally closing about one and half hours later.