The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, yesterday said it has commenced mobilisation against the Federal Government’s proposed increase in petroleum pump price of over 200 percent in 2022.
The Federal Government had announced that it would withdraw subsidy on petroleum products next year, saying the burden of subsidy was heavy to bear.
But NLC’s disclosure of its mobilisation for a showdown against the government came on the heels of the charge to organized labour by a former General Secretary of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Chief Frank Kokori, to fight government’s manipulation and corruption tendencies masquerading as fuel subsidy.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of 17th NLC Harmattan School in Ilorin, Kwara State, NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, vowed that labour would resist attempt by the government to increase fuel price without making adequate arrangement to cushion the effect.
He contended that if government succeeded in the plan, the impact of the price hike would affect every Nigerian, motorists, households, transporters, and others.
Wabba lamented that out of the OPEC member countries, it was only Nigeria that was adhering to the International Monetary Fund, IMF, policies, which he described as neo-liberal.
He said: “The concept of accepting deregulation hook line and sinker anchored on import driven price model is not something that we can accept. We have said that without mincing words.
“If you say we are pushing through our throat to accept deregulation on the basis of importation, basically there will be no end to price increase even the issue of saying that once you deregulate without having the capacity to refine for domestic use will bring down the price of PMS, is not correct.
“When the price of crude oil was almost at a zero level, the price of two items that were deregulated never came down; that is diesel and the price of kerosene. In fact, they kept going up.
“The market fundamentals, marketers are out there to make maximum profit and usually they will collude and that is what will happen to Nigeria if we accept that policy hook line and sinker.
“The implication is not also on the working class because whether we like it or not, the minimum wage gain has been eroded completely with disparlel effect of the issue of failing value of our currency so the major issue under contention is actually how do we stabilise the value of the naira. Once you dont stabilise the value of the naira anything imported will have an effect on the larger economy but also on the cost of goods and services.
“This is the reality. So we are actually calling for reviving of the refineries, making them to work, don’t export our jobs let us benefit substantially from what God has given us freely.
“Labour has done a lot of studies out of the OPEC countries. We are the only country trying to adopt this IMF imposed model of deregulation on the basis of import driven price mechanism.
“That will not be good for our economy and that is the idea of our argument that yes you can liberalise but not on this monopoly of making sure that it is only import driven.
“The issue of extending N5, 000 to 40 million Nigerians. The impact of the policy of price hike under the name of deregulation will affect every Nigerian citizen either directly or indirectly.
“Either you have a car, a motorcycle or you use a transportation either to move people or bring in farm produce or you are a medium and small enterprise using a small generator, everybody will be impacted and so I dont see the wisdom of saying only 40 million people. We have seen some of these policies where people say they are extending support to Nigerians.
“Remember when the organised labour submitted a list of the working poor N50,000 on request to the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs as I speak to you no single person benefitted yet it is being said that everybody benefitted. We dont have empirical data even on the poor of the poorest and so basically it is going to be the same way those other policies have gone and that is why we said no because there will be spiral inflation and we have seen that each time there is a slight increase in the pump price of PMS, because of its centrality to our economy, the impact will be very humongous.”
He said if the government does not reverse the policy, it would adversely affect wage earners and rubbish the minimum wage, adding that it was on that basis that organised labour decided to engage the process.
“But engaging the process also has to be open. You don’t have to make pronouncement before inviting labour to the negotiating table because it is like the deed is done and that is why we are also mobilising our people this time around, we are not saying increase N5, you are moving the price from N162 or N163 to N340 or N408.
“ If we are to actually go by the recommendations of the governors forum, I don’t see how that can be pushed down the throat of Nigerians looking at the impact. Not even the political considerations, it is about the economic impact on buisness, citizens and the fact that it is going to push more Nigerians below the poverty block. These are the concerns labour has had.
“We have made three recommendations. Can we identify refineries around the shores of Africa to do crude oil swap? When you do that you insulate the Nigerian market and consumers because in one barrel of crude oil you have about 19 derivatives that will be able to take care of freight tro and fro and taxes and even at a profit to the Nigerian government.
“This policy option was recommended since the time of Obasanjo. Yar’Adua embraced it but nothing happened and now we are at the same stage again.
“Revive the four refineries. We know why they are not working. It pays those cabals better to import than to refine products and they will do everything possible to ensure the refineries don’t work so it will take a lot of political will by our leadership to try to fix those refineries.
“The third one is the argument of how many litres of oil we consume per day. Till date, nobody knows, we are just juggling around figures because nobody wants to make the figures known to social partners and Nigerians,’’ Wabba. (Vanguard)