Organised Labour is not taking Federal Government planned increase of petrol price by over 200 percent with a pinch of salt. To make clear its position on the proposed fuel hike, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Friday had summoned all its three organs, the National Administrative Council (NAC), the Central Working Committee (CWC) and the National Executive Council (NEC) to an emergency meeting early December.
This according to the labour centre is to plan the next line of action in the event that the federal government decides to go ahead with its proposal.
Daily Sun Workforce gathered that letters to that effect had already been sent out and the meeting among others would give directive to the workers on the position of labour whenever government carry out its plan.
The Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Malam Mele Kyari, had announced that the price of petrol could rise high as between N320 and N340 from February 2022.
He explained that the price increase would be consequent on the plans by the Federal Government to remove subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit also commonly referred to as petrol or fuel.
The NLC had, on Wednesday night, while reacting to the news, warned the federal government that the over 200 percent proposed hike on price of petroleum will further aggravate the current insecurity crises and possibly lead to citizens’ revolt.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, in reaction to the statements credited to Kyari and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, noted that the contemplation by government to increase the price of petrol by more than 200% is a perfect recipe for an aggravated pile of hyper-inflation and astronomical increase in the price of goods and services.
“This will open a wide door to unintended social consequences such as degeneration of the current insecurity crises and possibly citizens’ revolt. This is not an outcome that any sane Nigeria wishes for,” he said.
He reasoned that the argument that the complete surrender of the price of petrol to market forces would normalize the curve of demand and supply as is being wrongly attributed to the current market realities with cooking gas, diesel and kerosene is very obtuse.
“The truth is that these commodities which Nigeria can easily produce have been priced out of the reach of most Nigerian families with majority of our people resorting to tree felling and charcoal for their energy needs,” he stated.
Wabba said the grand optimism of the NNPC GMD was predicated on the claims that the removal of the fuel subsidy is now backed by an act of parliament namely, the Petroleum Industry Act, recently signed into law.
He expressed that the assertion of the NNPC GMD was re-echoed on the 23rd of November 2021 by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, at the launch of the World Bank Nigeria Development Update (NDU), titled ‘Time for Business Unusual’ where she announced government’s plans to disburse N5000 to 40 million poorest Nigerians each as transport grant to cushion the effect of the planned removal of the fuel subsidy.
The NLC President said the disclosures by the NNPC GMD and the Minister of Finance were in agreement with the positions of the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Mr. Shubham Chaudhuri and the International Monetary Fund urging the Federal Government to do away with fuel subsidy.
He noted that “the conversation between the government and the people of Nigeria especially workers under the auspices of the trade union movement on the matter of fuel subsidy was adjourned sine die so many months ago. “Given the nationwide panic that has trailed the disclosure of the monologue within the corridors of government and foreign interests, the Nigeria Labour Congress wishes to posit that it continues to maintain its rejection of deregulation based on import-driven model. It is difficult to convince Nigerian workers why our dear country is the only country among the OPEC member countries that cannot produce its own refined petroleum products and thus adopts the neo-liberal import production model of refined petroleum products,” he said.
Wabba reiterated Labour’s position that such deregulation based on import-driven model will impoverish Nigerian consumers the more.
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), said that the government’s new position on fuel subsidy was totally unacceptable and warned that it government is looking for trouble.
The TUC Secretary-General, Musa Lawal, said Labour was shocked with the government pronouncement on Tuesday, calling it a unilateral decision without the input of Labour.
He said: “The Presidential Committee made up of government representatives and Labour has not concluded its assignment. Our last meeting was in April. This new position is totally unacceptable to us.
“Let us look at the issue of N5,000 for about 40 million Nigerians. How did the government arrive at the figure? How did they determine the targeted beneficiaries? Most Nigerians are aware that similar money was given out, the identities of the beneficiaries have remained a subject of controversy and debate among Nigerians.”
Impact on the economy
Vice Chairman, Association of Senior Civil Servant of Nigeria (ASCSN), Ogun State, Mr. James Oyesola, equally warned that it would be catastrophic for the economy as it would lead to further inflation.
“Petrol, being the driver of the economy, it’s going to affect every area of our economy, the market women, artisans, manufacturers and the rest”, he said.
He saw as inconsequential the proposed payment of N5,000, adding that it cannot solve any of the problem presently being faced by Nigerians.
“What has that got to do with what is on the ground, just cgasing after shadow. How is N5,000 going to cushion the effect of the transportation problem. It cannot last them two days. Who is teaching them all these nonsense,” he queried angrily.
Oyesola expressed that this is the time for Nigeria to look away from carbon economy as other economies in the world are doing, “Everybody is looking at low carbon economy, whether we increase fuel price or not, there’s going to be a time that nobody will buy our fuel again.
“Hence Federal Government should be looking away from fossil fuel because green energy is the way to go. We should be looking at how we can make agriculture the main stay of our economy. Over reliance on import is what is killing our economy, any country that fails to export, such economy is going to be devalued.”
The National President of the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), Lateef Oyelekan, believed that a sensitive government in touch with what its people are going through would not contemplate such proposal.
He said: “The 30,000 Minimum Wage didn’t get anywhere, is it N5,000 that will now cushion people’s hardship? Cost of essential goods and services are already beyond the reach of the people.”
Organised Labour may now be left with no other choice should the government go ahead than to resist the attempt with all its arsenals.
This was the warning delivered by the Lagos State Chairman of the NLC, Funmi Sessi, in a conversation with Daily Sun. She declared: “We are not going to accept any policy that would be forced down our throats. This time around Nigerians will react.”
Sessi warned that any government that fails to allow peaceful change and dialogue to issues of national interest like this will definitely make violence inevitable.
She said, “Government supposed to carry all stakeholders along. We are not in support of the petrol hike because it will increase sufferings of Nigerians.
“Already salary of the workers are not enough to take them home or put food on the table of their families.”
She maintained that labour is against and will fight anything that will further compound the sufferings of the people.
She reasoned that leaders supposed to be looking for ways to ameliorate the sufferings of the people and not the other way round.
“Cost of gas is high now. By the time a worker removed cost of 12.5kg from his or her monthly salary, the remaining will not be enough to feed the family. We are definitely going to take a stand on this at our NEC