From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) has urged organised labour to join the push for the verification of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC) estimates.
A statement by the NGF Head of Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrasaque Bello-Barkindo, said the governors led by Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, made the call when they met with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), on Tuesday with a view to deliberating on the N3 trillion being spent on fuel subsidy.
A statement said the meeting held at the NGF secretariat in Maitama Abuja was meant to broker a partnership between the NGF and labour as both parties agreed that the “lacuna in the subsidy removal agenda was hidden in the untruths bandied by the administrators of the subsidy, particularly the NNPC, which both groups identify to be at the fore front of the mismanagement of the proceeds accrued therein.”
In his opening remarks at the meeting also attended by the TUC president and a host of other labour leaders, Fayemi argued that the nation’s economy was at the precipice and that it had become necessary for the two groups to carefully verify all NNPC’s estimates to ensure that whatever action is taken on subsidy, it would be the people that get direct benefits and not a few wealthy individuals and their cronies in the country.
Fayemi told the labour leaderships that subsidy removal has remained an on-going conversation not just among governors but the country at large and emphasised that governors cannot but be part of the solution providers in this onerous task that is confronting the nation.
“There are raging questions of accountability associated with subsidy removal in the country and observed that the NGF and the NLC can jointly work together to proffer solutions that heal the economy and provide succour to the Nigerian people.”
The NGF chairman who led a delegation of Governors Simon Lalong of Plateau State and chairman of the Northern Governors Forum and Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State to the meeting stressed that governors cannot ignore the economics of petroleum, arguing that all the countries surrounding Nigeria including Niger, Mali, Cameroun and Ghana have their fuel pump price at the equivalent of a US dollar, arguing that Nigeria has a pump price that is far less than a dollar and is uncomfortable with the removal of subsidy until the challenge of what the NNPC is telling the country is confronted frontally.
“We need a partnership with the NLC to confront the challenges of what the NNPC is about, because there is a lot of fraud in the consumption and distribution figures that the country is getting and we can only move forward if the NLC engages all those who are knowledgeable in the field like PENGASSAN to conduct a thorough research into the sector before any further action is taken on subsidy,” Fayemi declared.
On the part of the subnational Government, the Ekiti Governor stated that only about eight States are benefitting directly from the subsidy while all the others have to contend with the situation on their own.
Both Ayuba Wabba and the TUC President stressed their lack of appreciation of the trust deficit that characterised previous negotiations and wondered why the subsidy issue had always been shrouded in lack of transparency on the part of government.
The unionists argued that the conflicting figures that always come from the managers of the petroleum sector had tended towards inefficiency which have remained, to the people and to labour, completely objectionable.”