Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Benjamin Babine, Abuja
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has rejected the recent increase in pump price of petrol saying it negated agreement reached between organised labour and representatives of the Federal Government during negotiations that trailed the public protest of the previous hike in price of the commodity.
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, who stated this in a statemnent, yesterday, said part of the agreement was the rehabilitation of the refineries, but lamented that government had flailed to keep to the deal which was believed would ensure affordable prices of petroleum products to citizens.
Calling on government to declare a state of emergency in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, Wabba warned that “there is a limit to what citizens can tolerate if this abysmal increases in the price of refined petroleum products and other essential goods and services continue.”
“Nigerians cannot be made to bleed endlessly for the failures of successive governments to properly manage our refineries. The truth is that we would not have been in this precarious situation if government had been alive to its responsibilities,” Wabba said.
He accused successive governments of failure to ensure value for money for the numerous Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the refineries which he alleged were poorly and barely executed. He also alleged lack of interest by government in prosecuting public officials and private business people who have profited from the rot in the petroleum sector.
The NLC boss, however, suggested the following as way out of constant hike in pump price of petrol, even as local refineries are fixed.
“One is for government to declare a state of emergency in downstream petroleum sector. As a follow up to this, government should enter into contract refining with refineries closer to Nigeria. This will ensure that the cost of supplying of crude oil is negotiated away from prevailing international market rate so that the landing cost of refined petroleum products is significantly reduced.
“Second, government should review the entire process of licensing for modular and bigger refineries. It is queer to depend on the enterprise of one man to fix Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sub-sector. The more public and private refineries the higher the competition. This would serve end consumers who would benefit from lower prices. Organised labour will not accept a fait accompli of monopoly of Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector or the emergence of a cartel of oligarchs whose end game is mass pauperisation.”
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, has assured that Nigerians would get use to the deregulation of petrol just as they have done with diesel and kerosene.
Sylva told State House Correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, yesterday, that petrol was mostly used by the elite while diesel and kerosene were the most important fuels to ordinary citizens.
The minister said trucks moving foods produced from one part of the country to another were powered by diesel, while kerosene was domestic fuel to majority of homes and that both products had been deregulated.
“Look at it, a situation where diesel has been deregulated long ago, kerosene deregulated long ago.If you want to transport food from the north to the south, it will be by trucks that are run by diesel, not with petrol. Kerosene is the preferred fuel at the lowest level of our society. These have been deregulated long ago. So, what is the problem with deregulating petrol, which is mostly used by the elite? Let us be fair to this country, let us be fair to the poor people in this country. If we have deregulated what they were using, then there is actually no reason why we should continue to subsidize petrol. I feel so. That’s my personal feeling.”