From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) issued a petition on Monday to the country’s 36 governors, protesting the Federal Government’s proposed subsidy removal that would lead to an increase in the price of petrol in Nigeria.
The petition, signed by the NLC President Ayuba Wabba, and General Secretary Emanuel Ugboaja, was titled “Petition by Nigerian Workers Against the Proposed Increase in the Price of the Premium Motor Spirit (Pms)”.
The petition sought the governors’ interventions as members of the National Economic Council to convey the Congress’ persuasions and demands to the Federal Government.
In the document, NLC demanded that the Federal Government announced the withdrawal of its plans to increase the pump price of petrol.
It also asked the federal government to re-engage Organised Labour in discussions to find mutually acceptable solutions to the current issues in the country’s downstream petroleum sub-sector.
NLC further tasked governments at all levels in Nigeria to take immediate steps to improve governance and public accountability in order to regain the confidence of Nigerians that the cardinal constitutional mandate of guaranteeing the welfare and security of the people has not been traded off.
The Congress warned that it would be forced to “down tools” once the government proceeds to force another round of petrol price increment on Nigerians.
It maintained that increasing the pump price of PMS would only bring untold hardship to Nigerian workers, their families and the populace at large.
According to the Organised Labour, the January 27 planned nationwide is aimed at alerting the government on the sufferings that Nigerians are going through and the additional insufferable trauma that Nigerians would be subjected to if the government goes ahead with the hike in the price of refined petroleum products.
The petition read in parts:
‘We write to draw the attention of Your Excellency to the recent proposal by the Federal Government to increase the pump price of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as petrol anytime from now.
‘It is the well-considered view of Nigerian workers as conveyed through the leadership of Organised Labour in Nigeria that the proposed hike, if it goes through, would induce and impose an unprecedented degree of hardship on Nigerian workers, their families and the generality of the populace. The net and multiplier effects of such socio-economic dislocation especially with regards to a decent standard of living, productivity and national security are better imagined than experienced.
‘The Federal Government should announce the withdrawal of its plans to increase the pump price of petrol;
‘The Federal Government should re-engage Organised Labour in Nigeria in discussions in order to find mutually acceptable solutions to the current quagmire in Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sub-sector;
‘The Federal government should demonstrate seriousness and commitment to overhauling our local refineries as a lasting panacea to mass importation of refined petroleum products, Importation Pricing Model, and a host of lost opportunities, official corruption and self-inflicted dislocations occasioned by mass importation of refined petroleum products into Nigeria; and
‘Governments at all levels in Nigeria should take immediate steps to improve governance and public accountability in order to regain the confidence of Nigerians that the cardinal constitutional mandate of guaranteeing the welfare and security of Nigerians has not been traded off.’
NLC argued that large amounts spent on petrol subsidy would be unnecessary if the government was committed to adequately managing national assets, especially the nation’s local refineries.
‘Nigerian workers also appreciate the fact that the monies spent on the so-called petrol subsidy would be totally unnecessary if the government is alive to its responsibilities of proper management of critical national assets, especially our local refineries. “It is the mismanagement of our four public oil refineries over the years by successive governments that have opened the floodgates of mass importation of refined petroleum products and consequently unfurled incessant increases in the prices of refined petroleum products in Nigeria. The fact is very clear – there is no way a country can control the price of what it does not produce. For a critical national security product like petrol and other refined petroleum derivatives, the situation is akin to handing over our national sovereignty to other climes. There is no better description of neo-colonialism and toxic neo-liberalism than this,’ It stated
The NLC asserted that the scourge of incessant hike in the pump price of petrol is self-inflicted and therefore totally unacceptable due to reasons such as failure to maintain the country’s public refineries and build new ones
NLC described the institutionalisation of the Importation Price Model as the Template for Price Determination in Nigeria’s Downstream Petroleum Sub-Sector which was prescribed in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) as being a clog in the wheel of industrialisation and self-actualisation, as well as constituting a grave national security threat.
‘The challenge with the Importation Price Model for refined petroleum products is that apart from being a clog in the wheel of industrialisation and self-actualisation, it also constitutes a grave national security threat. Crude oil and its derivatives just like other strategic national assets have precipitated international wars as countries are very keen to protect their petroleum industry as it is a key that opens multiple doors of industrial, economic and social development. This is the reason, virtually all the OPEC countries retain national oil corporations which oversee their hydrocarbons assets. We are amiss why the Nigerian governments choose to outsource our God-given hydrocarbon resource to a few individuals and foreign interests.
‘The same logic applies to the encouragement of private refineries at the detriment of public refineries. While Nigerian workers welcome the investment by the Nigerian private sector in the building of new refineries, we are also cautious to note that the overarching goal of private investment is profit maximisation. Given the massive size of investments in private refineries in Nigeria, there are well-founded fears that the absence of optimally performing public refineries would eliminate competition and open the doors for monopolies and cartels at a debilitating expense for the ordinary Nigerian. Government has a duty to ensure that this does not happen.
‘Currently, under the Importation Price Model for refined petroleum products, Nigerians are being forced to pay for all manner of acquired and transferred costs. These costs include the profit margin of foreign oil refineries, taxes paid by foreign oil companies, international shipping and logistics costs, product handling costs at the ports, demurrage charges, and import duties on imported petroleum products. Ultimately, all these costs are transferred to the end consumer even as the government pays a fraction of this cost as the so-called petrol subsidy. Apart from inflicting very harsh financial blows on the pocket of ordinary Nigerians, the retention of the Importation Price Model also fleeces the government of scarce hard-earned revenue.
‘All these price distortions and inflation acquired in the process of mass importation of petrol, including the corollary implication of mass export of potential jobs and mass import of poverty, would be automatically eliminated once our local refineries are made to work at full installed capacity and we revert from the suicidal Importation Price Model to a more realistic, humane and sustainable Local Production Price Template. The other advantages of the local refining include the creation of mass decent jobs both directly and indirectly from new investments by both government and the private sector in the downstream petroleum industry,’ the NLC stated.
It also expressed concern that the crisis in Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector is further aggravated by the persisting tumult in the upstream subsector and broader governance challenges.
NLC explained that the recent declaration by Nigeria’s Minister of Finance that the government was contemplating paying poor and vulnerable Nigerians transport allowance to mitigate the impact of hike in the price of petrol showed that the government is aware that the proposed price increase would precipitate hyper-inflation and induce widespread hardship.
‘Even the amount to be paid as transport subsidy outweighs the amount being currently expended as petrol subsidy. This shows that there is no smart way of avoiding doing the right thing. Government should just fix our local refineries,’ it noted.
The NLC affirmed its readiness to work with the government to find sustainable solutions to the crises in the nation’s petroleum sector saying: ‘Organised Labour in Nigeria as a responsible social partner is willing and ready to work with the government to find enduring solutions to the crisis in Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector and other areas of challenge in governance. It would be a great relief for Organised Labour if the government meets us halfway in this regard.
‘The current protest holding nationwide today, 27th January 2022, is only geared at alerting government on the sufferings that Nigerians are going through and the additional insufferable trauma that Nigerians would be subjected to if the government goes ahead with the hike in the price of refined petroleum products.
‘From our foregoing submissions, there is no reason Nigeria like other nations of the world should not utilise the comparative advantage of crude oil which is our domineering foreign exchange earner as a strategic national asset for improving the lots of the Nigerian workers and the ordinary citizens of our great country.
‘We plead that Your Excellency should use your position as a member of the National Economic Council to convey our foregoing persuasions and demands to the Federal Government. We also warn that Nigerian workers would have no other choice than to down tools once the government goes ahead to force another round of petrol price increment on Nigerians. Nigerians have suffered enough. Enough is Enough!
‘While we look forward to your kind and immediate intervention, please accept the assurances of our highest esteem,’ the petition read.