The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its affiliates, include the Trade Union Congress, TUC, on Saturday gave the federal government a 96-hour ultimatum to rescind the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry and revert to the old petrol price of N86.50 per litre or face a total shutdown of the economy from Wednesday.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said if the government failed to accede to their demands by midnight Tuesday, the workers would have no option than to call out their members on an indefinite strike.
Although the National Executive Councils of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, on Friday resolved to support the government, Mr. Wabba said the ultimatum to the government was the collective resolution of the NECs of the various affiliate unions and civil society groups.
“Since there has not been any increase in salaries, wages or pensions of workers in the past five years, and in the face of devaluations, spiraling inflation and other vagaries of the economy, the increase in fuel price is unrealistic, unaffordable, unacceptable, and is thus rejected,” Mr. Wabba declared.
“It is evident that the neo-liberal forces in the government have taken over, and we should expect more inhumane policies which will further degrade the living standard of the average Nigerian. The punitive electricity tariff and PMS product prices may just be teasers,” he added.
He accused the government of lack of interest to consult on issues of public interest and its obsession with the protection of fuel marketers at the expense of the public, saying with these polices President Muhammadu Buhari betrayed his electioneering promises not to remove fuel subsidy.
Mr. Wabba described the removal of fuel subsidy as “not only ultra vires and illegal, but also a criminal imposition on the citizenry” considering that the board of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), which is statutorily vested with powers to recommend prices, has not been reconstituted.
“The price hike from N86:50 to N145, representing 67.63% increase, is the height of insensitivity and impunity as there was no previous consultation with stake holders, especially the organized labour, or any justification for this reckless decision other than the fact that government believes it is accountable to no one,” he said.
On the declaration by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, that marketers would henceforth source their dollars from the secondary market for importation of petroleum products, the NLC president said resultant pressure on the dollar would lead to unimaginable rise in prices of commodities and other services, therefore us creating further hardship for the people.
Consequently, Mr. Wabba called on the government to, among other demands, consider the petrol price hike as a betrayal of trust and revert to the old fuel price regime of N86.50 per litre to reduce the suffering of the people; revert to the pre-45 per cent electricity tariff increase and make meters available to consumers and stop estimated billing.
Besides, he called for the boards of PPPRA and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC to be reconstituted without further delay and give them their statutory right to function alongside the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR to deepen consultation process as well as checks and balances in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.
Other demands included intensifying the prosecution of all those involved in fuel subsidy scams to recovery and sanctioning those culpable; put in place enhanced local refining capacity within a specified period to stop endless importation of products as an enduring solution to the perennial problem of fuel scarcity.
The NLC also demanded the reversal of the entire deregulation and privatization process, to allow the constitutional provision of government as the driver of the economy to prevail, while organised labour would be engaged in the negotiation on key policy issues.
Mr. Wabba warned that if the government failed to accede to their demands on or before 12 midnight on Tuesday, May 17, 2016, the NLC, TUC and their civil society allies would mobilize Nigerians to the streets across the country to commence indefinite nationwide strike starting next Wednesday to protest the decision.
During the period, he said all banks, sea and airports, government and private offices as well as markets across the country would be closed, urging Nigerians to stock sufficient food items that would last throughout the period of the protest.
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