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Fuel Hike Splits Labour

Posted: May 14, 2016 at 5:56 am   /   by   /   comments (0)
Nsa Gill
Calabar
Nigerian labour unions are sharply divided over the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry.
The Federal Government on Wednesday announced an official price regime for petrol from N86.50 to N145, after due consultation with all interest groups.
While Labour and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have given the governmt till Wednesday to revert to the old price, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) have lent their support to the government.
NUPENG and PENGASSAN, after their National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Calabar on Friday said that the deregulation of the downstream sector was the only option left for the economy to grow.
In a statement jointly signed by Comrade Igwe Achese, NUPENG Chairman, and Comrade Francis Olabode Johnson, PENGASSAN Chairman, they argued that deregulation of the sector was what they have been agitating for in the past eight years or more.
“But each time we want to react, Nigerians want to live on the bedrock of lies. And that has been our problem. We have been living on the bedrock of lies. Successive governments come in, what we hear are full of lies. The oil and gas sector must have transparency and it is only when it is transparent that the nation’s economy will begin to grow and job opportunities would be created.
“For us our position is that the deregulation of the sector and opening of the market is a welcome development. The most important thing is that government has come up with a firm stand that would stop payment of subsidy into the hands of few Nigerians. That is the first thing Nigerians must appreciate. It was tried by the past administration and I know what happened. It was politicised. Some members of the political lines took over these issues as if it was their birth right to continue milking the nation’s purse,” the statement added.
Both unions agreed that there was need for a paradigm shift, basing their support for the deregulation on the premise that a new direction in the management of new investments and income in the oil and gas industry is desirable.
They however backed their support with a critical proviso, among which include: Government ensuring optional performance of the existing refineries and also put in place machinery for the construction of new refineries in the country to ensure adequate production for domestic consumption and possibly export; Immediate commencement of negotiation of minimum wage for workers across all cadres; Engagement of critical stakeholders for the federal government to provide a road map with timelines for the infrastructures it intends to embark upon with the proceeds from this price modulation to cushion the harsh effects of the new direction; and immediate reconstruction of the board of the PPPRA and PEF for the management of the new price regime.
But the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) at an emergency meeting in Lagos on Friday in a communiqué signed by its President, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama and Acting Secretary-General, Comrade Simeso Amachree, rejected the increase, calling it astronomical.
“The NEC-in-Session rejected in its entirety the astronomical increase in the price of petrol from N86.50 per litre to N145 per litre and demanded that the Government should revert to the old price regime with immediate effect.
“The NEC in session gave the Federal Government up till Wednesday, 18th May, 2016 to invite the leadership of labour for discussion aimed at determining the appropriate way forward.
“The NEC-in-Session also directed the leadership of the TUC to interface with the NLC and the Civil Society Allies to work out action plans that would be put in place to protest the insensitive fuel price hike should the Government fail to meet the Wednesday, 18th May, 2016 deadline.”
The central labour union (NLC), which is believed to be against the price hike was in a meeting last night in Abuja.
Civil society groups and the Transition Monitoring Group have also rejected the measure and vowed to mobilise Nigerians for a forceful reversal.