Labour Tasks Buhari On Economic Team To Curb Challenges | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Labour Tasks Buhari On Economic Team To Curb Challenges

Posted: Apr 7, 2016 at 3:05 am   /   by   /   comments (0)



…Mulls Nationwide Strike Over Electricity Tariff


The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Wednesday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to put in place a credible economic team with a coherent policy capable of proffering lasting solution to the current socio-economic challenges bedeviling the country.

To end the lingering scarcity of petroleum products, NLC urged President Buhari to immediately constitute the board of Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) which was saddled with the responsibility of determining the price of petroleum products.

Worried by the current hardship inflicted on workers across the country in the face of the harsh socio-economic situation, the National Administrative Council of NLC, declared its intention to embark on nationwide warning and total strike to press for downward review of the recent upward review of electricity tariff.

Ayuba Wabba, NLC President, who gave update of the resolution passed at the NAC meeting held on Tuesday, disclosed that the date for the nationwide warning protest and total strike would be decided at NLC Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting.

“It is gratifying to note that the government has straightened its relationship with the critical stake holders (including IPMAN) which it says will henceforth guarantee regular supply at N86 at NNPC filling stations and N86:50 at non-NNPC filling stations. Without prejudice to the ongoing government’s initiative at finding a lasting solution, we believe subsisting fuel scarcity is caused by interplay of corruption in the system.

“The existence of a cabal that defies the structural changes at NNPC; national and international politics around production, sale and consumption of oil;  sabotage in the management of the refineries; award of contracts for turnaround maintenance (TAM)  without regard to the companies that built these refineries and smuggling.

“Also not helpful to the system is the regular friction or power play between lifters or distributors of products such as Major Marketers, Independent Marketers, Association of Tank Farm Owners and others in the chain.

“It is worth mentioning that government institutions in the sector such DPR and PPPRA which are expected to function independently as well as regulate the system, have either been sidelined, weakened and brought under the control of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

Wabba, accordingly, called on the government to do the needful by demonstrating the will and capacity to restore sanity, discipline and transparency to the downstream sector of the industry.

He said the statutory roles of the agencies should be restored so they can function properly.

He urged government to also deal summarily with corruption in the sector and never allow itself to be blackmailed or cowed into taking decisions that in the long run would not be helpful to the ordinary Nigerian.

“There are pending cases from subsidy scams inherited from the last administration. They came into limelight following our nationwide protest against unjustifiable increase in prices of petroleum products of January 2012. Nigerians are keen to know what has become of the reported criminalities by the high and the mighty.

“In view of the following, we demand the diligent prosecution of all those found wanting in the distribution of fuel products, cold or fresh cases.

“We demand the constitution of the boards of NNPC and PPPRA. The latter is a 26-man board vested with powers of regulating prices of petroleum products. Today, it is a one-man show!” he said.

While reacting to the lingering crisis between Governor Nasir el-Rufai and workers in Kaduna State, Wabba disclosed that the union would hold a one- day action to protest against moves by the governor to infringe on the fundamental rights of workers by pressurising them not to unionise.

In a related development, Bobboi Kaigama, TUC president and Simeso Amachree, TUC acting Secretary General, in a statement entitled, “Mr President, the economy is grounded,” bemoaned the unpleasant situation in the country which has stifled the economy and claimed thousands of jobs due to closure of companies.

The union which lamented that the lingering fuel scarcity appears to defy all solutions in a country that is the sixth largest oil producer in the world noted that Nigeria had become a laughing stock among the comity of nations.

“Fuel scarcity aside, the dearth of U.S. dollars has made it impossible for firms to repay foreign loans and import needed materials for production.

“Our role as a labour centre is multi-faceted. We are saddled with the responsibility of functioning as change agents and watchdogs of both government and private business, and ensuring better welfare for workers. Of late our desk has been inundated with industrial issues, redundancy complaints, anti-labour practices, casualisation of workers, mass sack of workers, etc. All these are caused because of unfriendly business environment.

“For instance, the food and beverage sector alone in the last few months has lost over 500 employees, the naira currently exchanges for N197 to a dollar at the official window and N320 at the parallel market, and firms that borrowed dollar-denominated loans are facing the risk of foreclosure on assets pledged as collateral and loss of credibility among creditors because of exchange rate fluctuations,” the TUC president stated.

While reacting to the issue of power, the TUC helmsmen urged the power distribution companies to “stop sending so-called ‘estimated’ bills to Nigerians. They are defrauding consumers while the government consistently looks the other way. How else do we explain the fact that Nigerians are paying for services not rendered?

“We recall that the Minister of Power, Babatunde Fashola, prior to the 2015 elections said “any government that cannot fix power in six months is irresponsible.” Should we now say that both the minister and the present administration are irresponsible? Or shall we now conclude that this administration is conspiring with operators in the power sector to rip Nigerians off?” he queried.