Stockpile Food Now, Labour Tells Nigerians | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Stockpile Food Now, Labour Tells Nigerians

Posted: May 15, 2016 at 5:50 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


 *Prepares For Indefinite Strike Wednesday

*To Shut Down Banks, Airports, Markets

*Gives Tuesday, Midnight Deadline

*Wants FG To Revert To Pre-45% Electricity Tariff Increase


Sylvester Enoghase and Innocent Oweh


The organised labour and civil society organisations (CSOs) on Saturday asked Nigerians to stockpile food in order not to be caught unawares.

This is because they have ordered the Federal Government to revert to the original price of petrol of N86.50 on or before 12 midnight, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, or face indefinite strike from workers beginning Wednesday.

The Federal Government on Wednesday last week increased the price of fuel from N86.50 to a maximum of N145 per litre, citing the current fuel scarcity and supply difficulties in the country as reasons.

Labour noted that in view of the fact that in the past five years, there has been no increase in salaries or wages or pensions in the face of devaluations, spiralling inflation and other vagaries of the economy, “this product price increase is unrealistic, unaffordable, unacceptable, and thus… rejected”.

However, 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 Federal Government.

Addressing newsmen, after its National Working Councils’ (NWCs) emergency meeting in Abuja, labour, which comprised Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), said the current struggle is against what it called “neo-liberal agenda in Nigeria”.

In a joint communiqué issued at the end of the emergency meetings and signed by Comrade Ayuba Wabba, President, NLC and Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, President, TUC, labour said it will mobilize to the streets across the country ordinary and helpless Nigerians to whom they owe the duty of protection.

It said it will shut down all banks, sea and airports, government and private offices as well as markets.

It noted that it will “resist the machinations and cruelties of the neo-liberal forces in the government as part of the process of saving the government from itself and the generality of Nigerians from slavery”.

Labour wondered that during the campaigns in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had promised that, if elected, he would not remove fuel subsidy if there was any at all.

It said after the election, Buhari had maintained that there was no subsidy in the petroleum product price regime and that even if there was he did not see how its removal would be beneficial to the ordinary Nigerian, noting that the slightest product price adjustment often leads to inflationary spiral and unimaginable suffering for the people.

“On January 18, 2016, the government further allayed the fears of the Nigerian people by reducing the pump price of PMS (petrol) to N86:50, explaining that the reduction was in furtherance of the implementation of the revised component of the Petroleum Products Pricing for PMS and kerosene.

“The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, had been speaking from both sides of his mouth. Whereas last year, he had strongly canvassed for the removal of ‘subsidy’ in defiance of President Buhari, about a month ago, he claimed the subsidy had been removed through his ingenuity and that Nigeria was saving  $1 billion from this process”, labour noted.

The organised labour wondered what has informed government’s sudden and dangerous policy summersault and its desperate attempt to convince the public that labour was part of the decision that led to this price increase of N145.

“In view of the fact 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 variation announced by any officer of the agency or outside the agency is not only ultra vires and illegal, it is a criminal imposition on the citizenry”, it noted in the communiqué.

The price hike from N86:50 to N145, representing 67.63% increase, it said, is the height of insensitivity and impunity, noting that the organised labour was not consulted.

Labour opined that the minister of state for petroleum resources had declared that marketers will have to source their dollars from the secondary market, noting that the attendant pressure on the dollar will lead to unimaginable rise in prices of commodities and other services thus creating further hardship for the people.

“Due to the volatility of the black market, organised labour doubts that government would be able to maintain PMS pump price at N145 per litre were the hike acceptable or justifiable. At the time the PMS pump price was fixed at N145, the exchange rate at the black market was N320 to the dollar. Between Wednesday and Friday when the new pump price was announced, the naira has further crashed against the dollar, first to N340 on Thursday, then N365 on Friday morning and N385 by close of business on Friday, all in 48 hours! At this rate, we believe it will not take long before the naira becomes entirely useless against the dollar. It is thus morally and economically suicidal to have tied the importation of products to the secondary market exchange rate”, it noted.

It said government is unable to justify this price increase other than the “puerile explanation that marketers need to recover their costs, without a thought for the aggregate or larger national interest including the need for local refining and creation of jobs.

“The government has remained recalcitrant in spite of a subsisting court injunction on the issue of the criminal increase in electricity tariff even in the face of ever-worsening power supply situation.

“From the foregoing, it is evident that the neo-liberal forces in the government have taken over the government 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.

“The implications are costly and far-reaching, with the first and most significant being that we have become dependent on massive importation of refined products to meet our domestic needs in contra-distinction to other OPEC members. Whereas most OPEC members significantly meet their domestic needs through domestic refining by an average of 80 percent, Nigeria on the contrary, at the pace it is going, will continue to rely on about 90 percent of imported refined products in the foreseeable future.”

It noted in the communiqué that NLC, TUC and other civil society allies are not unaware of the positions taken by the unions in the oil and gas industry, adding that a process of engagement will be put in place in order to ensure the success of the struggle to protect the overall interest of the Nigerian people.

It urged government to as a matter of urgency “revert to the old price regime in order to reduce the suffering of the people and to consider this singular act of mindless pump price increase as a betrayal of trust.

“Revert to the pre-45 percent electricity tariff increase, make meters available to consumers and stop estimated billing; reconstitute the boards of PPPRA and NNPC without further delay and give them their statutory right to function alongside DPR in order to deepen the process of consultation, checks and balances in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry; intensify the prosecution of all those involved in subsidy scams with a view to recovering and sanctioning of the culpable”.

It also asked the Federal Government to put in place enhanced local refining capacity within a specified period in place of endless importation as an enduring solution to the perennial problem of scarcity.

“Reverse the entire deregulation and privatisation process which foists on the nation, private individuals as drivers of the economy in contravention of the constitutional provision that says government shall be the driver of the economy and engage the organised labour in the process of negotiation on key policy issues; wean itself from the overbearing influence of the neo-liberal elements in its fold who have not only staged a coup but are determined to make this government collapse even before the end of its four-year tenure; uphold its electioneering promises to Nigerians instead of subjecting them to the vagaries of slavish policies such as full devaluation of the naira and total removal of subsidy as enunciated by the IMF and its agents in the system.”