By Nuel Suji – The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is set for a showdown with the Federal Government over the planned removal of the fuel subsidy from the 2016 budget.
Already, NLC issued notices to its state councils and affiliate unions for a possible industrial action against the government’s move.
The subsidy regime in Nigeria was meant to make fuel available to the people at a government controlled price.
In recent time, it has been buffeted with allegations of corruption for which some persons are still standing trial in the law court.
But in a statement by the General Secretary of the NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, on Tuesday, said the Union was determined to fight the surreptitious removal of the fuel subsidy.
According to the statement, a meeting of the National Executive Committee of the congress would be convened at a date in January 2016.
The statement expressed reservations that opposition politicians who encouraged the mass action against Jonathan administration when the idea was muted are now the ones agitating for its removal.
According to NLC, the removal of the fuel subsidy without the capacity to refine crude oil for local consumption would unleash hardship on workers and indeed the average Nigerian.
“In the past few weeks, we have heard discordant tunes from government officials and chieftains of the ruling APC on what the future portends for the prices of petroleum products and the management of the subsidy scheme.
“Party chieftains who supported and encouraged the massive protests against subsidy removal in 2012 are now preaching the inevitability of subsidy removal! The Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum first announced that come next year the price of petrol will revert to ₦97 per litre and that subsidy will be phased out.
“Two days, thereafter, he denied this and stated that what he said was that the price will operate within a band of ₦87 to ₦97 and that this did not mean removing the subsidy. The same minister now says that the price of petrol will now be ₦85 in January signifying the deregulation of the sector.
“These vacillations and flip flops are, in our view, designed to confuse Nigerians and pave the way for deregulation of petrol prices through the back door. The fact of the matter is that as long as we continue to depend on imported refined products, deregulation and the abandonment of a subsidy scheme will unleash hardship on Nigerians. ..
“In the meantime, we wish to restate our opposition, adopted at our Central Working Committee Emergency Meeting of 22nd December, to any attempt by the government to increase the price of or remove subsidy on petrol.
“We reiterate our directive to our State Councils and Industrial Unions to commence the process of mobilisation prior to a meeting of the National Executive Committee to be convened in the New Year.
NLC stated that the different pump prices for fuel recently announced by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Ibe Kachikwi, were meant to confuse Nigerians to remove the fuel subsidy, arguing that the fuel pump prices being bandied by the minister were illegal as the board of the Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency had not been constituted to perform its role for over two years.
The statement pointed out that the prices from Mr. Kachikwi did not emanate from PPPRA, insisting that only the agency is empowered by law to recommend the prices of petroleum products in the country..
The Union called on the Federal Government to constitute the board of the PPPRA to empower the agency to determine the pump price in line with current realities.