The prospect of a nationwide strike is imminent this week as the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have rejected the new federal government announced pump price of petrol, also known as Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), and vowed to go on protest.
The bodies came to the resolutions after separate emergency meetings held on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th May 2016.
A communique signed by TUC president, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama and Comrade Simeso Amachree, the Ag Secretary-General reads: “After extensive deliberations the TUC National Executive Council-in-Session in Lagos, passed the following resolutions in rejection in its entirety the astronomical increase in the price of petrol from N86.50 per litre to N145 per litre and demand that the Government should revert to the old price regime with immediate effect.”
Subsequently the TUC NEC gave the Federal Government up till Wednesday, 18th May, 2016 to invite the leadership of labour for discussions aimed at determining the appropriate way forward and 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.
Also, NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, insisted that organised labour would go ahead with the planned nationwide strike should government fail to reverse the pump price.
Wabba, who presented the position of labour, said: “The emergency meeting debated extensively the implications of government’s unilateral increase in prices of petroleum products, noting government’s disinclination for consultation on issues of public interest and its obsession with protecting product marketers at the expense of the Nigerian public.
The meeting expressed concern about government’s neo-liberal policies which it considered a betrayal of its electioneering promises and observed as follows:
“During the electioneering campaign last year, the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Muhammadu Buhari, had promised that, if elected president, he would not remove fuel subsidy if there was any at all;
“After his election, President Muhammadu 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 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,” Wabba stated.
Speaking further, the NLC president explained that “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;
“Organized Labour wondered what has informed government’s sudden and dangerous policy somersault and its desperate attempt to convince the public that Labour was part of the decision that led to this price increase;
“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;
“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;
“The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources declared that marketers will have to source their dollars from the secondary market. 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, organized 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 Naira.