The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has commenced mobilisation of its members to shut down the economy, should the Federal Government proceed with its proposed increase in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol from N162 to N340 by next year.
Recall that the Federal Government had hinted that given the heavy burden of subsidy on government, the subsidy on petroleum product would betotallyremovedbyJuly2022.
President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who spoke at the 17th NLC Harmat- tan School in Ilorin, Kwara State on Monday, insisted that contrary to some views by seasoned labour unionist, Chief Frank Kokori, the NLC was out to empower its members to be better equipped in tackling unfavourable policies that would further impoverish Nigerians.
Wabba warned that organised labour would not fold its hands and watch government push more Nigerians below the poverty line, as any attempt to increase the price of fuel would affect every Nigerian regardless of their status. He said: “The concept of accepting deregulation hook, line and sinker anchored on import-driven price model is not something that we can accept. We have said that without mincing words.
“If you say we are pushing through our throat to accept deregulation on the basis of importation, basically there will be no end to price increase; even the issue of saying that once you deregulate without having the capacity to refine for domestic use will bring down the price of PMS, is not correct.
“When the price of crude oil was almost at a zero level, the price of two items that were deregulated never came down; that is diesel and the price of kerosene.
In fact, they kept going up. The market fundamentals, marketers are out there to make maximum profit and usually they will collude and that is what will happen to Nigeria if we accept that policy hook line and sinker “You don’t have to make a pronouncement before inviting labour to the negotiating table because it is like the deed is done and that is why we are also mobilising our people this time around. You are moving the price from N162 or N163 to N340 or N408 if we are to actually go by the recommendations of the governors’ forum.”
Wabba, who frowned at government’s proposed N5,000 transport allowance to 40 million Nigerians once the subsidy was removed, said such policies by government to give money to the masses as a way to cushion the harsh economy, has never worked.
Earlier, Frank Kokori urged the labour leaders to look beyond the issues of minimum wage and pay more attention on fighting corruption and bad governance.
“Why should Nigerian workers allow our refinery to die? What’s the meaning of subsidy? I am not happy with organised labour again, you have to fight corruption perpetrated through subsidy. Labour is suppose to be the tribune of the people, the whole corruption in the country labour was suppose to take it head on. “I am not happy with what organised labour is doing. You have to fight corruption because where there is corruption there is no country. ”
On his part, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, who said government was still disposed to dialogue with the organised labour on the subsidy removal, noted that the government presently pays N200 billion monthly on subsidy which he said not sustainable and good for the economy.
“There will be a convergence somewhere but we are prepared to revive all the clashes we have with the labour unions to ensure that we make amicable resolutions.”
The Director General of MINILS, Issa Aremu who commended the NLC for consistently organising the Harmattan School training for workers for the past 17 years despite the challenges in the country, said it was time for Nigerians to speak out.