Wabba: There’s limit to what Nigerians can bear
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), yesterday, finally stepped out of the shadows to reject the increase in the pump rice of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as petrol.
The Federal Government had, three days ago, increased the price of PMS through an Internal Memo originating from the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
According to the memo, the ex-depot price of petrol has been increased from N147.67 per litre to N155.17 per litre. By implication, the pump price of petrol now ranges between N168 and N170 per litre across the country.
President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who made the position of organised labour known yesterday, demanded an immediate reversal to the former pump price. Wabba said the increase in petrol pump goes contrary to the spirit and content of what organized labour agreed with government at the last negotiations, adding that there was a limit to what Nigerians could bear.
The NLC boss insisted that the status ante must be maintained while awaiting updates from unions in the petroleum and electricity sectors charged with the responsibility of monitoring Federal Government’s commitment to agreements earlier reached with organised labour in September.
He expressed concerns that the increase would further exacerbate the current level of pain and anguish of the citizens. His words: “We condemn the recent price increase and we call for its reversal with immediate effect.
“There is no doubt that there is great disquiet in the land over the extraordinary level of inflation in the country. It has also cast in very bad light our utmost good faith with regards to government explanations that it lacks funds to continue bankrolling the so-called subsidy payments as such would sooner than later cripple the entire economy, throw the country into severe economic crisis and cause loss of jobs in millions.
“While we await the full recovery of our refineries as contained in our agreement with government, Nigerians cannot be made to bleed endlessly for the failures of successive government to properly manage our refineries, ensure value for money for the numerous Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) which were poorly and barely executed and the horrifying lack of interest in prosecuting public officials and private business people who have profited from the rot in our petroleum sector and the collective misery they have imposed on the general population.
“The truth is that we would not have been in this precarious situation if government had been alive to its responsibilities. There is a limit to what the citizens can tolerate if these abysmal increases in the price of refined petroleum products and other essential goods and services continue.
“While we fix our refineries, there are a number of options open to government to stem the tide of high prices of refined petroleum products.
One is for government to declare a state of emergency in our downstream petroleum sector. “As a follow up to this, government should enter into contract refining with refineries closer home to Nigeria.
This will ensure that the cost of supplying of crude oil is negotiated away from prevailing international market rate so that the landing cost of refined petroleum products is significantly reduced.”
Wabba charged the government to demonstrate the will to stamp out the smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria and to arrest and prosecute those found to be indulging in the illegal fuel trade.
“We need to see big time petroleum smugglers arraigned in the court of law and made to pay for their crimes against the Nigerian people. Government has the resources available to it to ensure this economic justice to Nigerians.
The question in the minds of many Nigerians is if government is willing to go headlong against major financiers of the major political parties known to the public as the architects of the current national woe.
“We also demand that Nigerians should be carried along on the distribution of refined petroleum products. Information of the distribution of petroleum products to petrol stations should be advertised and made public knowledge. It should not be difficult to establish the average time it takes a petrol station to exhaust its supplies.
“There is already an established market trend which will help government fix the rot in Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector,” he said. The unionist also charged the government to review the entire process of licensing for modular and bigger refineries in the country.
“It is queer to depend on the enterprise of one man to fix Nigeria’s downstream petroleum subsector. The more public and private refineries play, the higher the competition. This would serve end consumers who would benefit from lower prices,” he said.
Wabba warned that organised labour will not accept a fait accompli of monopoly of Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector or the emergence of a cartel of oligarchs whose end game is mass pauperization.
He said that in line with labour’s recent agreement with government, the NLC will be receiving updates in the next few days from its affiliate unions in the petroleum sector which have been given the mandate to keep surveillance on government promise to overhaul public refineries and the power companies.
Wabba said the updates will help NLC ascertain whether the government had kept to its side of the bargain which is to take serious steps to recover and reposition the public refineries.
According to him, the outcome of these processes will determine labour’s response to the fuel price hike in the coming days.