By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ORGANISED labour, yesterday, insisted it would shut down the economy from Wednesday, May 18, should the Federal Government fail to revert the pump price of petrol to the pre-May 11 price of N86.50, among other demands, by midnight of Tuesday, May 17.
The declaration was made on a day indications emerged that government was disposed to amicable settlement of the price hike impasse with labour.
In the meantime, the umbrella body for private sector employers in the country, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, has faulted the plan by labour to go on strike, urging the private sector employees to ignore the strike directive and go about their normal businesses.
Also, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, faction led by Mr. Joe Ajaero, said it would be meeting with market women and other informal sector workers and civil society groups on how to force the Federal Government to meet its demands.
FILE: NLC protest
At a joint National Executive Council, NEC, meeting in Abuja, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, and the NLC faction, led by Ayuba Wabba, threatened that once the strike commenced, all financial institutions, airports, seaports and private schools, companies and others would be shut. They urged Nigerians to stockpile food and other essential needs to last them during the duration of the strike.
In a communique at the end of the NEC meeting, the Wabba-led faction of the NLC and the TUC leader, Bobboi Kaigama, argued that the price hike from N86:50 to N145, representing 67.63% increase, was the height of insensitivity and impunity as there were no consultations with stakeholders, especially the organised labour, “or any justification for this reckless decision other than the fact that government believes it is accountable to no one.”
The two labour leaders said the meeting debated extensively the implications of government’s unilateral increase in the 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 public.
“During the electioneering campaign last year, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Muhammadu Buhari, had promised that, if elected, 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,”they said.
The labour leaders went 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. 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 $1billion from this process. Organized labour wonders 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.
“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