Indications emerged yesterday that the labour movement in the country may begin an indefinite strike action and protests against the petrol deregulation policy at exactly midnight of Monday.
This comes as the Nigerian Association of Energy Economics (NAEE) urged the federal government to pass Competition Law to check price collusion.
It added that the introduction of liberalisation of the downstream sector would enhance the viability of the sector and boost establishment of refineries by investors and multi-national oil companies.
The Guardian gathered in Abuja yesterday that both the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), as well as their civil society allies are meeting in the federal capital this morning to harmonise their positions and put finishing touches to the national strike action.
A source close to the labour movement told The Guardian that while the National Executive Council (NEC) members of the NLC were already in Abuja, those of TUC and members of the civil society were still in Lagos, but are expected to fly into Abuja this morning to finalise the arrangements.
The source explained: “Organising a national strike is what the labour movement and civil society have considerable experience in. There is no way a national strike can be called just a day or two after the announcement of the new price was made.
“We need to first hold the relevant organs meeting and then hold on for our civil society allies to also come on board.
“The NEC meetings of both the NLC and TUC took place in different cities, which will require traveling. We are now expecting TUC and our civil society allies to come into Abuja tomorrow (today), so that we are able to harmonise our positions.
“Those who will travel also need one day to travel back and mobilise unions for the strike action. Therefore, we need Saturday (today) and Sunday (tomorrow) to put all these logistics together.
“Switching off the crude oil loading terminals and other technical details in the oil sector need time to do and that applies to our colleagues in the aviation sector. We need a few days to perfect all these logistics ends. That is why we think that Sunday night at exactly 12:00am is the most appropriate time to begin the action.
“That is the position as at now.”
Indeed, the NLC postponed a media briefing that was earlier scheduled to hold yesterday at 4:00pm to 12noon today ostensibly to give room for the expanded meeting of all the stakeholders scheduled for this morning.
Meanwhile, NAEE president, Prof Wumi Iledare, argued that a credible and strong commitment by the government to deregulate the sector would be the beginning of the reversal of the fortune of the sector that has been crippled over the years by the overbearing government interventions.
Iledare, who spoke in Abuja yesterday on the implications of the deregulation policy, however, cautioned against government interference with the price.
He submitted that the template of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) must be calibrated with adjustment for a market dictated margin and other static input factors reviewed with less sentiment.
Iledare stated that while the removal of subsidy would bring immediate pain, it would ultimately boost the economic prosperity of the country.
He said: “In the long run, this step would add significant value to the economy, in terms of trillions of naira to build the national economy for infrastructure, capacity building and development.
“It will increase government access to funds to develop infrastructure; decrease smuggling activities, especially to neighbouring countries; increase free market operations; spur the rehabilitation and revamping of the local refineries; and reduce declining fortune of Nigerians in the long run.”
He also urged the federal government to pass the competition law to ensure that significant market power does not collude to influence market prices.
“The exercise of market vigorous oversight is not consistent with an efficient market system. Government must ensure that all forms of collusion to influence market outcomes are promptly dealt with.”
Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has announced it would join the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to protest the hike in the price of petrol.
In a statement signed by the its president, Bobboi Kaigama, at the end of its emergency meeting in Lagos last night, TUC also gave government up till Wednesday, May18, to invite Labour for genuine dialogue or face its wrath.
The communiqué issued at the end of the meeting read in part: “The NEC-in-Session rejected in its entirety the astronomical increase in the price of petrol from N86.50 per litre to N145 per litre and demanded that the Government should revert to the old price regime with immediate effect.
“The NEC in session gave the Federal Government up till Wednesday, 18th May, 2016 to invite the leadership of labour for discussion aimed at determining the appropriate way forward.”
The NEC-in-Session also directed the leadership of the TUC to interface with the NLC and civil society allies to work out action plans that would be put in place to protest the insensitive fuel price hike should government fail to meet the deadline.