Rising from a joint meeting between the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and their civil society allies in Abuja, yesterday, Labour called on Nigerians to stock up on essential commodities, as it begins a strike action on Wednesday in protest of recent hike in the pump price of petrol.
“Nigerians are advised to stock sufficient food items that will last for a while, for the prosecution of the current struggle against neo-liberal agenda in the country,” said NLC President, Ayuba Wabba.
Labour declared that if by the end of office hours on Tuesday, government had not invited it for negotiations, it would shut down the country.
It accused the government of prioritising the interests of petrol marketers above that of other Nigerians. It particularly flayed President Muhammadu Buhari for reneging on campaign promises that he would not remove fuel subsidy.
It added that the price hike from N86.50 to N145, which represents 67.63 per cent increase, is the height of insensitivity and impunity, as there had been no previous consultation with stakeholders, especially the organised labour.
There are also indications that the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) may also join in the action.
The two unions, last week, had voiced support for the price hike.
Wabba said modalities have been finalised to begin talks with NUPENG and PENGASSAN.
In attendance at yesterday’s meeting, the President of PENGASSAN, Olabode Johnson, blamed the incoming strike on non-passage on the Petroleum Industry Bill.
Confirming that PENGASSAN will also press the battle, he, however, expressed doubt if NUPENG, headed by Igwe Achese, will be willing to work with the NLC, considering the fact that Achese belongs to the camp of Joe Ajaero, who had declared himself a factional leader of the NLC after last year’s delegates’ conference.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has said the price hike is influenced by the need to reposition the economy and foster national prosperity.
Ngige, who disclosed this while paying a working visit to the South East regional office of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NISTF), Enugu, said: “The Federal Government is not unaware of the hard times Nigerians are passing through at the moment as a result of the re-structuring of the economy. The President is genuinely concerned and personally feels the pains too. But this is a necessary phase we must all endure for the restoration of better days.”
Meanwhile, a special session of the House of Representatives will hold in Abuja tomorrow. It will discuss the controversial deregulation of the price of petrol, even as some members are said to be angry at the manner it was introduced.
They will have a special guest at the session. He is the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu. He is expected to explain the rationale behind the government’s move and policy in the face of the hardship Nigerians are facing.
It is not exactly clear if the Senate will toe the line of the Lower House, but there is no indication members will rush through a meeting over the fuel price increase.
In the face of the growing anger across the country, the Presidency continues to come up with explanations on why President Mohammadu Buhari consented to the increase. The President had been opposed to any fuel price increase, but last week, while he was away at an anti-corruption conference in London, the government announced a hike.