The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has maintained its earlier stance that the recent hike in the pump price of petrol as announced by the federal government is unacceptable. The General Secretary of the NLC, Mr. Peter Ozo-Ezon referred to the announcement of a new petrol pump price band of 135 to 145 Naira as the “worst approach that any government has taken” in the history of the country.
“Other governments have attempted to remove subsidy but in doing that, no government has said that importers should now invade the black market for foreign exchange and therefore the domestic pump price would now be determined on the basis of black market foreign exchange. That is a recipe for economic instability not just in the oil sector but in the whole economy,” he stated.
Mr. Ezon feared that in the next few months, the policy would lead to the total collapse of the value of the Naira in the black market, which he says would lead to further increases. “We think this is undesirable for the economy and we think that the government has not thought this policy through and we are opposed to it.”
The NLC also said that it did not at any time discuss the increase in fuel price with the Minister of State for Petroleum, prior to the announcement of the new price band on Wednesday.
“What happened was that on Tuesday at about 4PM, we received a letter from the office of the Vice President, inviting the President of the NLC to what was termed a consultative meeting. No subject matter was indicated and the meeting was scheduled for 12noon on Wednesday. Due to the fact that the President was out on official duty, I went to the congress. The TUC President and the President of NUPENG were also there. Those were the three representatives from Labour. There were senators, there were members of the House, there were some governors and on the spot was when we knew what the matter was. It was to receive a presentation from the honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and he made a presentation in which he was canvassing for total deregulation, abolition of subsidy, and other related issues”.
“At the end of it, there were those who made comments, mainly those from the National Assembly; some cautioning, some advising and some asking other questions.
“The Vice President then specifically called on us one by one by name – the three of us, and what we told the Vice President was that we had just received that presentation and since we represented democratic institutions, we would take the presentation and discuss it at our organs and we will get back to government on our position. That was all that happened at the meeting. No decision was taken.
“So when the Minister was quoted to have said that we were part of a meeting that took that decision, then he was clearly not truthful about that and I think government needs to be truthful in putting facts before citizens,” Mr. Ozo-Ezon said.
Meanwhile, the National President of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Igwe Achese, says government’s decision is a “welcome development” for them as it is a move they have been yearning for. Mr. Achese said, “For us as a union, NUPENG and PENGASSAN, it is a welcome development, it is an issue we have been yearning for.
“The sector should be deregulated and opened up for marketers to play the necessary role they need to play and government should be able to focus their attention on making sure that our refineries are rehabilitated and not paying subsidies to few individuals in the name of importation of petroleum products.”