NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar
By Linda Eroke
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has cautioned the Federal Government against further increase in the pump price of petrol warning that any attempt to further hike the price would be resisted by Nigerian workers.
Reacting to reports that government is contemplating full deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector by July, President of the NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, warned government not to dare Nigerians with the obnoxious policy.
Omar urged government to suspend any attempt to further hike the price of petrol pending the conclusion of the fuel subsidy probe by the National Assembly.
Speaking further during a chat with the media in Benin City, Edo State, he said they was no rationale for government to increase the fuel price when the report of the subsidy probe, which vindicated labour, had not been implemented.
The NLC president said labour would not leave anything to chance, adding that the Congress would meet to take a strong resolution that “until all issues relating to fraud in the fuel subsidy regime is thoroughly investigated and culprits brought to book accordingly, no action should be taken on deregulation of the downstream or fuel price increase”.
“We have not heard it officially from any quarters, but ordinarily, if that is the case, the only thing I will say is that government is daring Nigerians. This is the same thing we have said even before the increase in the fuel price in January.
“We said, look, there is so much fraud in the subsidy regime, go and investigate, by the time you finish investigation, you would have discovered that what is going on in the name of subsidy is so meagre that even government can live with it. The bulk of the money is going into private pockets.
“We have been thoroughly vindicated by the fuel subsidy probe Committee report that over N1.8 trillion spent in the name of subsidy was a fluke whereas what government provided in 2011 budget as money for subsidy was only about N260 billion. So, you see, it is the issue of the fraud.
“Now, the subsidy fraud has just been reported, you have not dealt with it and you think the best way of dealing with this is to further increase the pump price. It is up to Nigerians to decide whether they can take it or not.
“NLC members are Nigerians and it is up to Nigerians whether they will take this insult. To me, it is an insult because government discovered a fraud of monumental dimension, and rather than addressing the fraud, they want to hit the Nigerian people and bury the report.
“Nigerian labour would soon take a resolution that government should not contemplate any further increase in the pump price of fuel, unless the issue of this subsidy fraud that is on the ground is thoroughly scrutinised and those indicted conclusively prosecuted accordingly.
“Before the January increase, there were insinuations from highly placed government officials that they should forget about labour, after all, how many are they. They are less than six million and their agitation will last only two or three days before they will fizzle away.
“But they saw what happened. It is about Nigerians. Of course, labour provided the leadership and labour will always provide the leadership. When the time comes, labour is always ready to provide such leadership,” Omar said.
On the removal of the management of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Omar said “The removal of the executives of the NNPC and the dissolution of the board is a step forward. But it is like one, two steps out of a thousand steps.
“The NNPC needs a total overhaul. In fact, we are calling for the disbandment of the corporation in its entirety. Whatever it will take, NNPC as it is today needs to be overhauled in order to make sure that the economy does not continue to suffer.
“The bulk of the resources of this country comes through the NNPC so there is no point sitting down just to remove the head and maybe change the board, and you think all is going to be well. The entire oil sector is rotten and the government must make sure they do the necessary shake up in order to ensure that the issue of fraud in the sector is brought to the barest minimum,” Omar added.