*Stockpile foodstuffs ahead of strike, NLC forewarns Nigerians
*Accuses Buhari, APC of insensitivity, impunity
*says minimum wage proposal different from fuel hike struggle
*Drama as PENGASSEN kicks against N145 margin, support non-import based deregulation
By Paul Obi
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) on Saturday gave the federal government a 3-day ultimatum to reverse the petroleum pump price of N145 to N86.50 or risk grounding of the whole country Wednesday, 18th May, 2016.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, Trade Union Congress (TUC) President, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSEN) Francis Johnson and Chairman of Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LACSCO), Dr Dipo Fashina, insisted that organised labour would go ahead with the planned nationwide strike should government fail to reverse the pump price.
Wabba, who presented the position of labour, stated: “The emergency meeting debated extensively the implications of government’s unilateral increase in 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 Nigerian public.
“The meeting expressed concern about government’s neo-liberal policies which it considered a betrayal of its electioneering promises and observed as follows:
During the electioneering campaign last year, the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress ( APC ), Muhammadu Buhari, had promised that, if elected president, 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;
“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,” Wabba stated.
Speaking further, the NLC president explained that “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 $1 billion from this process;
“Organized Labour wondered what has informed government’s sudden and dangerous policy somersault 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 N145, representing 67.63% increase, is the height of insensitivity and impunity as there was no previous consultation with stake holders, especially the organized labour, or any justification for this reckless decision other than the fact that government believes it is accountable to no one;
“The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources declared that marketers will have to source their dollars from the secondary market. The attendant pressure on the dollar will lead to unimaginable rise in prices of commodities and other services thus creating further hardship for the people.”
“Due to the volatility of the black market, organized labour doubts that government would be able to maintain PMS pump price at N145 per litre were the hike acceptable or justifiable. At the time the PMS pump price was fixed at N145, the exchange rate at the black market was N320 to the Naira.
“Between Wednesday and today when the new pump price was announced, the Naira has further crashed against the dollar, first to N340 on Thursday, then N365 on Friday morning and N385 by close of business on Friday, all in 48 hours! At this rate, we believe it will not take long before the Naira becomes entirely useless against the dollar. It is thus morally and economically suicidal to have tied the importation of products to the secondary market exchange rate;
“In view of the fact that in the past five years, there has been no increase in salaries or wages or pensions in the face of devaluations, spiralling inflation and other vagaries of the economy, this product price increase is unrealistic, unaffordable, unacceptable and is thus rejected,” the NLC president stated.
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