…we reject this unholy hike in the price of petrol but shall take active steps to ensure that whatsoever philosophy or idea that must have propelled it is erased in the process. ..That the federal Government reverses its illegal decision to hike the pump price of PMS to N145/litre between now and Tuesday midnight.
- NUPENG, PENGASSAN
For us our clear position is that the deregulation of the sector and opening of the market is a welcome development. ..It is clear that we must deregulate and stop payment of subsidies into the hands of few Nigerians. We must open up the system and see how we can now talk about regulation.
As the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, plan showdown with the federal government over recent fuel pump price hike, there are strong indications that there has been a split between NLC and its affiliates over the strike.
Many affiliate unions have kicked against the strike and pitched their tent with the federal government over the new fuel regime.
Both NLC and TUC gave President Muhammadu Buhari three days from last Saturday to revert to the old price of N86.50k or face an indefinite nationwide workers strike.
However, arising from a joint meeting of the National Executive Council of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, which ended last Friday, the affiliate labour unions declared total support to the federal government’s new price for fuel.
NLC had vowed that it would be a total lock down where even the airspace would be shut.
But surprisingly, the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, NAAPE, has also at the weekend pledged absolute support to the federal government’s resolve to fully deregulate the downstream sector of the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
NAAPE’s declaration came barely few hours after NLC, TUC and some of the affiliates and allies in the civil society issued a 96-hour ultimatum to government to rescind the decision or face the wrath of their members.
This stance, according to observers, will take the punch off the proposed strike and wondered why NLC should not take a different view now.
Nigerian Pilot recalls that the federal government last Wednesday announced the take-off of full deregulation of the downstream sector of the Nigerian petroleum industry, which changed in petrol price from N86.50 to N145 per litre, but labour criticised the decision and vowed to resist what it called “the height of insensitivity and impunity.”
NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and his TUC counterpart, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, told a press conference last Saturday in Abuja that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration could not justify the present price increase other than the puerile explanation that marketers need to recover their costs, without a thought for the aggregate or larger national interest including the need for local refining and creation of jobs.
The labour leaders went ahead to threaten that they would mobilise Nigerian workers against the government’s petroleum policy and by tomorrow (Tuesday) night if the president refused to revert the price of petrol to the former price of N86 and N86.50 per litre, Nigerian workers would begin an indefinite nationwide strike as from Wednesday.
Labour wondered what informed government’s sudden and dangerous policy summersault and its desperate attempt to convince the public that labour was part of the decision that led to this price increase.
They appealed to Nigerians to stockpile food ahead of the protest against fuel subsidy removal.
But PENGASSAN and NUPENG in a joint communiqué at the end of their meeting in Calabar, Cross River State, noted the benefits of price modulation mechanism introduced early this year, urging government to consult all interest groups to cushion the effect of the new price on the people.
Part of the duo’s resolve stated: “The NEC-in-session had an extensive discussion on the recent price modulation and is of the view that price deregulation has its benefits in the immediate and near future. Government should engage with the stakeholders to work out a clear direction on how to reinvest the gains of the policy into the economy to cushion the effect of the price on the people,” they said.
The communiqué signed by PENGASSAN president, Francis Johnson, and his NUPENG counterpart, Igwe Achese, asked government to pay attention to the state of the nation, particularly on issues bordering on national security, power, bad roads, unemployment/casualisation and redundancy in the oil industry.
On its part, NAAPE described the deregulation policy as a step in the right direction, pointing out that although it was long overdue, it was better late than never.
National president, Isaac Balami, who commended the government for the bold decision, said the subsidy scheme was extremely fraud-prone, adding that trying to reform the process was like “attempting to reform Satan (devil) – an impossibility task.
“Our advice to the government is to use the money that will be saved to put in place infrastructures that will create jobs for Nigerians; ensuring that our refineries are working optimally, and encouraging local production to ameliorate the temporary hardship the citizen are going through,” Balami said.
“We need more jobs to be created for our pilots and engineers, while reiterating our unalloyed support for this novel and bold decision the Federal Government has taken to secure the future of Nigeria,” NAAPE said.
In the meantime, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ACCI, has called on NLC to shelve its planned nationwide strike.
The appeal was contained in a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday by ACCI president, Mr. Tony Ejinkeonye.
“ACCI is calling on the NLC to shelve their planned nationwide strike,” the chamber president said.
According to Ejinkeonye, the call is necessary in order that the nation’s economy should not suffer any more knocks.
“That is why we are asking labour and indeed all Nigerians to support the government at this time.
“We in ACCI made it clear over the years that it’s impossible for government to continue subsidy payments on petrol,’’ the ACCI president said.