NLC vows showdown with FG over planned petrol price hike

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has warned the Federal Government to shelve the planned removal of fuel subsidy which could see the price of petrol increase by more than 200 percent, warning that the plan if implemented could cause a citizen revolt.

NLC President, Ayuba Wabba gave the warning in a statement on Wednesday titled, “Nigerian workers refused to take the bait’”.

Wabba said that Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Malam Mele Kyari announced that the price of petrol could jump as high as N340 from February 2022 consequent on plans by the Federal Government to remove subsidy on the product.

He said that Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, echoed similar assertion at the launch of the World Bank Nigeria Development Update (NDU), titled ‘Time for Business Unusual’ where she announced the government’s plans to disburse N5000 to 40 million poorest Nigerians each as transport grant to cushion the effect of the planned removal of the fuel subsidy.

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“The disclosures by the NNPC GMD and the Minister of Finance were in symphony with the positions of the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Mr. Shubham Chaudhuri and the International Monetary Fund urging the Federal Government to do away with fuel subsidy.

“The response of the Nigeria Labour Congress is that what we are hearing is the conversation of the Federal government with neo-liberal international monetary institutions. The conversation between the government and the people of Nigeria especially workers under the auspices of the trade union movement on the matter of fuel subsidy was adjourned sine die so many months ago.

“Given the nationwide panic that has trailed the disclosure of the monologue within the corridors of government and foreign interests, the Nigeria Labour Congress wishes to posit that it continues to maintain its rejection of deregulation based on import driven model.

“It is difficult to convince Nigerian workers why our dear country is the only country among the OPEC member countries that cannot produce its own refined petroleum products and thus adopts the neo-liberal import production model of refined petroleum products.

“We wish to reiterate our persuasion that the only benefit of deregulation based on import driven model is that Nigerian consumers will infinitely continue to pay high prices for refined petroleum products.

“This situation will definitely be compounded by the astronomical devaluation of the Naira which currently goes for N560 to 1US$ in the parallel market.

“Thus, any attempt to compare the price of petrol in Nigeria to other countries would be set on a faulty premise as it would be akin to comparing apples to mangoes,” Wabba’s statement read in part.

Wabba warned that “the contemplation by government to increase the price of petrol by more than 200% is a perfect recipe for an aggravated pile of hyper-inflation and astronomical increase in the price of goods and services.

“This will open a wide door to unintended social consequences such as degeneration of the current insecurity crises and possibly citizens’ revolt. This is not an outcome that any sane Nigeria wishes for.”

The NLC President explained that the “argument that the complete surrender of the price of petrol to market forces would normalize the curve of demand and supply as is being wrongly attributed to the current market realities with cooking gas, diesel and kerosene is very obtuse.

“The truth is that these commodities which Nigeria can easily produce have been priced out of the reach of most Nigerian families with majority of our people resorting to tree felling and charcoal for their energy needs.”

He described as “comical” the government’s planned disbursement of N5,000 each to 40 million Nigerians as palliative to cushion the effect of the astronomical increase in the price of petrol.

“The total amount involved in this queer initiative is far more than the money government claims to spend currently on fuel subsidy.

“Apart from our concerns on the transparency of the disbursement given previous experiences with such schemes, we are wondering if government is not trying to rob Nigerians to pay Nigerians? Why pay me N5000 and then subject me to perpetual suffering?

“Clearly, government thoughts on the so-called removal of fuel subsidy is cloudy and appears to be a “penny wise-pound foolish” gamble.

“It is clear that the palliative offered by government will not cure the cancer that will befall the mass of our people who suffer the double jeopardy of hype-inflation while their salaries remain fixed,” Wabba said.

He added, “As we had done several times, we call on the federal government to consider various options that can help Nigeria navigate out of the quagmire constructed by the failure of successive governments to embrace developmental governance and accountable leadership. Some of the viable options that can help include:

“Insulate the domestic consumers from the market pressure brought about by the free fall of the Naira by making arrangement with contiguous refineries not far from Nigeria to swap crude oil with refined petroleum products;

“Accelerate work on the rehabilitation of Nigeria’s four major refineries which are all currently operating at near zero installed capacity; and

“Establish empirical data on the quantity of refined petroleum products consumed daily by Nigerians. It is unfortunate that this record remains a myth and a huge crater for all manner of official sleaze and leakages in the downstream petroleum sub-sector of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.”

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