• NLC denies scheduled meeting with govt
• TUC justifies reasons for strike
• Subsidy regime, unsustainable, says PPPRA
Barring any rapprochement, Monday next week has been fixed by Labour to begin a nation-wide strike to protest against Federal Government ordered hike in prices of petrol and electricity tariffs. The Organized Labour has denied any scheduled meeting with government, according to President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba.
Ayuba stated that the labour movement had not received any letter of invitation to any meeting this week or next, saying: “We all know the tradition. The labour movement has yet to receive any communication from the Federal Government to attend any meeting. The Monday industrial action is going on and mobilization is at an advanced stage for its commencement.”
This comes as the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) declares it will join the protest. The President of TUC, Quadri Olaleye, and Secretary General, Musa-Lawal Ozigi, said TUC resolved to collaborate with the NLC and civil society allies to achieve maximum effect. He said the first ultimatum was shifted to September 28 for effective and maximum effect.
MEANWHILE, the Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Saidu Abdulkadir, has said continuous payment of subsidy on PMS is unsustainable, stating that the agency and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources are working on popularising the use of gas as alternative to PMS.
Abdulkadir said: “Nigeria has more gas deposit than crude oil because a lot of gas was discovered in the course of finding crude oil. So, it can be said Nigeria is more of a gas country than an oil country. Therefore, we need to make use of this natural resource optimally. Gas is broken down into different gas components apart from Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Apart from CNG, there is Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), popularly called ‘cooking gas’ and there is Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Every one of these gas components would be used in complementing the use of PMS in Nigeria.”
Abdulkadir explained that the Federal Government envisaged that the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) initiative would create job opportunities for the industry and beyond.
According to him, there is an existing framework to guide the operations of CNG sales when it commences in October.
“We have an existing framework that is being implemented. The framework will be such that there won’t be subsidy element similar to what we witnessed in petrol. That is what is attractive to investors. We now see investors trooping in to indicate their interest in the utilization of gas to drive the economy as opposed to petrol that we had. So, there are exciting times ahead once the teething issues are addressed by the government and all the critical stakeholders,” he said.
He said the PPPRA is empowered to regulate the commercial aspect of the downstream and not necessarily petrol or diesel. SPEAKING at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, yesterday, Wabba explained that the organ had ratified the decision of the Central Working Committee (CWC) that mandated the National Administrative Council (NAC) to proceed on the nationwide protest.
The CWC comprises presidents and general secretaries of affiliate unions of the NLC and members of the National Administrative Council (NAC) of the Congress. It had, on September 16 after appraising recent increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and the increase in electricity tariff, said the increases were ill-timed and insensitive to the sufferings Nigerians were going through, especially in the wake of the socio-economic dislocations occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CWC then issued a two-week ultimatum for an indefinite strike action and peaceful protest, to take effect from Monday, September 28, if government failed to reverse the recent hike in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff.
The CWC also resolved that government must demonstrate its commitment to resuscitating Nigeria’s four public refineries and building new ones as response to perennial instability and hike in the pump price of refined petroleum products, particularly petrol, diesel and kerosene.
It then resolved to begin a mass mobilization of the Nigerian people, professional groups, religious organisations, market women, the informal sector and the Congress civil society allies towards total compliance to the indefinite strike action.
On his part, Olaleye, while advising Nigerians to stockpile foodstuffs that will last for weeks, asked for the understanding of the people in the informal sector to bear with labour movement while the industrial action lasted.
He said: “The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, after an exhaustive meeting held to review its mobilization strategies on the forthcoming strike to protest fuel hike and electricity tariff, resolved that the Congress was going to work in collaboration with its sister labour centre, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Civil Society allies to execute the strike.
“Consequent upon this, the ultimatum which should expire by midnight of today 22nd September, 2020 has been shifted to 28th September, 2020 for effective and maximum effect. We want to use this opportunity to call on Nigerians, especially those in the informal sector to bear with us while the industrial action lasts.”
TUC flayed the continued display of flamboyant lifestyles of government officials despite calls on Nigerians to bear the economic pains, saying, “there is no need for the pains we bear. It is a needless one. They ask us to tighten our belts while they loosen theirs. Services are not rendered, yet we are compelled to pay estimated bills. You will recall that this government during its campaigns in 2014 told the world there is nothing like subsidy. We were told they would build refineries, all that are history now. We run a mono economy and any hike in fuel automatically will have adverse effect on us, yet successive governments toe that path because they are not creative.”
Wondering how government expects Nigerians to survive under the harsh economic condition, TUC hinted that about eight states are yet to commence the payment of new minimum wage and its consequential adjustment even though the president signed it into law on April 18, 2019.
It added: “The Congress hereby appeals to all Nigerians to get ready for the unprecedented mass action against corruption, obnoxious policies, rape and other violent offences, breach of Collective Agreement, unemployment, etc. We also call on the USA, UK, Germany, Spain, etc. to support our struggle by placing indefinite VISA ban on our political leaders whose stock in trade is to loot and impoverish the masses and the country. We can no longer take it. Enough is Enough!”