Labour Unions To Reject Any Further Petrol Hike

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Moses Ofodeme

The Organised Labour Unions have taken exception to recent intent of the Government to upwardly adjust the pump price of petrol.

Their reaction was in response to comment by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva that another hike may be possible.

Sylva, said Nigerians should to be ready to bear the pains of increased petrol pump price as crude oil price climbs above $60 per barrel.

Speaking at the official launch of Nigerian Upstream Cost Optimisation Programme in Abuja, Sylva said with no provision of subsidy in the 2021 budget and that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, cannot continue to bear the cost of under-recovery.

At present, the pump price of petrol ranges from N160 –N165, the price band set when crude traded just above $43 per barrel four months ago.

However, President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, warned that Nigerians and businesses in the country would not be able to cope with another hike in the pump price of petrol.

He said: “I am not sure Nigerians would not be ready to bear any more pain at this time because of the fact that a lot of factors have affected the economic, social and even the well being of Nigerians. “So, any additional pain at this point in time certainly will not be taken lightly.

As you are aware, the NLC said it would have to discuss even the issue of technical report on the September 2020 increase which we could not adopt at the last meeting of the National Executive Council. Certainly, it’s a thing that we cannot swallow.”

Also reacting, President, Trade Unions Congress of Nigeria, TUC, Quadri Olaleye, said: “The question is why is government always quick to tell us about the rise in the price of crude in the international market and the need to increase the price of PMS here when it always takes them weeks, if not months, to implement agreements reached with Organised Labour? It all points to one thing: they are insensitive to the plight of the poor people of this country.

“In every move and statement by government officials, you could see and feel their care-free attitude and indifference to our plight. It appears they are not disturbed by the poverty of Nigerians and the unemployment/insecurity situation that their obnoxious policies have created in the country.

There is nothing honourable about what the minister has said. “Nigeria is among the six oil producing countries in the world. Reports have it that our oil is one of the best,  giving us an edge over others. Unfortunately, we have not taken advantage of that. We have four refineries that are not functional. “Why are they not functional and why is government closing its eyes to it?

Their refusal to attend to them is the reason the country is subjected to the vagaries and volatility of the price of crude in the international market. The TUC, and indeed, organised labour, is trying seriously to avert a major industrial crisis. We have tightened our belts so hard, to the extent that we are finding it difficult to breathe but government seems not to care.

We are appealing to government to have a change of heart and put on a human face.” Increase necessary — Petroleum Minister However, the minister insisted that the increase was necessary, saying while government revenue has improved by the rise in crude oil price, money released therefrom would not be frittered away in subsidy payment.

He said: “Since we are optimizing everything, NNPC needs to also think about optimization of product cost because as we all know, oil prices are where they are today, $60. “As desirable as this is, this has serious consequences as well on product prices. So we want to take the pleasure and we should as a country be ready to take the pain. Today the NNPC is taking a big hit from this. We all know that there is no provision in the budget for subsidy. “So, somewhere down the line, I believe the NNPC cannot continue to take this blow.

Equally, the Civil Society Organizations, rejected the plan.

Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said: “When you have officials that seem to be celebrating the suffering of Nigerians there is nothing surprising from such official comment. “One wonders what are the benefits the people get from Nigeria being an oil producing country. Nigeria’s oil is a big opportunity for institutional corruption because in the name of fuel subsidy and fuel and importation. “Scams and corruption in the oil industry overwhelm governance systems. Consequently, the governments are not meeting the expectations of Nigerians.

“Why is this that, if oil is cheap in the global market, Nigerians do not enjoy any drop in the price of the refined petrol? That is to tell you something is fishy with the planned hike.”

Deji Adeyanju, the convener of Concerned Nigerians, said Nigerians must wake up and resist the move to increase the pump price of fuel.

According to Adeyanju, What will Nigerians use to buy the fuel at the hiked price? Is it their blood? Have Nigerians not had enough of the maladministration? Why is it always hardship upon hardship for the people of Nigeria? “We believe the hardship in the country is more severe than COVID-19 and other pandemics.

So, we condemn, in its entirety, the plan to hike the fuel price. “We also say that, if the hike is implemented, Nigerians must wake up, challenge the government, and call for an end to the oppression.”

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