‎Stock Your House With Food Stuff, NLC Tells Nigerians As It Issues Strike Warning To FG

‎Stock Your House With Food Stuff, NLC Tells Nigerians As It Issues Strike Warning To FG
‎…issues 96 hours ultimatum  to FG
…accuses Buhari’s govt of betrayal of trust
Chris Steven, Abuja
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and members of Civil Societies on Saturday told Nigerians to stockpile their homes with enough food stuffs as they have issued a 96-hour ultimatum to the federal government to reverse the new pump price of premium motor spirit (PMS) also known as petrol from, N145‎ per liter to the old N86.50.
The organised labour and its civil societies allies rose from their  emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting which started Friday evening and ended Saturday afternoon to demand an immediate reversal of the pump price or face a total shut down of the nation’s economy.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja at the end of the meeting , NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba  said that the Federal Government has up till 12midnight of Tuesday May 17 to reverse what he called the anti-masses policy.
He lamented that President Muhammadu Buhari had broken his electioneering promise of not removing fuel subsidy if he was elected.
According to him, the Congress would ‎on Wednesday May 18 mobilize Nigerians to the streets, shut airports, sea ports as well as all public and private offices after which he said the labour would direct Nigerian workers to embark on indefinite industrial action as their response to the government’s policy.
The NLC President who read the communique issued at the end of the meeting on behalf of other unions lamented what he called federal government’s  disinclination for consultation on issues of public interest and its obsession with protecting product marketers at the expense of the Nigerian public.
His words: ‎ we urge government to revert to the old price regime in order to reduce the suffering of the people and to consider this singular act of mindless pump price increase as a betrayal of trust;

Revert to the pre-45 percent electricity tariff increase, make meters available to consumers and stop estimated billing;

Reconstitute  the boards of PPPRA and NNPC without further delay and give them their statutory right to function alongside DPR in order to deepen the process of consultation, checks and balances in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry;

Intensify the prosecution of all those involved in subsidy scams with a view to recovery and sanctioning of the culpable;

Put in place enhanced local refining capacity within a specified period  in place of endless importation as an enduring solution to the perennial problem of scarcity;

Reverse the entire deregulation and privatization process which foists on the nation, private individuals as drivers of the economy in contravention of the constitutional provision that says government shall be the driver of the economy and engage the organised labour in the process of negotiation on key policy issues;

Wean itself from the overbearing influence of the neo-liberal elements in its fold who have not  only staged a coup but are determined to make this government collapse even before  the end of its four-year tenure;

Uphold its electioneering promises to Nigerians   instead of subjecting them to the vagaries of slavish policies such as full devaluation of the naira and total removal of  subsidy as enunciated by the IMF and its agents in the system;

In the event government fails to accede to these demands on or before 12 midnight on Tuesday, May17, 2016, the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and their civil society allies resolve to commence the following actions with effect from Wednesday, May 18, 2016;

·         Mobilize to the streets across the country, ordinary and helpless Nigerians to whom they owe the duty of protection;

·         Shut down all Banks, Sea and Airports, Government and private offices as well as Markets.

·         Commence indefinite nationwide strike action.

·         Fight/resist the machinations and cruelties of the neo-liberal forces in the government as part of the process of saving the government from itself and the generality of Nigerians from slavery.

Nigerian are therefore advised to stock sufficient food items that will last for a while for the prosecution of the current struggle against neo-liberal agenda in Nigeria.”

He said that members of the Congress at  the meeting expressed concern about government’s neo-liberal policies which they considered a betrayal of its electioneering promises‎.

“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” he said

Comrade Wabba also blasted the  Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu who he said had been speaking from both sides of his mouth saying “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  $1billion from this process”

He said Organized Labour had wondered what has 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;

The Labour President explained that the new price announced by the federal government or any officer without the input of the board of the Petroleum Products Pricing  Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), which is statutorily vested with powers to recommend pric‎e is illegal noting that since the board of PPPRA was yet to be constituted the federal government has no right to fix price unilaterally. 

His words: ” 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” ‎

He also cautioned that the attendant pressure on the dollar as a result of freedom given to marketers to source their dollars from the secondary market 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” Comrade Wabba said

While arguing that the new price increase isunrealistic, unaffordable, unacceptable and is thus rejected by Nigerian workers, the NLC President said that  there has been no increase, in the past five years, in salaries or wages or pensions  in the face of devaluations, spiralling inflation and other vagaries of the economy.

He stressed that ‎Government is unable to justify the 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;

Speaking also on the increase in electricity tariff, Comrade Wabba said that ‎Government has remained recalcitrant  in spite of a subsisting court injunction on the issue of the criminal increase in electricity tariff even in the face of ever-worsening power supply situation;

“From the foregoing, it is evident that the neo-liberal forces in the government have taken over the government and we should expect more inhumane policies which will further degrade the living standard of the average Nigerian. The punitive electricity tariff and PMS product prices may just be teasers;

The implications are costly and far-reaching, with the first and most significant being that we have become dependent on massive importation of refined products  to meet our domestic needs in contra-distinction to other OPEC members. Whereas most OPEC members significantly meet their domestic needs through domestic refining by an average of 80 per cent, Nigeria on the contrary, at the pace it is going, will continue to rely on about 90 percent of imported refined products in the foreseeable future;

And because we are dependent on importation, the end-user  price  will always be influenced or determined by external factors such as the cost of refining abroad, transportation and others denominated in the dollar. As the Naira continues to depreciate against the dollar, so will the woes of consumers in Nigeria continue to increase, a situation the Marketers in classic greed will exploit to their advantage;

Taking into account the utilitarian value of petroleum products in Nigeria, all sectors are going to be negatively affected by this mindless price increase as virtually all the stakeholders are agreed that the most significant contributor to the astronomical cost of doing business in Nigeria is the cost of energy” he said

On the position of National Union of Petrol and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petrol and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) who have already supported the deregulation of the oil and gas sector, NLC President said ‎”NLC, TUC and other civil society allies are not unaware of the positions taken by the Unions in the oil and Gas Industry”. 

A process of engagement will be put in place in order to ensure   the success of the struggle to protect the overall interest of the Nigerian people” he added.