Chris Steven, Abuja
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has said that except the federal government reverses the new pump price for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) to its old price from the new N145 per liter, its policy would cause a serious damage to the nation’s economy.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachickwu had on Wednesday announced the withdrawal of fuel subsidy and an increase in the pump price of the product.
But General Secretary of NLC, Dr. Peter Oso-Ezon while reacting to the government’s action on Thursday in Abuja said that the freedom given to oil marketers to import the products by sourcing for FOREX at the black market is an attempt to devaluate the nation’s weakened currency thereby causing serious damage to the economy.
His words: ” Our position has always been that we do not need the change in the international market as an oil producing economy and that therefore, we needed to manage our affairs in a such a way that we will produce enough products domestically for domestic consumption.
When we are able to do that then, this issue about what the landed price is will not be an issue again. Therefore, as long as government is unable to manage its affairs effectively to ensure that we are refining products domestically to that extent it must be ready to cushion the global price based on an import regime.
And that’s called subsidy and of course that should transparently managed.”
Dr. Oso-Ezon said the action of federal government on Wednesday was unique as no government in the history of the country has done that before.
” It is the first time any government approaching deregulation or withdrawal of subsidy framework, we are now insisting that what we pay in Nigeria will be determined by Black Market exchange rate.
That’s what they have done, by saying that private individuals should import rather than NNPC and that those individual entities should source their foreign exchange from the Black Market. That’s what they have done. And when you do that, you are going to damage the economy.
It doesn’t take any hard economic knowledge to know that if you unleash the demand for foreign exchange for importation of a product, you unleash that on the Black Market, the naira value is going to crash substantially.
And before we know it, we are going to find that government that says it does not believe in devaluation will then be using Black Market rate to run its affairs and that does not give us any confidence” he said
The NLC General Secretary added that the Congress has rejected the government’s action and has summoned an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting to hold on Friday (today) to decide the next line of action.
He also berated the federal government stance that the decision was reached at a consultative meeting with labour representatives in attendance noting that it was fraudulent for government to go ahead with the decision when it was advised to shelve such until appropriate organs of labour bodies were briefed.
“Even the so-called consultation which they used to sell this bad policy was not a consultation. Almost at the closing time on Tuesday evening, a letter was brought here from the Vice President’s office inviting the President of NLC to what they called a consultative meeting with no subject matter.
It didn’t state what it was about and it was fixed for yesterday’s afternoon. I went there because the President was an official engagement outside the country,
And when they finished their presentation, since, in any case, they didn’t tell us what the subject matter was before coming, and the Vice President then asked us, those of us who represented labour individually, three of us.
The response from President of TUC, President of NUPENG and myself, individually was that you just made a presentation, we will take the presentation to our organs and when we have discussed it, we will get back to you and that’s how the meeting ended.
To have said that the meeting agreed to do this is actually a lie. Government should not rule like that. It is actually fraudulent. What they have just done and it is not right” he said
On how the new fuel price will affect the Nigerian worker, he said labour has already started receiving reports of difficulties the workers have started experiencing to get to their respective places of work noting that the fuel increase has also jeopardized the recently proposed N56,000 minimum wage for workers.
“That’s why we say we reject it and we are going to oppose it and the proposed N56,0000 minimum wage will become unrealistic because that computation was based on certain facts that were on ground at a time we made the computation.
When we convey the tripatite committee meeting we have to use the new realities to rerun the figures. If you damage the economy, workers are the first victims, and so a policy, that will create havoc for the workers, it is in the best interest of workers that we resist it because it will come back to haunt us” he said