By Funmi Komolafe,Â Asst. Editor, Victor Ahiuma-Young, Abdulwahab Abdulah & Daniel Alfred
ABUJAâ€”After a decade ofÂ the Nigeria Labour Congressâ€™sÂ opposition against the deregulation of the downstream sector of the economy, it may have bowed to the policy due to a strategy of alienation of the group from its social partners by the Federal Government even as it maintained that its resistance of the policy was in the best interest of the working people and citizens in general.
However, at time of this report, Vanguard was still waiting for the details of NLCâ€™s conditions to government before embarking on the planned full deregulation.
This is coming even as there were fears that the fuel scarcity which resurfaced across the country on Monday, may not ease soon as the number of fewÂ filling stations dispensing keep diminishing with long queues of motorists and other users causing gridlock on major roads and streets with petrol stations, leaving many commuters stranded.
Why NLC soft-pedalled
NLC began the battle against â€œremoval of oil subsidyâ€™ in 1986 when the General Ibrahim Babangida government announced it would remove subsidy on fuel but the struggle became intense and was sustained with rallies and protest which has resulted in loss of lives when NLCÂ and its allies in the student movement, civil society organisationsÂ took up the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo on the issue in 1999.
According to NLCâ€™s President, Mr Abdulwaheed Omar:Â â€œIt is a strategyÂ that is meant to isolate the Nigeria Labour Congress, the working people andÂ the labour movement entirely because if you are waging a war,Â the best thing for you is to have only one battle field but if you open so many battle fields,Â then you a heading for failure.
â€˜â€™ Even then, your strategies will have to multiply in accordance with the number of battlefields you have.â€
The NLC president said the organisation could not have refused to dialogue with the government on the issue when it called for consultation.
He described the governmentâ€™s consultation strategy as â€œsubstitution by elimination.â€ Whatever group, they conquer, they conquer and move forward.â€
He said â€˜NLCâ€™s decision to dialogue with governmentÂ on the issue didÂ not in any wayÂ mean that itÂ supported deregulation because â€œwe already have our position as Congress and we have been standing by it, but we put our heads together and members of NEC felt it would be foolhardy to say we canâ€™t even dialogue with government.â€
Omar said: â€œVery unfortunately, government is bentÂ on doing what it set out to do_removal of subsidy on fuelâ€.Â He said it was clear that the intention of government is to make more money available for its coffers and not to make theÂ petrol available at a regular and cheaper rate.
He insisted, â€œWe have made our opposition clear but government does not seem to relent in trying to make sureÂ the subsidy on petrol is removed. We are not saying no from ideological view point
By 6p.mÂ yesterday, the NEC was barely 30Â minutes into a full meeting after the report of the NLCÂ 10-member committeeÂ which consulted with the government was presented to the full house by committee chairman, Mr. Peters Adeyemi.
At the opening session of the NLCâ€™s National Executive Council meeting in Abuja yesterday, Omar said despite NLCâ€™s sustained opposition to the policy, government seemed determined to go ahead with theÂ Â policy.
Omar saidÂ he government had embarked on a series of consultations with various groups. He added: â€œWhat weÂ have witnessed is institutional support for deregulation.â€.
According to him, monarchs had met and given their support for deregulation. He said â€œthe latest is that three days ago, theÂ students movement also gave their support for deregulationâ€.
The NLC President added that the decision of the 10-man committee was taken in the best interest of all Nigerians and the working people.
No end in sight to fuel scarcity
Meanwhile, there were fears that the fuel scarcity which resurfaced across country on Monday, mayÂ not ease soon as the number of fewÂ filling stations dispensing keep diminishing with long queues of motorists and other users causing gridlock on major roads and streets with petrol stations, leaving many commuters stranded.
Similarly, while black marketers are having a field day feeding fat on desperate motorists, commercial vehicle operators and motorcycle operators have jacked up transport fares by over 100 per cent.
On the ever-busy Oworoshoki Expressway,in Lagos, only ConoilÂ was selling the product yesterday whileÂ queues impeded traffic up to the old Toll Gate by the 7UP Bottling Company. OnÂ the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway only AP Filling Station sold the product to motorists, while on the Oshodi-Agege Road, onlyÂ Conoil sold the product.
The traffic caused by the queue at theÂ filling station stretched to Under the bridge on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway and Ashade Market onÂ Agege Motor Road.
Piqued by the difficulties Nigerians are going through because of the scarcity, a concerned Nigerian and Lagos lawyer, Mr Bamidele Aturu, yesterday called on Nigerians to rise up and challenge the decision of the government for deregulation.
According to him, the time was now for Nigerians, especially the civil society groups to resist all attempts to add money to the price of fuel.
Aturu, in a statement in Lagos, said : â€œThe civil society, in the face of apparent weakness or indecision of the labour movement, ought to rise up now and fight the cabal to a standstill. We must resist them steadfastly. It is immoral and illegal for a group of people to intimidate a whole country for their rapacious ends.
â€˜â€™True, we may have no government or have one that is in cahoots with the shylocks, but the people own the land and the resources. If we say No to their disreputable and ignoble methods then NO it must be. We need to embark on a campaign of civil disobedience.
We must refuse to cooperate with government and the cabal in our humiliation. Let us close the country. If the government wonâ€™t do its duty, let us shut it out by all lawful and necessary means. This is our country; it is not theirâ€™s alone. Our timidity has not helped.â€
He noted that it is awful for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to tell Nigerians that it have enough stocks that could take care of their demands â€œwithoutÂ fishing out the people foisting scarcity on us all. We have been docile for so long. It is time to call for a general strike in the truest sense of those words. We cannot continue like this and claim that we have a country.
NO. I hereby register my willingness to participate in and initiate any march that will prove to the shylocks that this country belongs to us . It is time to wake up from our slumber.â€
At the time of this report, there has not been any official statement on the cause of the scarcity.