*Hinges further negotiation on return to old price
*NBA, NMA to join protests
LAGOS – UNLESS the Federal Government reverts fuel price to N65 per litre, Nigeria’s economy would be shut down as from Monday, January 9, the Organised Labour has threatened.
Rising from a joint National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, yesterday, over government’s removal of fuel subsidy on January 1, which has shot fuel price to between N138 to N250 per litre in different parts of the country, leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), said the strikes and mass protests would be total.
This is coming as the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria (CRCN) and some Nigerians living in London endorsed Labour’s decision and vowed to participate in the protests.
In a joint statement by Comrades Abdulwaheed Omar (NLC president) and Peter Esele (TUC president-general), entitled: “In Defence of the Nigerian People on Fuel Price Increases,” Organised Labour said by removing subsidy without fixing the refineries among other things, the government breached a 2009 agreement.
‘There is a subsisting understanding between Congress and the Federal Government in 2009 that removal of subsidy will not commence until certain conditions have been met. These include the fixing of all the refineries and building new ones, regular power supply, and provision of other social infrastructure such as railways and repair of roads as well as eliminating the corruption associated with supply and distribution of petroleum products in the downstream sector of the oil industry.
“After exhaustive deliberations and consultations with all sections of the populace, the NLC, TUC and their pro-people allies demand that the Presidency immediately reverses fuel prices to N65. If the Government fails to do so, they direct that indefinite general strikes, mass rallies and street protests be held across the country with effect from Monday, January 9, 2012. From that Monday, January 9, 2012, all offices, oil production centres, air and sea ports, fuel stations, markets, banks, amongst others will be shut down,” they said.
Urging the citizenry to stockpile food and water because the protests might be protracted, Comrade Esele said the strike would be total because all sectors of the economy such as Power, Aviation, Petroleum, Banking and Maritime would be shut down throughout the duration of the strike.
If government failed to revert to old price before Monday, Esele said that labour would not discuss with government or its committee before the strike. “There will be no negotiation. We have to fight first before any discussion because the government removed the subsidy before talking about negotiation and setting up of committee.”
Labour decried the effect of the policy since last Sunday when it became effective, saying: “This prohibitive increase in price of PMS once again confirms the position of Labour that deregulation to this government means incessant price increase of a strategic product (petrol) that impact on cost of living, cost of production and the general well-being of increasingly impoverish Nigerians.
The immediate generalized negative impact of this price increase on transport cost, food, drugs, school fees, rents, indicate that government is totally wrong to underestimate the impact assessment of the so-called deregulation policy.
“Due to the untoward hardship workers and other Nigerians are experiencing based on excessive increase in petrol prices, there have been sporadic protests by Nigerians in at least 10 cities. These protests, which are peaceful have witnessed the use of unprecedented force by the police leading to harassment, intimidation, arrests and the murder of a protester.”
Urging Nigerians to participate actively in the movement to rescue the nation, Labour called on the police, armed forces and other security agencies “to reject orders that they turn their weapons on fellow Nigerians. The primary objective of this patriotic call and movement is to revert PMS price to N65, restore normalcy and reclaim Nigeria for Nigerians.”
Dismissing the possibility of the government obtaining a “black market court injunction” to stop the strike, one of the counsel to Labour and former President of the West African Bar Association, WABA, Mr. Femi Falana, said Labour had assembled a team of lawyers in readiness for any eventuality.
NBA begins protest today
Besides, Falana said members of the NBA would commence protest march in Lagos today, adding, “when lawyers begin to participate in protest, you know that it is something serious.”
Doctors join forces with labour
Rejecting what they described as the “criminal increase” in the pump price of fuel, doctors said the action of the Federal Government was “wicked and insensitive”
To this end, the doctors, under the aegis of the NMA said they were consulting and partnering with other professional bodies such as the NBA, NLC, TUC and other civil society organisations to forge a common front against the government’s unpopular action.
In a press statement jointly signed by the NMA National President, Dr. Omede Idris and the National Secretary, Dr. Bala Audu, the body of medical professionals accused President Goodluck Jonathan of ambushing hapless masses of the country.
“We in the NMA will join the millions of Nigerians to resist this evil. As a professional association, we cannot shy away from our professional dictates and responsibility to our clients, patients and the good citizens of this country. The NMA has the responsibility to stand with, by and behind the Nigerian people in genuine demands.
“Government should in the first instance curb its wastes, make the refineries functional and ensure accountability with a verifiable audit in petroleum sectors, tackle monumental corruption in the downstream sector of Oil and Gas operations and other sectors of the economy, stop frivolous foreign trips, use the savings from these to begin to address the palliatives in the subsidy reinvestment empowerment programme. It should also provide support for private health sector and genuinely encourage public- private partnership in health and other sectors as palliatives.
“It should now be clear to the government that the benefit of the so-called subsidy on petrol cuts across all strata of the population and impart directly more on the downtrodden. Government should reverse this action thereby preventing avoidable stress and strain on the good people of this country,” they said.
Nigerian’s must resist enslavement – Sani
To the CRCN, fuel subsidy removal was an” inhuman, callous, insensitive and destructive act aimed at enslaving Nigerians perpetually.” CRCN President, Shehu Sani, in a statement, called on Nigerians to participate in the Monday strikes because “President Goodluck has succumb to the bidding of entrenched interest and agents of Western imperialism in his Government and sacrificed the lives and livelihood of millions of Nigerians in order to save more money to share to state governors and defence contractors.”
Nigerians in London get police permit for protests
In London, the Metropolitan Police, yesterday granted permit to some Nigerian and Students in the Diaspora to stage a rally on Friday against the controversial policy.