By Funmi Komolafe, Asst. Editor
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has faulted the Federal Governmentâ€™s planned deregulation of the downstream sector due to take-off next month on the grounds that it will not eliminate corruption in the oil industry.
It, however, warned of a possible national strike to resist the policy if government fails to dialogue with the organised labour on the issue.
NLC President, Mr. Abdulwaheed Omar who spoke to Vanguard in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, dismissed insinuations that the oil unions have dissociated themselves from NLCâ€™s position. â€œThat is far from the truth,â€ he said.
Omar added that, â€œGovernment came out to admit there is a cartel that undermines anything they do about subsidy. Is it when they deregulate that the cartel will cease to exist? In fact, it will inflict more injury on Nigerians.
“A simple analysis is this, we have abandoned our refineries. We are now importing almost 100 per cent. If you hand over to all these people, at best youâ€™ll have four conglomerates that will be solely in charge of importing this commodity,”Omar added.
Since they now import, it is a very easy thing for them to gang up and then Nigerians will be at their mercy because even the supply of it would be at their mercyâ€.
On the purported disagreement within the labour movement, the NLC president said, â€œ people are saying that the oil workers opted out of NLCâ€™s stand on this issue. That is not actually correct and it should not be taken that the oil workers and NLC are having divergent views about deregulation.
What I read from their communique, they were saying that deregulation could be an option provided that government is able to do a number of things. I think this is where NLC has been coming fromâ€.
Speaking on the possible reaction of NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar said, â€œUnfortunately, strike is what people think of all the time but strike is always the last option that workers employ to drive home their points, but Iâ€™m not precluding the fact that it could culminate into a nationwide strike if all other avenues fail to yield any resultâ€.
The NLC president reiterated that his organisation is still available for dialogue on the issue.
Warning on the consequences of deregulation at all costs, he said, â€œIf you increase fuel price at the speculated price of N94.00, it is a jump of N29 at a go, the price of every other things will increase in Nigeria. Now is it good for our economy? he asked rhetorically
Comrade Omar said he believes that President Umar Musa Yarâ€™ Adua means well for the people but that the president is under pressure from some quarters to adopt full deregulation of the down stream sector.
He confirmed that the government has set up a committee on the implementation of the deregulation of the down stream sector of the petroleum industry chaired by Bauchi state governor, Alhaji Issa Yuguda.