By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Daniel Emeribe
TRADE Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) yesterday said it had begun mobilisation of all senior staff affiliates and masses for industrial action and mass protest ahead of the November 1, 2009 planned deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry by the government.
The umbrella body for senior staff associations in the country, in a statement by its Secretary-General, Chief John Kolawole, said Nigerian workers and masses could not cope with additional hardships arising from the socio-economic consequences of deregulation.
According to the statement,â€œTUC will mobilise all our affiliates and the masses for a complete showdown should the Federal Government proceed with its planned deregulation of the oil sector hurriedly fixed for November 1, 2009. Our action is hinged on the fact that the government has not put in place any serious measure to cushion any spiral effect this hasty action would have on the already sapped citizens of the country, majority of who go to sleep with empty stomach. It is very sad that despite our opulence as a nation, our citizens still have to suffer and turned beggars in order to survive.â€
â€œWe had expected that government should have created an enabling environment for those with refining licences to be able to go into business as done in other oil producing nations of the world.â€
â€œThe question we have constantly asked is why our case is different from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or even Angola. Why has our oil ministers either present our past not been able to fashion out or even copy policies from these nations?
Why is it impossible to halt bunkering and smuggling of petroleum products across the countryâ€™s boarders? And why has our security agencies including men of Nigeria Customs turn the other way when convoys of smuggled petroleum products are being escorted out of the country?â€
â€œWe see the claims by the government that it spends billions of naira on subsidy and that deregulations will make products both available and cheaper as laughable.
We are at sea on how a product you donâ€™t produce can be cheap. Our four refineries are producing below installed capacity expected of a nation ranked 7th among world oil producers. It is also laughable to note that an oil major like Nigeria is now considered as a major importer of a commodity it has comparative advantage.
â€œThings will continue in this mode because Nigerians depends solely on fuel for everything including transportation. What we had expected a caring government to have done is to first of provide a functional mass transportation system such as the rail system and a medium and long term measuresÂ before embarking on full deregulations.â€