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Deregulation: Don’t deregulate social upheaval, labour leaders warn Yar’Adua

By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Daniel Emenbe
ORGANISED Labour yesterday advised President Yar’ Adua not  to rush to  deregulate the down stream sector of the oil industry. Labour said that the government has to meet the condition it gave the government before it can deregulate the oil industry. It said that if the government does not give it a deep thought it could mean deregulating  social upheaval in the country.

Reacting to statement credited to President Yar’ Adua that there was no going back on the planned deregulation, labour said if the President insists there was no going back, probably he had plans to meet the conditions set by organised labour and other concerned  Nigerians before he could make such a declarative statement

Speaking, President-General of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele, said: “Probably the President has planned to put in place all the conditions that would make the policy to work and acceptable to Nigerians.

We have given the government the conditions to be met. These are the conditions which even the government themselves acknowledge and every right thinking Nigerian also ascribes to those conditions. Some of the conditions are that the refineries must work, there must be a time frame to stop importation, the receptive capacity of the Ports, repair of the pipelines and a review of the Petroleum Products Prising and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) template which the government themselves said is full for corruption,  leakages,  abuses, among others.

We do not believe the government can go ahead without meeting these conditions. unless they want a deregulated crisis in the country.”

Also reacting, President of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Comrade Peter Akpatason, urged the government not be in a hurry to deregulate the downstream sector of the  petroleum industry because of the sensitive nature of the sector to the nation’s economic survival.

Comrade Akpatason who is also the National Trustee of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), declared that Nigerians would not accept any policy that could worsen their hardships and sufferings.

According to him: “ Like I told you, the last time we discussed this issue, the government seems to be so desperate to go ahead with the deregulation.. We have pointed out some conditions that we believe must be put in place for deregulation of the sector can work in Nigeria.

We believe that actually deregulation is not in it self a bad policy because we believe that proper deregulation, could possibly result in some levels of increase in activities,  competition, availability of products and eventually,  may be price reduction. But this is only if there is proper deregulation, if the conditions precedent to deregulation are properly in place.

But in the absence of those conditions deregulation will only continue to be problematic. And that is the fear of many Nigerians and that is our concern. We a time frame for new refineries to come on stream, so that even though in the mean time they could continue to import to supplement locally refined products. That means the existing refineries must be rehabilitated.

If this is the objective of deregulation Nigerians would will grab it. Now, in the mean time because they have to import or because they are importing already there is need to expand the receptive capacity in the country.

Earlier, NLC had  faulted Federal government argument that it is spending a very huge amount of money to subsidise petrol for Nigerians, saying the government only spends N5.00 to subsidise fuel for a Nigerian per day.

President of NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, in an interview,  told Saturday Vanguard , that Federal government was being economical with the truth about the bogus subsidy claims, and insisted that Nigerian workers and masses would not accept the planned full deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.

According to him: “All they want to do is to inflict more hardships and sufferings on Nigerians because what the deregulation they are talking about means, is price increase. Do not be deceived about their bogus subsidy claim.

The government says it is spending a bout N700 billion to subsidize fuel for Nigerians. Let us agree it is true. It means it spending about N700 Million per day in a country of 140 million people. If you calculate that, it a mounts to just N5.00 per day for a Nigerian. That is what the federal government is lamenting about.

In any case, who is complaining? Nigerians are not complaining. It is people in the government that are complaining. The question to be asked is, the money they are complaining about is not their personal money, but Nigerians.”

Continuing, Comrade Omar said: “Over the last many years, the Nigerian government has emerged with one policy after another that the country was told would reverse the increasing economic downturn and lead to economic prosperity for the people. The country has gone through Structural Adjustment, Economic Liberalization, Deregulation of external trade, Privatisation and Public Sector Reforms.”


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