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Why govt can’t deregulate now, Labour

By Ahiuma-Young
AS many Nigerians come to terms with the reality of government failure to commence its much trumpeted full deregulation of the down stream sector of the nation’s petroleum industry on January 1, 2010, organised labour in the country has given insight why government  failed to begin full deregulation this January.

Fuel queueIn fact, since early last month, in anticipation of the commencement of deregulation by on or before January 2010, many unscrupulous and greedy marketers started hoarding petrol thereby creating artificial scarcity which prompted marketers and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), trading blames over the resurgence of fuel scarcity across the country,

While some labour leaders believe that government may have decided to meet some of the pre-conditions it (Labour) set before deregulation could be considered, others attributed the failure of government to kick -off the policy to the absence of President Yar’ Adua because of his failing health.

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), is one of the groups that think the government may have decided to address some of the concerns of labour before embarking on deregulation to avoid confrontation and opposition from labour and its allies.

Speaking to Sweet Crude through its Deputy General Secretary, Comrade Lumumba Okugbawa, the umbrella body for senior staff in the nation’s oil industry, said: “we believe that the government may be trying to address our concerns first to avoid confrontation with organised labour and others.

PENGASSAN and our NUPENG (Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), counterpart as well as the entire labour movement have given some  pre-conditions before full deregulation of the sector can be considered.

If these conditions are not met before government embark on deregulation, we will not support it and indeed, we will work against it because it would only worsen the already bad situation that we are faced with. We have told government that we will not accept import-driven deregulation. Meaning that not only must the existing public refineries be fixed, there must be signs that new ones would come on board to put an end to importation of petroleum products in the country within the shortest time possible.”

“In the interim, the receptive facilities in the ports must be expanded to accommodate the volume of import to minimise if not completely eradicate demurrage payment by importers, who then transfer the burden to consumers. We have also raised the issue of the pipeline networks. The networks have to be upgraded and made functional so that people do not have to come from far and wide into Lagos to lift products to other parts of country .

The federal high ways  should be fixed and made motorable to reduce the carnage on the roads. Also, the issue of corruption in the sector must be decisively addressed to bring sanity into the industry.”

However, another labour leader from one of the unions affiliated to Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), who spoke on condition of anonymity, believes the absence of President Yar, Adua may have stalled the planned deregulation because such a policy is not what a Vice-President or Minister can approve because of its wider ramifications.

According to him, if there is a national strike and protest by Nigerian masses coordinated by organised labour and its civil society organisations allies, nobody without the mandate of Nigerians can address it.

Deregulation is not a policy for a Federal Executive Council (EFC) meeting where members just award bogus contracts that Nigerians do not feel the impact.

Deregulation is not just any other policy. It is a policy that goes against the constitution and I know you are aware that some people are already challenging the planned policy in the law court.

It is not a policy that can be kick-started through proxy because whenever it begins without first and foremost, addressing our (labour) concerns, I bet you, there will definitely be reaction.


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