*AS Jonathan damns Labour, withdraws subsidy
*Prepare for a showdown, NLC, TUC tell Nigerians

Our reporters

LAGOS – A litre of petrol jumped by 116% yesterday to N141 after the Federal Government sanctioned the removal of the controversial subsidy on the price of petrol.

The removal of the subsidy was conveyed by the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA in a statement issued on New Year day.

The hike immediately provoked strong criticisms from labour, civil society groups and opposition political parties.

The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and Trade Union Congress, TUC in a joint statement yesterday rejected the increase and asked the public to enforce the N65 per liter price that obtained until yesterday as it promised what it claimed would be a long drawn out battle with the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

Expressing concern on what it claimed was the insensitivity of the administration to the plight of Nigerians arising from the recent spate of bombings, the two labour organizations urged Governors, security agents and the National Assembly to side with the people as it said it was putting President Jonathan and his top aides on notice that they would be reported to the “International Criminal Court if they, by acts of commission or omission spill the blood of any Nigerian over the protests that follow their inhuman acts against the people.”

The two labour organizations were backed by different civil society organizations, the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, the Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC among others.

The Joint Action Force, JAF led by former national President of Academic Staff Union of Universities, Dipo Fashina in a statement yesterday also called for mass demonstration starting tomorrow.

NNPC Mega Filling Station now selling at N138 per litre in Abuja yesterday.

The PPPRA in its statement by its  Executive Secretary, Mr Reginald Stanley, said the downstream sector of the petroleum industry had been deregulated with regards to petrol and that subsidy on petrol had been removed from yesterday. He advised marketers to procure products and sell them in accordance with indicative benchmark price to be published every two weeks as no marketer would be paid subsidy after January 1, 2012 (yesterday).

Enforce N65 per litre price —Nlc, Tuc

The NLC and the TUC in a joint statement issued by Owei Lakemfa and John Kolawole respectively Acting General Secretary, NLC and Secretary General of the TUC said:

“As Nigerians mourn the victims of the bomb blasts in the last few days and grapple with insecurity, the Jonathan administration decided to utilize this period to impose astronomical fuel price increases on the populace.”

“This New Year “gift” by the Presidency is callous, insensitive and is intended to cause anarchy in the country. It is tragic that the Jonathan Government has become the greatest source of insecurity in the country and the spring of danger to the Nigerian nation.”

“In the last few days, Jonathan’s administration had told Nigerians that it was consulting us on the issue of fuel subsidy removal and that if any was contemplated, it would be with effect from April 1, 2012.  The NLC and TUC warned Nigerians that this government thrives on falsehood and can therefore not be trusted.

The meter displaying the new pump price yesterday.

The Presidency’s New Year Day action of removing the fuel subsidy and imposing new fuel prices on the populace is a clear demonstration of the fact that the Jonathan administration cannot be trusted. We also have information that it intends to make a litre of PMS N150.00 and then ask the NNPC to reduce the price at its fuel stations by a few Naira. Nigerians must defeat whatever are the schemes of this government.”

“The NLC, TUC, the pro-people Civil Society Organisations and patriotic Professional organisations reject these new fuel prices and direct Nigerians to resist their imposition.  We direct our state councils and unions to take steps to resist any price above N65 litre of PMS, and await a date for the commencement of general strikes and mass protests across the country. Similarly, we alert the populace to begin immediate mobilization towards the d-day for the commencement of the strikes, street demonstrations and mass protests across the country.”

“With the decision of the Jonathan administration to create chaos in the country, we Nigerians have the duty and responsibility to restore the country to normalcy and reclaim our birthright.”

“This promises to be a long drawn battle; we know its beginning, but we do not know its end or when it will end. But we are confident that the Nigerian people will triumph over the cabal in Aso Rock.”

“We call on the National Assembly and the Governors to side with the people and stand by them in this struggle.”

“The Labour Movement also calls on the police, armed forces and other security personnel not to accept any order to shoot Nigerians or attack them for publicly resisting these evil hikes in fuel prices.  We warn that any officer who does so will be brought to justice, and a claim that he was obeying orders, will not be an excuse for committing such crimes.”

“We also put the Jonathan Presidency and its surrogates on notice that we shall ensure that they are prosecuted up to the International Criminal Court if they, by acts of commission or omission spill the blood of any Nigerian over the protests that follow their inhuman acts against the people.”

“In the next few days, the leadership of the NLC and TUC will jointly issue directives on the date organized national strikes, street demonstrations and mass protests will commence.  We shall neither surrender nor retreat.”

JAF plans mass action

JOINT Action Front, umbrella body for pro-labour civil society groups in the country in its rejection called for civil disobedience by Nigerians to force President Jonathan to rescind the decision.

In a statement titled “Nigerians, arise now to resist the wicked hike in fuel prices”, JAF said government action had reinforced the group’s resolve to begin mass action and protest nationwide from tomorrow against the policy and urged Nigerians to turn up en-mass for the protest starting from Lagos.

The group in a statement by Dr. Fashina and Mr Abiodun Aremu, Chairman and Secretary, respectively, advised Nigerians not to buy petrol above N65 per litter and shut any filling station that sells above N65.

According to JAF, “the pro-labour civil society partner in the Labour and Civil Society Coalition, LASCO, has just learnt from media reports that Federal Government, through its agency, PPPRA, has formally removed the so-called subsidy in PMS and hiked prices of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popularly known as petrol from N65 to N141.

“We strongly condemn the Jonathan presidency for this wicked hike in prices and its decision to inflict unnecessary suffering and punishment on Nigerians. In anticipation of the introduction of this wicked increases in fuel prices, JAF had at its media briefing on December 21, declared that Nigerians should begin mass action effective from Tuesday, January 3.  Nigerians are hereby enjoined to boycott and shut the filling stations that sell fuel above the current prices of (petrol at N65 a litre, kerosene at N50 a litre and diesel at N70 a litre). Use mass action to enforce state-at-home and strike actions whenever labour and its allies in LASCO, declares such.”

“We wish to restate that its kick-off of mass action slated for January 3, 2012 at 8am prompt at the NLC, Yaba-Lagos is in force, and in line with this earlier directive. We urge Nigerians to join the struggle anywhere they are to reject and resist this wicked hike in prices with mass action.”

“We demand that the four refineries must be made to work and the building of new ones to make petroleum products cheaper and affordable to all”.

House will stop this inhuman action – Rep Sumaila

-The Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Rep Suleiman Abdurahman Sumaila in a sharp reaction to the development told Vanguard yesterday that the House would do everything to stop the administration’s action.

Sumaila said when the House resumes from the Christmas break on 10 January, it would examine the situation and take necessary action.

CLOSED: The NNPC Mega filling station at Rainbow Bus Stop, Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Lagos closed for business yesterday. Photo: Bunmi Azeez.

”We will use the law to stop this inhuman act. Its another form of terrorism against Nigerians that are already impoverished. We will not fail to salvage them from this bondage and enslavement. This is another form of terrorism against the Nigerian people which we as their true representatives will not allow.”

NBA may summon emergency NEC over subsidy removal

The NBA, yesterday, said it was still opposed to subsidy removal and may summon an emergency National Executive Council meeting to take a position on the matter.

NBA’s Secretary, Mr Olumuyiwa Akinboro, who spoke to Vanguard on the formal removal of the subsidy, yesterday, by the Federal Government, said “We (NBA) remain opposed to subsidy removal. We had taken that position at our last NEC and we stand by NEC’s resolution.”

Asked what the association will do now that the subsidy had been removed, he said “NBA has its mechanism for addressing such matters including NEC, which will sit on the matter. Since the next NEC may be far, we may be forced to call an emergency NEC to take a position on the matter, in view of the new development,” he added.

CLO condemns move

Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, in a statement by its Executive Director, Mr. Ibuchukwu  Ezike, said “The PDP led government has demonstrated that it has no feelings of pity for the hungry, poor and neglected Nigerians, who cannot feed themselves, children and wives, pay their children’s school fees, house rents or build houses of their own and who cannot treat themselves in the hospitals.

“It has shown that it is a despotic, corrupt and bankrupt government, insensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of our people. This was Jonathan, who shed crocodile tears on TV in April, deceiving the masses that he felt their pains and shares in their sufferings. The Jonathan, who did not wear sandals while in school over 30 years ago but does not even want the 21st century children to have access to education no matter how poor and failed the system may have been today.”

CPC faults increase

Congress for Progressive Change, CPC in a statement by its national publicity secretary, CPC, Mr Rotimi Fashakin, declared that the decision to remove the subsidy was illegal so long as the National Assembly had not finished consideration of the 2012 budget proposal.

“What is bewildering, however, is that a regime that pretends to derive its legitimacy from the people is implementing a policy that obviates the need for the assent of the People’s representatives. This is a clear mutation towards fascism and declaration of war on the Nigerian people!

“The PDP-led Federal Government, having tied this utterly insensitive policy to the budgetary provision, has with hubris and much scorn of the people, embarked on its implementation before the necessary assent of the National Assembly. It is our view that this PDP-led regime did the same damage to the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria by spending above N1.3 Trillion Naira as against the  N2 Billion Naira provided for and appropriated in the 2011 fiscal year.

“It is our considered view that this decided action of the Federal Government is not only traitorous, but very callous desire to hurt the Nigerian people, while pandering to the imperialistic intervention of foreign interest. Undoubtedly, this latest decision clearly negates the provision of Section 14(2b) which declares that: “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”

A callous New Year gift to Nigerians — CD

On its part, President of the Campaign for Democracy, CD, Dr Joe Okei _ Odumakin lampooned the Federal government for packaging “a callous New Year gift to Nigerians.”

In a statement, Odumakin said “the campaign for Democracy (CD) is alarmed that the Jonathan regime has again packaged a callous New Year gift to Nigerians by the removal” of the subsidy.

According to her, “we see the action as wicked, insensitive, and a clear demonstration of deep contempt for the plight of Nigerians majority of who are presently at the lowest ebb,” she said noting that the administration did not mind Nigerians suffering if only to please the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF.

Govt is calling for chaos — Utomi

Politician and professor at the Lagos Business School, Professor Pat Utomi on his part bemoaned the way and manner of the Federal Government action saying the administration was calling for chaos.

“The way and manner the Federal Government has handled this issue has shown that they are calling for chaos. This whole process should be a democratic process; people must be given a chance to debate on it before the final decision taken. Leaders can show a direction whether popular or unpopular, but when you say you want to discuss something with people, you must see that discussion to a logical conclusion before taking the final decision.”

The CNPP  while flaying the move said it was regrettable that the Jonathan administration had shown itself incapable of probing the corruption it claimed was in the sector that spurred the move.

The organization said that “the statement emanating from the spokesman of PPPRA to the effect that they had removed the Fuel Subsidy did not follow the due process,  the rule of law, is unfortunately contrary to the PPPRA Act and therefore illegal null, void and of no effect.”

Civil rights lawyer, Bamidele Aturu on his part said:

“The point is that the administration is testing our patience. At the end of the day, the question is that who owns the nation, is it the people or those in government? What they have done is illegal. What they have done is to show that they have no respect for Nigerians. It is unacceptable, and it is not going to work.

“The contraction called the PPPRA is acting the government’s script. If you look at the price control Act, which is still in existence, they cannot arbitrarily increase the pump price like that. So, no government has the right to say they want deregulate it.”

Jiti Ogunye on his part also said:

“Although the removal is coming from the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), it is obvious that it is coming from President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigerians should hold him accountable. It is shameful, cruel and a calculated attempt to emasculate Nigerians socio-economic and political life.

General Obasanjo in his eight years in government never in anytime increase Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) by 100% cumulatively and by the time he left, the margin of increase was not scandalous compared with what this government is doing now by increasing pump price from N65-N140 in name of deregulation. Nigerians have already been going through much hardship which has been compounded by the increment.”

Senate yet to reach a consensus

The Senate yesterday, said it is yet to reach an agreement on the commencement of full deregulation of the downstream sector.

This was stated in a statement issued by Senate spokes person, Chairman Senate Committee on Information, media and public, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said though the removal of subsidy was not reflected on the 2012 budget proposal presented to the National Assembly by President Goodluck Jonathan,  because consultations are still on concerning the removal.

According to the statement, “The Senate is yet to take a final decision on the issue.

While it is true that there was no provision for subsidy in the 2012 budget proposal, the senate still believes that consultation is still going on, which means the senate is yet to reach a consensus on the matter.

This can only be done when the budget bill is considered and final decision taken on it. You will recall that senators held different positions when the issue came on the floor.”

He therefore assured Nigerians that, “So the prevailing situation will not vitiate the ongoing consultation, which must take full cognizance of the general mood and also of utmost economic benefit to the country.

“However, the Senate will always support every effort of the President to make life better for the Nigerian people so long as such  would be in the interest of the vast majority of the people.”

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