Claims impending action attempt by NLC, TUC to subvert govt for political purposes
By Joseph Erunke
THE National Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN, has kicked against the planned industrial action by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC and the Trade Union Congress, TUC over hike in electricity tariff and increment in the pump price of petroleum in the country.
At a press conference, Thursday, in Abuja, the NYCN, speaking through its president, Solomon Adodo, claimed that the planned action was an attempt by the workers’ unions to subvert the government for political purposes.
The Nigerian youths organisation claimed that “the call to mass action and strikes by the labour unions is evidently triggered by political motives rather than championing the cause of the average citizen.”
“This is no more agitation for the improved welfare of the masses but a serious attempt to subvert the government for political purposes,” it added.
Mr Adodo said, “The National Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN, received the news of the unfortunate threat by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC and Trade Union Congress, TUC with sadness.”
“While the Supreme body of youths in Nigeria notes the right and sacred duty of the trade unions in protecting the Nigerian Workers and their welfare, it should however not be an avenue for deceit and misinformation,” he further said.
“And we therefore with the greatest respect, warn the workers’ unions not deceive or misinform Nigerians on the states of petroleum products pricing,” he added.
Noting that, “It is expected that the trade unions, being bodies made of highly educated and experienced Nigerian workers should be in the forefront of advancing a socio-economic paradigm shift for the country,” he regretted that:” Sadly, the agitation and tactics of labour continues to be antiquated since the global economic variables and realities have progressed without the Nigerian labour movement moving with the trend.
“The call to mass action and strikes by the labour unions is evidently triggered by political motives rather than championing the cause of the average citizen.
“This is no more agitation for the improved welfare of the masses but a serious attempt to subvert the government for political purposes,” he insisted.
According to him, “The order by the NLC and TUC for the Federal Government to revise the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and revert to the old subsidy regime is not only out of sync with the pricing realities of the product under discussion, but also falls below par in our current economic logic.”
He added: “Truth is that when the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Group Managing Director, Mr Mele Kyari announced that subsidy was gone forever, NLC and TUC were probably on COVID-19 lockdown, but certainly not asleep or dead.
“Therefore, as far as the issue of petroleum products pricing is concerned, NLC and TUC are aware that subsidy was withdrawn months ago.
“Though there was COVID-19 lockdown, the two trade unions did not hold press conferences or threaten post lockdown industrial action. So, it is surprising and hypocritical that they are now trying to blackmail the Federal Government and advance unfounded arguments.
“This gives clear credence to the fact that the labour unions have been seriously compromised to score political points.
“If the NLC and TUC did not see the need to argue over the withdrawal of subsidy some months ago, simply because the prices were lowered, it will amount to hypocrisy to start a threat of strike now that the economic reality of a global oil market is before us.
“It is a show of inconsistency and lack of understanding of the implication of converging economic issues.”
Adodo said: “Nothing in our position is against the trade unions negotiating a post-subsidy wage or other cushioning welfare packages for their members. In fact, we stand with them on that. But the argument of Nigeria returning to the needless and retrogressive subsidy regimes is unsustainable and cannot sail through.”
According to him, “Nigeria cannot afford to hold itself down by trying options that do not and can never work. And the trade unions should not be the ones pushing Nigeria to her continued economic doom.”
“The National Youth Council of Nigeria supports the total deregulation of the petroleum industry because that is where there is hope for the youth,” he said.
“We thank President Muhammadu Buhari for taking the bull by the horn and setting the pace for massive industrialization through the liberalization of the petroleum industry. For this and more, we herein pass a vote of confidence on the president.
“We, therefore, invite the organised labour to join us in the crusade to free the country from the ills of strangled regulated petroleum industry.
“The arguments are obvious and should be known by the labour unions,” he added.
He explained that: “Some of our grounds for supporting deregulation, even in the electricity or power sector which the trade unions also talked about are as follows: There is no economic sense in spending less 3 trillion Naira annually on capital projects while spending about N1.5 trillion on petroleum subsidy.
“Remember that while we budget below four trillion Naira for capital projects, actuals releases have been less than 3 trillion Naira.
“Our continued deficit balance of trade needs to be improved upon, we lose almost all the gains of crude oil export by massive importation of refined products.
“We will not recover from this deficit until deregulation attracts massive investments in the oil sector.
“The pressure on Foreign Exchange because of refined products importation will keep the Naira struggling against foreign currencies (particularly the United States Dollar). The deregulation of the Petroleum Sector will go a great extent in correcting this as refineries are now being built locally.
“Most importantly, the youths are denied jobs that will inevitably come with deregulation.
“The monies spent on importation and subsidy payment will be channelled to other internal economic activities.
“Obviously, the Federal Government cannot even afford this subsidy in the face of other competing issues demanding the government’s attention.
“As we all know, petroleum subsidy is fraught with endemic fraud. It is clear that subsidy is in the interest of some Nigerians, but it is certainly not the poor who it is claimed are the beneficiaries.
“As for the Power Sector, there should be a more robust discussion about not only subsidy removal but also total deregulation to check exploitation.”
According to him, “the government has placed some cushioning measures such as the ₦200 billion survival fund which will ensure more local content in the petroleum industry and also the Nigerian Youth Investment Fund which will ensure rapid industrialization and jobs creation amongst other novel steps being taken by the government.”
“It is on the above notes that we urge the organised labour to change tactics, devised more progressive means of engagement. And more crucially, they should stop whipping up sentiments through deceit and misinformation while doing the bidding of the opposition,” he said.