By Victor Ahiuma-Young
The Federal Government and Organised Labour will meet this evening over the recent hike in pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, commonly known as petrol that shocked Labour leaders and Nigerians in the wake of tension created by the September increment.
Affiliates of of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and their Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterparts, are already grumbling over the consequences of the new pump price of N170 per liter of fuel which NLC and TUC have rejected.
In fact, NLC and TUC see the recent increment as a breach of the agreement Organised Labour reached with Federal Government that led to the suspension of the planned nationwide strike and mass protest on the eve of commencement on September 28.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the agents of the Federal Government have become uncomfortable with the NLC and TUC reactions to the Friday November 9 petrol price hike in the wake of the mayhem that followed the hijack of the recent #EndSARS protests by hoodlums.
According to Sunday Vanguard sources, the meeting is slated for 7 pm today.
One of the Labour leaders, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, said government is taking Labour’s magnanimity for weakness and has decided to act with impunity to worsen poverty in the country.
“I am sure that government officials may have remembered that we only suspended the planned strike for two weeks from September 28. The issues surrounding the last increase in pump price of petrol and electricity tariff are yet to be concluded. Definitely this last increment is a betrayal of trust and understanding”, he said.
Recall that early last week, NLC and TUC, in separate statements, while rejecting the pump price increment, accused government of deceit among others.
NLC, in a statement by the President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, warned against pushing workers and Nigerian masses to the wall, saying “The truth is that we would not have been in this precarious situation if government had been alive to its responsibilities. There is a limit to what the citizens can tolerate if this abysmal increases in the price of refined petroleum products and other essential goods and services continue. While we fix our refineries, there are a number of options open to government to stem the tide of high prices of refined petroleum products.
“One is for government to declare a state of emergency in our downstream petroleum sector. As a follow up to this, government should enter into contract refining with refineries closer home to Nigeria. This will ensure that the cost of supplying of crude oil is negotiated away from prevailing international market rate so that the landing cost of refined petroleum products is significantly reduced”.
On its part, TUC, in a statement by its President and Secretary General, Quadri Olaleye and Musa Lawal, respectively, argued: “From all indications, government has again reneged on agreement reached with the organised labour few weeks ago. In few days the various committees involving government and the organised labour will brief labour and civil society and the outcome of that meeting will determine our next line of action.
“We recall that at our meeting government appealed that subsidy removal was the only way out, else the economy will collapse and there would be massive job losses. We agreed with them to save the economy and the jobs.
“If the government claims to have “deregulated” the downstream sector of the oil and gas (which of course is subsidy removal), it therefore means the independent oil marketers are importing petrol at their own cost. Information at our disposal, however, is that no independent marketer is importing fuel, because they cannot access dollars. The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporations (NNPC) is still holding on to that monopoly.
“To make matters worse, it is the NNPC that instructed the new increase and not Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA). What a regime of contradictions! NNPC has become a behemoth. “The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings” It appears this fault must be conquered for us to be free.”