*Says Subsidy is Nigeria’s inability to refine petrol
*Adds, we can talk about subsidy or not when full local refining takes up
By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Demola Akinyemi
Organised Labour yesterday in Ilorin, Kwara State, warned that whether now or in 2023, Nigerian workers would not accept any hike in fuel price in the name of petrol subsidy removal.
Specifically, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, at the opening ceremony of the 18th edition of its Harmattan School, insisted that workers would vote against candidates planning to increase petrol price in the name of subsidy removal.
Speaking, President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, questioned what it is regarded as subsidy on petrol, saying “What do you even call subsidy? subsidy is inefficiency, our inefficiency or inability to refine products. That is what we call subsidy. If we are refining, we should not be talking about subsidy and why can’t we refine? We said we will not discuss anything subsidy. What they have told us is that the refineries will be fixed by 2023 and It will start production. So once we start production, we can now come to the table and see what you call subsidy. I think that is how to start the conversation . We are taking this issue very serious. In many countries around the world, energy is subsidized, 50 countries around the world energy subsidized. I used the world energy subsidize. Although there is nothing bad about subsidy, but in our case, it is shrouded in secrecy. It is not a transparent process, the consumption and all details are shrouded, and this is typical of a capitalist economy. In a socialist economy, they look at how to make the people happy, and to remove the stress from the people. We have seen from diesel. Is that the same example you want to set. All Nigerians should reflect on it. What they call subsidy removal is just increasing the price which has happened in the case of subsidy on kerosene and diesel. We have removed the subsequent subsidy on diesel and kerosene.
How much is diesel today, it is almost N850 to N860, per liter. Is that the same thing we want to apply to PMS? How many people can afford it? These are the very important questions that we need to interrogate. And this is what Labour has been interrogating. So, we are not running away from and we have never run away or shy away from discussing the issue of subsidy. Whether there is or not, we can discuss it. But the bottom line is that we will resist any price increase in the name of removal of subsidy. Let us look at the issue of subsidy. What do we say is the issue of subsidy? Does it only mean price increase? In the case of this diesel adulteration is still there . Adulteration is more now in the case of diesel which has been fully deregulated, and the prices are not in the reach of anybody.
In fact, part of even the reason why I heard that the PMS is in short supply is also the diesel issue. The diesel price has gone up and for them to transport from the jetties to the hinterlands it means they need to more buy diesel at exorbitant prices. This is a whole cycle that is not working effectively.
Government first, is to find a way to refine. That is the only solution that can addressees this problem. That is, government must find a way of refining products and put transparency structures in place . Many countries have done it and many countries are running those enterprises as enterprise of government. They are doing because a transparent process is working. If you privatize without transparent process like we have seen in the banks, which government has supported with public funds, but failed because they lack transparency and good governance templates, it will not work. This is what we have been arguing. Nigerians should reflect on this. Once you say you remove subsidy and you follow the trend of the diesel, it means it will be out of reach.
Also, corroborating the NLC President, General Secretary of NLC, Emma Ugboaja, said there is no way any would accept price increase in the name of subsidy removal.
While giving his vote of thanks, Ugboaja, said “NLC will not accept any subsidy removal on petrol because we have an existing understanding. We will resist subsidy removal whether now or in 2023. We still have our PVCs. We will not vote for any subsidy removal. We shall work against any candidate that plans to remove subsidy and inflict more pains on us. We should be talking about refining product and local production not about subsidy removal.”
Declaring event open Governor Abdularahman Abulazaq of Kwara State said it is important for workers in the country to earn a living wage.
According to him “It is important that every worker to earns a living wage. As you aware that with the inflationary trend, even N30,000 minimum wage is not enough and even at that amount, government is still taking part of it as taxes.
“The challenge for my government is to engage more people to work and minimum wage is something I continue to work on. I hope and strong believe that before the end of next year, the minimum wage will go up.”
The governor said it is important for labour issues to be in the front burner of discussions at this time of political campaigns, saying”
As the parties jostle for support of the electorates, Nigerians will like to hold the candidates accountable to the words and promises if they win the election.”
On the issue minimum wage he said that his administration has started the implementation of the N30,000 national minimum wage which was not approved by the previous administration, adding “Since our assumption of office, we not only paid the minimum wage but we have ensured that workers are paid salaries as and when due.”