Following the announcement by President Bola Tinubu in his inaugural speech last Monday after being sworn in that the oil subsidy is gone which immediately prompted a nationwide hike in the pump price of petroleum products, a showdown is imminent between the organised labour and the one-week-old government.
This is just as President Tinubu has assured that his government would review the minimum wage of workers to reflect current realities even as petroleum products marketers have said that the pump price of petrol will further be increased next week.
Reacting to the increase in the price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, following the withdrawal of subsidy by the government, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, yesterday gave the government an ultimatum of Wednesday next week to revert to the old price of N194 per litre or it would direct its members to withdraw their services nationwide.
Labour, therefore, asked President Tinubu to direct the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPCL, to revert to the old pump prices of petrol or face industrial action.
It also directed all its affiliates unions and state councils to commence mobilisation in case the government through the NNPCL refuses to revert to the old pump price of PMS.
Briefing journalists after its extensive National Executive Council, NEC, meeting in Abuja, President of NLC, Joe Ajaero noted with regret that NNPCL on Wednesday jerked up the pump prices of PMS by over 200 per cent bringing the price of fuel to between N488 and N557 per litre.
Ajaero said after a unanimous decision of all NLC affiliates, unions were directed to commence mobilisation immediately ahead of the planned nationwide protest.
According to him, “The NLC decided that if by Wednesday next week the NNPCL, a private limited liability company, that illegally announced a price regime in the oil sector, refuses to revert itself for negotiation to continue, that the NLC and all its affiliates, will withdraw their services and commence protests nationwide until this is complied with. The NNPCL doesn’t have the monopoly to act illegally even as a private company. The NLC NEC, therefore, directed all state councils and all industrial unions to commence mobilisation from this moment to make sure that this action is enforced. The action has commenced at this moment”.
Ajaero then called for a probe of the subsidy regime in the past eight years, the amount paid on subsidy and the beneficiaries of the payment. The labour leader also urged the NNPCL to ensure a proper account of the amount of petroleum products Nigerians consume daily. He accused the NNPCL of refusing to disclose beneficiaries of subsidy and landing cost of petroleum products.
He said: “The Nigeria Labour Congress is calling for a thorough probe in the process of subsidy to know those involved and the amount involved. Investigate it properly before it is swept under the carpet. The current attempt to sweep the fraudulent practices in the subsidy regime should not be tolerated by all well-meaning Nigerians”.
Recall that President Bola Tinubu after taking the oath of office as the 16th President in his inaugural speech on May 29, announced that fuel subsidy is gone.
The announcement triggered a hike in the fuel pump price less than 24 hours after the announcement and it has also caused more economic hardship to Nigerians. The announcement has attracted the ire of organised labour. A meeting with the federal government team and organised labour on Wednesday ended in a deadlock. Both parties are however expected to resume negotiations on Sunday.
Minimum wage needs review — Tinubu
Meanwhile, President Bola Tinubu on Friday said that the national minimum wage needs a review to reflect realities, assuring that improved livelihood for Nigerians remains a top priority of his administration, with more people-focused economic policies.
President Tinubu also advised national and sub-national governments to work together on the issue, which, according to him, already requires “soul searching.’’ This is as the All Progressives Congress, APC, governors under the umbrella of Progressive Governors Forum, PGF, have thrown their weight behind the removal of oil subsidy
Speaking when he received members of the PGF led by the Chairman, Senator Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Tinubu said that there was a need to look at the minimum wage
According to him, “We need to do some arithmetic and soul searching on the minimum wage. We will have to take a look at that together, and the revenue. We must strengthen the source and application of our revenue.’’
President Tinubu urged the governors to seize the opportunity of being chosen among millions of citizens in their states to make a difference in the lives of the people, adding that he would work for the benefit of Nigerians.
He said, “This meeting is not strange to me, and the content of the meeting is so valuable. The camaraderie is very stimulating. This is about the Nigerian project, not Bola Tinubu.” He also assured that the multiple exchange rates will be streamlined, noting that governance was a continuum.
He said, “I have inherited the assets and liabilities of my predecessor. This is the first time you entered the Council Chambers, and it is my first time too for a meeting. As progressives and thinkers under the umbrella of the All Progressives Congress (APC), you have a role to play in educating our people and making sure we manage ourselves.’’
The President told the governors that it was a good and encouraging sign that the APC has a majority in the National Assembly and some Houses of Assembly, which will make it easier to develop policies that will directly impact the economy and the people.
“If we work together, the Nigeria of our dreams is not far away. Rest assured that we will not have multiple exchange rates anymore. You asked for this meeting, and I had to set aside time to be here.
“We have a political party that we will need to manage, whichever way, we have inherited assets and liabilities, and we cannot complain,’’ he stated.
President Tinubu said he would maintain an open-door policy, willing to entertain issues, deliberate, and collectively find solutions to the challenges facing the country, including security.
“It is in our hands, and I am ready to work and listen at any time,’’ he added.
In his remarks, the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, called on the governors to rally around the President as he tackles the challenges that stagnate the economy, like the oil subsidy and multiple exchange rates.
“Let us rally around the President and not buckle. There are vested interests that may want to resist the subsidy removal. Its removal will free resources for the development of your states,” he added.
Earlier, the Governor of Imo State pledged the support of the Progressive Governors to the President, noting that the initial decisions already foretell good intentions for the economy.
“We are here today as members of the APC to fraternize with you as our leader, and congratulate you on your election as President, and Commander-in-Chief. We are using this opportunity to express our support for you at this trying time in our history,’’ he said.
Uzodinma noted that the President had started well, by placing the economy and welfare of the people on a priority list, with honesty of purpose. We are aware of your capacity and excellent track record,’’ the PGF Chairman stated.
Speaking to correspondents later, Uzodinma, declared that Tinubu never prepared the 2023 Appropriation Act that did not provide for subsidy payment beyond June this year, and therefore, he was not the one that directed the cessation of subsidy payment.
Uzodinma, who noted that all the presidential candidates promised to remove subsidies if elected, also said that since every government must inherit assets and liabilities from preceding governments, subsidy removal was part of the liabilities taken over by the Tinubu administration.
The PGF boss recalled that even the National Economic Council (NEC) led by former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also agreed that subsidy must go.
He said petroleum subsidy was no longer sustainable as he said it was pulling the country down. Uzodinma noted that it has come to the point where it was either managed or it would kill the country.
Uzodimma lamented the sudden adjustment of petroleum pump prices in less than 24 minutes the President announced that the subsidy is gone. Describing it as man’s inhumanity to man, the governor contended that the product that was hiked was still the old product that enjoyed the subsidy.
“I am not aware any fuel marketer has imported fuel,” he said.
Marketers set for an additional hike in fuel price
In a related development, there are indications that the pump price of petrol will be further increased next week as petroleum products marketers alleged that petroleum products deport owners have already effected a fresh markup on their ex-deport prices to N488 per litre. The ex-deport prices were jerked up to N467 on Tuesday following the announcement of the removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Tinubu the previous day.
With the latest development, marketers are looking at selling the product at about N510 in the filling stations in Lagos and between N520 and above in other locations across the country.
Dropping this hint in an Arise TV news program monitored from Lagos yesterday, the National Operations Controller, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Mr. Mike Osatuyi, stated that the development became inevitable following the present stance of deport owners as well as covering the replenish cost for its members.
Narrating the ordeals of independent petroleum products marketers since this week, Osatuyi further stated: “We are in support of deregulation but the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPCL, despite having old stock have told our members to pay the new ex-deport price of N488 per litre within two days of removing the subsidy. Our members are made to pay N21 million for a truck, they had initially paid about N7million – N7.5 million and were about to take deliveries before the subsidy removal. Now they are expected to pay a difference of a million to make up for a truck. So members who have old stock will increase their pump price to N500 or more per litre in Lagos.
On the benefits of the subsidy removal, Osatuyi said that “with Dangote refinery bailing us out of the non-functional refineries available, we will produce more than what we need in the country and about $21 billion will be saved from refining locally and the removal of fuel subsidy.
“The breakdown is that about $ 10 billion will be saved in terms of buying products abroad and bringing in into Nigeria and also $ 11 billion will be saved on subsidy which gives a total of $21billion. What this means is that there will be less pressure on foreign exchange while the naira will continue to have value, also Gross Domestic Product, GDP, will go up and there will be employment. The issue of fuel scarcity and queues will go forever and there will be the safety of lives and property” he added.
He explained that about N30 per litre will be removed from the current cost of fuel by refining locally, adding, “These savings will come from the elimination of freight and other charges. Also, charges from agencies, such as the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, will be minimal.
“Also, the consumption volume of 60 million litres per day will crash to 40 million litres with the implementation of subsidy removal as we finance neighbouring countries’ consumption, therefore, the difference can be used on major infrastructures” he added.