|Ayuba Wabba, NLC chairman
Following the news of the Federal government’s plan to increase fuel pump price to N340, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has vowed to ground economic activities across the country, adding that it has started mobilisation of its members for the showdown.
Recall that the Federal government recently announced that its readiness to withdraw subsidies on petroleum products from next year, saying that the burden of the subsidy was heavy to bear.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of 17th NLC Harmattan School in Ilorin, Kwara State, the NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba vowed that labour would resist the attempt by the government to increase the fuel price without making adequate arrangements to cushion the effect.
He contended that if the government succeeds in the plan, the impact of the price hike will affect every Nigerian, motorists, households, transporters, and others.
Wabba lamented that out of the OPEC member countries, it was only Nigeria that was following the International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies, which he described as neoliberal.
According to him, “The concept of accepting deregulation hook line and sinker anchored on import driven price model is not something that we can accept. We have said that without mincing words.
“If you say we are pushing through our throat to accept deregulation on the basis of importation, basically there will be no end to price increase even the issue of saying that once you deregulate without having the capacity to refine for domestic use will bring down the price of PMS, is not correct.
“When the price of crude oil was almost at a zero level, the price of two items that were deregulated never came down; that is diesel and the price of kerosene. In fact, they kept going up. The market fundamentals, marketers are out there to make maximum profit and usually they will collude and that is what will happen to Nigeria if we accept that policy hook line and sinker
“The implication is not also on the working class because whether we like it or not, the minimum wage gain has been eroded completely as the issue of failing value of our currency so the major issue under contention is actually how do we stabilise the value if the naira. Once you dont stabilise the value if the naira anything imported will have an effect on the larger economy but also on the cost of goods and services.
“This is the reality. So we are actually calling for reviving of the refineries, making them to work, don’t export our jobs let us benefit substantially from what God has given us freely.
“Labour has done a lot of studies out of the OPEC countries. We are the only country trying to adopt this IMF imposed model of deregulation on the basis of import driven price mechanism.
“That will not be good for our economy and that is the idea of our argument that yes you can liberalise but not on this monopoly of making sure that it is only import driven.
“The issue of extending N5,000 to 40 million Nigerians. The impact of the policy of price hike under the name of deregulation will affect every Nigerian citizen either directly or indirectly.
“Either you have a car, a motorcycle or you use a transportation either to move people or bring in farm produce or you are a medium and small enterprise using a small generator, everybody will be impacted and so I dont see the wisdom of saying only 40 million people. We have seen some of these policies where people say they are extending support to Nigerians.
“Remember when the organised labour submitted a list of the working poor N50,000 on request to the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs as I speak to you no single person benefitted yet it is being said that everybody benefitted. We dont have empirical data even on the poor of the poorest and so basically it is going to be the same way those other policies have gone and that is why we said no because there will be spiral.inflation and we have seen that each time there is a slight increase in the pump price of PMS, because of its centrality to our economy, the impact will be very humongous.”
He said if the government does not reverse the policy, it would adversely affect wage earners and rubbish the minimum wage, adding that it was on that basis that the organised labour decided to engage the process.
He said, “But engaging the process also has to be open. You don’t have to make a pronouncement before inviting labour to the negotiating table because it is like the deed is done and that is why we are also mobilising our people this time around we are not saying increase N5, you are moving the price from N162 or N163 to N340 or N408.
“If we are to actually go by the recommendations of the governors forum, I don’t see how that can be pushed down the throat of Nigerians looking at the impact. Not even the political considerations, it is about the economic impact on buisness, citizens and the fact that it is going to push more Nigerians below the poverty block. These are the concerns labour has had.”