By Williams Anuku, Abuja
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has criticized the latest hike in the pump price of fuel, saying the action was a breach of the agreement entered with the Federal Government recently.
Ayuba Wabba, President of NLC said it also cast in very bad light the Congress utmost good faith with regards to the government explanations that it lacks funds to continue bankrolling the so-called subsidy payments as such would sooner than later cripple the entire economy, throw the country into severe economic crisis and cause loss of jobs in millions.
Wabba in a statement on Monday in Abuja condemned the increase, alleging that there was no doubt that there was great disquiet in the land over the extraordinary level of inflation in the country.
It would be recalled that the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) had recently increased the fuel pump price from N161 per litre to N170 per litre, hinging it partly on logistic constraints.
All these were in spite of an agreement between labour and the Federal Government to take immediate steps to revamp the nation’s existing but ailing refineries.
“The recent increase in the pump price of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) has only exacerbated the current level of pain and anguish in the country. The recent increase in the pump price of PMS is clearly against the spirit and content of what Organized Labour agreed with the government at the last negotiations over the last fuel price increase.
“While we await the full recovery of our refineries as contained in our agreement with the government, Nigerians cannot be made to bleed endlessly for the failures of successive government to properly manage our refineries, ensure value for money for the numerous Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) which were poorly and barely executed and the horrifying lack of interest in prosecuting public officials and private business people who have profited from the rot in our petroleum sector and the collective misery they have imposed on the general population, “Wabba noted.
Wabba noted that the country would not have been in this precarious situation if the government had been alive to its responsibilities.
He said 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 the government to stem the tide of high prices of refined petroleum products. One is for the government to declare a state of emergency in our downstream petroleum sector.
” As a follow up to this, the government should enter into contract refining with refineries closer home to Nigeria. This will ensure that the cost of supplying crude oil is negotiated away from the prevailing international market rate so that the landing cost of refined petroleum products is significantly reduced.
“Government should also demonstrate the will to stamp out the smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria. We need to see big-time petroleum smugglers arraigned in the court of law and made to pay for their crimes against the Nigerian people.
“Government has the resources available to it to ensure this economic justice to Nigerians. The question in the minds of many Nigerians is if the government is willing to go headlong against major financiers of the major political parties known to the public as the architects of the current national woe,” he stated.
Labour, however, demanded that Nigerians should be carried along on the distribution of refined petroleum products. Information on the distribution of petroleum products to petrol stations should be advertised and made public knowledge.
According to the leadership of NLC, It should not be difficult to establish the average time it takes a petrol station to exhaust its supplies. There is already an established market trend which will help the government fix the rot in Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector.
It said, “We call on the government to review the entire process of licensing for modular and bigger refineries. It is queer to depend on the enterprise of one man to fix Nigeria’s downstream petroleum subsector.
“The more public and private refineries in play the higher the competition. This would serve end consumers who would benefit from lower prices. Organized Labour will not accept a fait accompli of the monopoly of Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector or the emergence of a cartel of Oligarchs whose end game is mass pauperization.
“In line with our recent agreement with the government, we will be receiving updates in the next few days from our unions in the petroleum sector which have been given the mandate to keep surveillance on a government promise to overhaul our public refineries. We will also receive updates from our representatives in the electricity review committee.
“The updates we receive will determine whether the government has kept to its side of the bargain which is to take serious steps to recover and reposition our public refineries. The outcome of this engagement will determine our response in the coming days. But while we are at that, we condemn the recent price increase and we call for its reversal with immediate effect”.