The Nigeria labour Congress has vowed to resist the proposed "temporary" removal of petroleum subsidy by the Federal government.
The following is the complete text of the statement signed by the General secretary of Congress, Peter Ozo Esonu expressing labour's dismay at the proposed "back door" tactics used by government to withdraw subsidy.
In the past few weeks, we have heard discordant tunes from government officials and chieftains of the ruling APC on what the future portends for the prices of petroleum products and the management of the subsidy scheme. Party chieftains who supported and encouraged the massive protests against subsidy removal in 2012 are now preaching the inevitability of subsidy removal! The Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum first announced that come next year the price of petrol will revert to ₦97 per litre and that subsidy will be phased out. Two days, thereafter, he denied this and stated that what he said was that the price will operate within a band of ₦87 to ₦97 and that this did not mean removing the subsidy. The same minister now says that the price of petrol will now be ₦85 in January signifying the deregulation of the sector.
These vacillations and flip flops are, in our view, designed to confuse Nigerians and pave the way for deregulation of petrol prices through the back door. The fact of the matter is that as long as we continue to depend on imported refined products, deregulation and the abandonment of a subsidy scheme will unleash hardship on Nigerians. In any case, according to our laws, the determination of the recommended prices of petroleum products is the responsibility of the Petroleum Products Prices Regulatory Agency (PPPRA). By law, the board of PPPRA is made up of stakeholders. None of the contradictory prices the minister is throwing up is a product of the agency. Indeed, the board of the PPPRA has not operated for over two years although we have made repeated demands for the convening of the board.
We call on the government to be guided by the rule of law and constitute and convene the board of PPPRA in accordance with the law without further delay. This will enable the agency to examine and agree a new pricing template based on the realities of today. Any price unilaterally determined and announced by the minister is in violation of the law.
In the meantime, we wish to restate our opposition, adopted at our Central Working Committee Emergency Meeting of 22ndDecember, to any attempt by the government to increase the price of or remove subsidy on petrol. We reiterate our directive to our State Councils and Industrial Unions to commence the process of mobilization prior to a meeting of the National Executive Committee to be convened in the New Year.
Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson