NLC, ULC, others reject fuel price hike, demand reversal
Written by MaryGift Sunday on July 3, 2020
Organized Labour on Thursday rejected the new pump price of fuel announced by the Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, and demanded immediate reversal, contending that the new price amid COVID-19 pandemic, will kill businesses and worsen poverty level across the country.
This came as PPPRA defended the new price, saying it was not as a result of the prices of crude oil alone, but a result of the increase in the price of petroleum products in the international market.
Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, in separate statements, insisted that the hike in the pump price of petrol from N121 to N143.80 at a time when Nigerians and businesses were struggling to cope with the negative consequences of COVID-19 pandemic, was the height of insensitivity by the government.
NLC in a statement by its President, Ayuba Wabba, among others argued that the “PPPRA contradicted itself when it said that the latest price increase described as an ‘advisory’ was meant to regulate a product that government claims had been de-regulated. That this new hike in the pump price of petrol was announced without the approval of the board of the PPPRA and the oversight ministry speaks volume of the arbitrariness and public contempt in the operations of PPPRA. We find this deeply disturbing.
“It is also very embarrassing that the PPPRA boss while trying to defend the indefensible appeared to be out of sorts and ready to clutch at any available straws to sell his “ice block merchandise to Eskimos.
“Apart from contradicting himself that PPPRA is still trying to regulate a deregulated product through “advisories”, the PPPRA went on to exert more nails on the coffin of his polemics when he argued that PPPRA was just like the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and the National Insurance Commission, NAICOM, that would always act to protect the public interest. That was how far the niceties went. The rest of the statement by the PPPRA boss, as reproduced in the excerpts below, was about how PPPRA plans to protect investors and increase their profit.
“While the Market-Based Pricing Regime is a policy introduced to free the market of all encumbrances to investment and growth, it should not be misconstrued as to mean a total abdication of government’s responsibility to the sector and citizenry that the new pricing regime would encourage oil marketers to resume the supply of petrol, leading to further value creation in the downstream, foster job creation and ensure reasonable returns to investors.
“It is unfortunate that Mr Saidu Abdulkadir did not even feign pretence that government has abdicated its responsibility to protect Nigerians from the cut-throat tendencies of neo-liberal market forces. Contrary to the provisions of Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution, PPPRA claims that the abdication is not ‘total’. When the statement by the PPPRA is juxtaposed with the recent killer electricity charges unveiled by DISCOs, Nigerians cannot help but feel the heat of a potent threat to run millions of Nigerians under. It is even worse than this is coming at a time when our people are living on the precipice of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Recall that the last downward review in the price of petrol was at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown. The economic benefits of the so-called “downward” review were hardly enjoyed by ordinary Nigerians who were mostly indoors. Just as the lockdown is being eased out and as soon as the inter-state travel ban was lifted, the government decided to hike the petrol price. Nigerian people and workers are forced to interpret this move as grand mischief and deceit.
ULC wants Nigerians to rise against hike
On its part, ULC in a statement by its General Secretary, Didi Adodo, among others, argued that “the price hike of petroleum products at this pandemic period thereby putting more burden on the working people and the unemployed who are finding it difficult to make ends meet is the height of insensitivity on the part of a Government that pretends to lay claim to being progressive.
“We hereby call on government to reverse it as all relevant stakeholders including labour was not carried along. ULC thereby call on all progressive organisations to reject this provocative increase as it is one hike too many.”
Hike insensitive —NUPENG
Reacting, President of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Prince Williams Akporeha, among others, said: “It is important that the government also looks at the period we are. This is a clarion call to the government to be sensitive with the masses especially at this time that we are in COVID-19 pandemic and see how they can also come out with policies that will favour the masses because everybody is going through hard times. Why must it be now? Can’t government make some sacrifices for the citizens and masses of this country? Must everything continue to be subjected to market parameters?”
New price must be resisted —JAF
Similarly, umbrella body of pro-labour civil society organisations, the Joint Action Front, JAF, said the new price regime must be resisted by all well meaning Nigerians.
In a statement by its Chairperson and Secretary, Dr. Dipo Fashina and Abiodun Aremu respectively, JAF lamented that the new price regime came “against the background of serious hardship the working people and oppressed masses are going through, following the failure of the Nigerian State to provide adequate social support and access to mass testing in the face of threats to survival by the Coronavirus pandemic.
“JAF has consistently maintained that the current unjust system of neo-liberal order is incapable of addressing the quest of Nigerians for free education, free healthcare, jobs for all and security of life and properties, hence our call for a sustained struggle for system change to ensure a socio- economic arrangement that can guarantee provision of basic necessities to all.
“JAF calls on organised labour to provide leadership for resistance against the IMF inspired hike in fuel prices and urges Nigerians to prepare for consistent resistance against attacks on jobs, education, healthcare, high cost of living and the urgent necessity to mobilise towards a new political alternative.”