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Nigerian Trade Unions Kick against Petrol Subsidy Removal

They asked Tinubu to consider the removal of subsidy, saying that it could be a costly gamble.

Members of the organised Labour under the aegis of the Nigeria NLC and TUC, on Tuesday, described the pronouncement by President Bola Tinubu, that petrol subsidy was over as outrageous and insensitive to the economic plight Nigerian masses were being subjected to.

However, the labour movement advised the government to adopt an alternative strategy that would not adversely hurt the Nigerian while seeking resolve the issue of subsidy.

In a statement issued in response to Monday’s announcement on withdrawal of fuel subsidy by the president during his inaugural speech, NLC, Joe Ajaero, advised Tinubu to reconsider the move instead of daring the people, adding that it could be a costly gamble.

The statement signed by Ajaero, stated that the subsidy removal was ill-timed and violated the condition precedent necessary before such a decision was made.

It said: “We at the NLC are outraged by the pronouncement of President Bola Tinubu removing ‘fuel subsidy’ without due consultations with critical stake holders or without putting in place palliative measures to cushion the harsh effects of the ‘subsidy removal’.

“Within hours of his pronouncement, the nation went into a tailspin due to a combination of service shut downs and product price hike, in some places representing over 300 per cent price adjustment. 

“By his insensitive decision, President Tinubu on his inauguration day brought tears and sorrow to millions of Nigerians instead of hope. He equally devalued the quality of their lives by over 300 per cent and counting.”

Describing the subsidy removal as ill-timed, the NLC said the federal government needed to clean up the NNPC.

It said that after doing so, government should then, “proceed to lay the foundation for a mass transit system in the railways and road network with long term bonds and fully develop the energy sector towards revitalising Nigeria’s economy and easing the burden any subsidy removal may have on the people.

“But we know this is more than the fuel subsidy. It is about government’s ideas on the role of money in bettering the lives of people, about the relationship between government and the people and about the primary objective of government’s interaction in the economy.

“It is about whom, among the Nigeria’s various social classes, does government most value.

This is why public reaction has been heated. It is not so much that people have to spend more money. It is because people feel short-changed and sold out”.

The NLC stated that what the government claimed to be economic decisions were essentially political ones.

“There is progressive politics, there is progressive economics. As there is elitist politics, there is elitist economics. It all depends on what and who in society government would rather favor. The Jonathan tax represents a new standard in elitism.

“This whole issue boils down to whether government believes the general public is worth a certain level of expenditure.

“However, because the distance between government and the people is far and genuine level of affection is low, government sees no utility in continuing to spend the current level of money on the people. In their mind, the people are not worth the money.

 “Government sees more value in “saving” money than in saving the hard-pressed masses.

“If government thrashed the fuel subsidy based on considerations that it will run out of naira, then it based its decision on a factor that have not been relevant since the time of the Biafran war,” it said.

“If he is expecting a medal for taking this decision, he would certainly be disappointed to receive curses for the people of Nigeria consider this decision not only a slight, but a big betrayal.

“On our part, we are staunchly opposed to this decision and are demanding and immediate withdrawal of this policy.

The implications of this decision are grave for our security and well-being.

“We wonder if President Tinubu gave a thought to why his predecessors in office refused to implement this highly injurious policy decision?

“We also wonder if he also forgot the words he penned down on January 8, 2012, but issued on January 11, 2012.”

While reminding Tinubu of the statement he penned against a similar move by the then Jonathan administration to remove fuel subsidy, the NLC urged him to respect his own postulations and economic theories instead of daring the people which could be a costly gamble.

For their part, the TUC also rejected Tinubu’s declaration that federal government has removed subsidy on petroleum products.

In its reaction to the president’s inaugural speech, the TUC stated: “If by this, he meant increases in pump price and the exploitation of the people by unregulated and exploitative deregulated prices, then it’s a joke taken too far”

In a statement jointly signed by the TUC president, Festus Osifoh and General Secretary, Nuhu Toro, the union said it was taken aback and even horrified, when Tinubu announced the withdrawal of subsidy on petroleum products.

Osifoh said: “While listening to Tinubu’s inaugural address, we were at first encouraged, by his pledge to lead as a servant of the people (and not as a ruler) and to always consult and dialogue, especially on key and knotty national issues.

“But we were subsequently taken aback, even horrified, when he announced the withdrawal of subsidy on petroleum products, if by this, he means increases in pump price and the exploitation of the people by unregulated and exploitative deregulated prices, then it’s a joke taken too far.

“It is not for nothing the Buhari government pushed this to the new administration, but we expect the Tinubu government to be wise on such a sensitive issue and be more explicit in its pronouncement to avoid contradictory interpretation when comparing his written statement, what he said and the provision in 2023 appropriation act.

“We dare say that this is a very delicate issue that touches on the lives, if not very survival, of particularly the working people, hence ought to have been treated with utmost caution, and should have been preceded by robust dialogue and consultation with, the representatives of the working people, including professionals, market people, students and the poor masses”.

The TUC said it expects to wait and allow the matter to resolved through dialogue and consultation.

In addition, it said the Nigerian workers and indeed mases must not be made to suffer the inefficiency of successive governments.

“Accordingly, we hereby demand that President Tinubu should tarry awhile to give room for robust dialogue and consultation and stakeholders engagement, just as he opined in his speech until all issues and questions – and there are a host of them! – to ensure that they are amicably considered and resolved. “Nigerian Workers and indeed mases must not be made to suffer the inefficiency of successive governments.”

The statement said the labour movement was open and ready to dialogue with the Tinubu administration on the fuel subsidy issue, adding that it was in the interest of the people that such a matter is resolved peacefully

“This new administration cannot be seen to be speaking from both sides of its mouth, we urge President Tinubu to be a president with human face.

“Like always, we will stand by the people and their interests. Nigerian workers are hardworking and have remained consistent with productive work regardless of harsh government policies, poor governance and mismanagement of resources that have placed us under difficult living conditions,” it added.

However, Tinubu; the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Mele Kyari, met on Tuesday to strategise on how to engage members of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), to resolve the looming agitation against the phasing out of the petrol subsidy regime, which was among the pronouncements by the president on Monday, reliable Villa sources told THISDAY.

It is not certain how the talks with the two labour unions went or when further talks and expected to hold.

 Deji Elumoye, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Emmanuel Addeh, Emameh Gabriel, Udora Orizu in Abuja, Nume Ekeghe, Peter Uzoho and Kayode Tokede in Lagos

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