The NLC President, Joe Ajaero said the federal government lied in its declaration that there was no appropriation for subsidy beyond May. He insisted that records showed that there was provision for subsidy till the end of June.
Contrary to the federal government’s position that there was no provision in the budget 2023 beyond May 29 for subsidy, the labour leader argued that there was a backlog of about 2 .3 trillion, according to NNPC.
The NLC president also argued that NNPC lacked the constitutional power to fix prices in a competitive market, like Nigeria.
Ajaero stated, “Now if he is saying that there is no appropriation for subsidy, then fine and good. We can take it from there and we have to discuss it. No appropriation for subsidy doesn’t mean that the NNPC, a private limited company, will now determine for us the price.
“If they say they have removed the subsidy and it should be subject to market forces, then it shouldn’t be for the NNPC to determine prices. They don’t have such powers and there is no provision that their board, as a limited liability company, ever met and took such a resolution. Such details are not acceptable to the labour movement.”
Ajaero added, “By Tuesday night, I held a meeting with Mr. President and his team. There and then, the NNPC said they were going to bring out figures and prices. And on the spot, I told them, if you do that, we’ll fight back. There’s no basis for you to take that decision before discussion. And they went ahead and did that.
“We decided to boycott the meeting, but people still prevailed. We attended the meeting and asked them to return to the status quo to enable us to discuss freely. And up till now, they have not done that. So what are we going there to do?”
Ajaero challenged the government to give Nigerians details of the subsidy they had been paying and who and who were paid.
“We had agreed on some alternatives before now. Why are those alternatives not working?” he asked.
Reacting to a question on why labour was not persuaded by various factual arguments put forward by the federal government and the likely impact the newly constructed Dangote refinery would have on the industry, Ajaero said market forces did mean monopoly in a sector.
He said, “How can there be market forces if Dangote is the only person producing? Are we not repeating a private sector monopoly?
“Why is the Port Harcourt refinery not working? Why is the Warri refinery not working? Why is the Kaduna refinery not working? Unless there are other players in the sector, we can’t be talking of market forces. We can’t be talking of competition in the sector. We can’t have a single market participant in the sector and we are talking of market forces.
“It doesn’t go that way. Between now and December, if care is not taken, if it is only Dangote that is producing, a litre of oil will be selling for over N1,000. So the argument doesn’t make sense to us.”
A statement by NLC’s Head of Information and Public Affairs, Mr. Benson Upah, described the insinuation that the congress might have split over the planned nationwide strike on Wednesday “as laughable and desperate attempt by enemies of the people to polarise Nigeria Labour Congress along ethnic or regional lines on an issue with a national spread”.
Upah added, “Happily, this scenario only plays in their imagination, as Nigeria Labour Congress continues to be the biggest pan-Nigerian organisation united by a common vision/mission and shared national values.”
NLC said regarding the looming strike action, “We want to assure that all the affiliate unions of the congress stand together with an unshakeable resolve to prosecute, come Wednesday, except the NNPC and government do the needful.
“Whereas, primordial sentiments, such as religion, region or ethnicity, may be a refuge for some, at the Nigeria Labour Congress, they have no place.
“What counts for us are issues, such as the mindless and criminal increase in the pump price of PMS, whose burden will be borne by the already impoverished communities of the poor across Nigeria.
“The burden of this malevolent policy will not be borne by other segments of the country to the exclusion of the North or South-west. Thus, there is no reason for these regions to back out of the strike.”