One of Nigeria’s main labour unions, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has threatened a total shut down of the country’s economy if the federal government does not reverse the recent fuel price and electricity tariff hikes.
TUC had written a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari warning that the government must meet its demands to reverse the increase in the prices within seven days or witness an indefinite industrial action and national protests.
Petrol prices rose from N145 per litre to about N160 per litre across Nigeria with the federal government saying the increase was due to the removal of fuel subsidies and deregulation of the petroleum downstream.
But Musa Lawal, TUC Secretary-General, on Wednesday accused the government of insensitivity for allowing the price to rise at a time when Nigerians are bearing “the heavy burden of the coronavirus pandemic”.
Lawal, while speaking on ARISE NEWS Channel said the strike will continue because “the increase in electricity and petrol prices is coming at a time when governments of the world are helping their citizens to recover from COVID-19.”
“The government increased the minimum wage but has refused to pay, workers were sacked because of COVID-19, the government could not control private employers because they sacked their people and then you increase social services. We are already dead in this country but the government is killing us again,” Lawal said.
Recently, a government delegation led by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva and Minister of Labour and Productivity Dr. Chris Ngige met with labour leaders. The minister said the federal government has not fully deregulated the petroleum sector.
He said if the sector is fully deregulated, it would lead to further increases.
“Why have we kept it at N161? Frankly speaking, let us face it and this is what I will tell you. One of the things that the president considered; he said if you take it to the full scale of deregulation, today, prices should have been around N183 because you all know this,” Sylva said.
The minister said the government’s current intervention was in the purchase of foreign exchange for the importation of petrol. He said importers, mainly the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries, were still buying dollars from the government at about N391 to a dollar contrary to the prevailing market price of about N450.
But the TUC isn’t taking any of it.
“I can assure you, on Wednesday if the government does not reverse those prices on electricity and petrol we are going on strike,” TUC Scribe, Lawal said on ARISE NEWS.
The scribe said the unions are not against deregulation but want the government to put the refineries in order. He said government over the years preferred importation of petrol rather than refining the country’s crude oil in the refineries which will create jobs for more Nigerians.
“For a long time, the Buhari government has enjoyed favour from labour. We have not disturbed it because we believe so much has gone wrong in the past and we want correction, but it as though the more we see the less we understand. Corruption became even larger than it was. Workers have stayed dormant for too long and it is clear that the government does not mean well for Nigerians,” Lawal said.