The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has accused the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration of President Muhammadu Buhari of playing puppet to forces of fuel subsidy and deregulation.
The NLC in its New Year message to its teeming members and Nigerians said 2015 witnessed a year where President Buhari shifted ground from his campaign promises and has now become a captive of forces of fuel subsidy removal and deregulation.
According to the body, President Buhari’s earlier assurance that there was no rationale for subsidy removal has now been over taken by discordant tunes with the president now in full support of tinkering with the removal of subsidy.
The congress said: “According to Buhari: ‘What I understand that Nigeria should charge Nigerians is the cost of one barrel at the wellhead and then the cost of transportation to the refinery, the cost of refining it and its cost at the pump. If anybody says he is subsidizing anything, he is a fraud. So all these people talking about subsidy, who is subsidising who?’
”During his maiden visit to the United States shortly after his inauguration as president, while addressing Nigerians in diaspora, President Buhari had emphatically explained in detail: ‘When people ask you to remove subsidy, ask them to define it. Who is subsidising whom? Let me make it clear. These people are gleefully saying, “remove subsidy”… they want petrol to cost N500 per litre.
If you are working and subsidy is removed, you can’t control transport, you can’t control market women, the cost of food, the cost of transportation…if you are earning N20,000 per day and living in Lagos or Ibadan, the cost of transportation to work and back, the cost of food.
”You cannot control the market women. They have to pay what transporters charge them. But I’m thinking more than half of the population of Nigeria virtually cannot afford to live… where will they get the money to go (to) work? How can they feed their families? How can they pay rent?”
“the issues the president highlighted above have been at the core of the struggles by organised labour on the economic logic of the removal of subsidy and deregulation for over three decades.
In the process, our members have been killed, maimed and imprisoned. In 2009, the National Executive Council (NEC) of NLC inaugurated a committee of ten to do a detailed dialogue with government and other stakeholders on deregulation of petroleum downstream sector.
“The committee’s report entitled: Report of NLC Committee on Deregulation, which is still available; provides detailed arguments that supported the assertions of the president above. While we would naturally have been happy to refer all those clamouring for more taxes on the poor masses of Nigeria to listen to the president patriotic counsel; we have however become very disturbed that he may have become converted by the ideologues of market forces in the oil industry symbolised by the boldness of Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu.
”In his contradictory statements in the last few weeks – first making a categorical statement about fuel prices moving to N97 per litre and then retreating to hide behind IMF catch phrase of ‘price modulation,’ which we know is an “updated IMF strategy” of imposing fuel price deregulation on the Nigerian people, it has become clear that the president has, like his predecessors in office, become another captive of the forces of subsidy removal and deregulation.”
On the economic front, the NLC said: “The year 2015 was a particularly trying one for Nigerian workers and Nigerians as a whole. The combination of falling crude oil price, our main source of foreign exchange, compounded by the legacy of massive corruption and maladministration by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration at the federal level, and at the state levels by state governors across political parties, had combined to further incapacitate workers and the masses.
”The governors had so recklessly plundered state resources that by the May 29, 2015 handover date; a number of them could not perform the ceremonial handing over, a number of them left unpaid workers’ salaries ranging from three to nine months. Our economic crisis was further deepened with the free fall of the naira, which has lost over 30per cent of its value since the price of crude oil began to crumble.
Against the above adverse economic situation, rather than being creative about how to revive the economy, our political leaders (the political and economic elite) have sought to find scapegoats for their mismanagement of the economy and lack of foresight in Nigerian workers and the downtrodden masses of our people.
The working people and the rest of the poor mass are entering the New Year against the backdrop of these uncertainties and other challenges. Given the massive support Nigerians gave President Buhari as a symbol and icon of change, they expectedly harbour tremendous expectations that his government will deliver on a number of areas and provide succour that has for decades eluded them. For the NLC as a vanguard organisation of the Nigerian working class, we wish to use the occasion of the New Year to highlight a few of these expectations and indeed our fears.”