The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has began mobilisation ahead of its Thursday nationwide rallies against the proposed fuel subsidy removal by the Nigerian government.
NLC deputy president, Joe Ajaero, explained that letters have been sent to heads of the over 50 affiliates and state councils of the NLC asking them to host strategic meetings today on how to make the rallies successful.
He also said leaders of Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in support of the protests had been briefed on the activities planned for the day.
But the Federal Government last night faulted the planned rallies because it was yet to take a final decision on subsidy.
No action on fuel subsidy
The National Economic Council (NEC) chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had recommended an increase in the pump price of fuel from N162.50 to N302 per litre.
But the Vice President has halted any talks of increasing pump price, instead calling for deliberations on the matter particularly because of the effect on citizens.
The recommendation followed the report of a NEC ad-hoc committee interfacing with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on the appropriate pricing of petroleum products in the country.
Nasarawa State Governor Abdullahi Sule had, after Wednesday’s NEC meeting in Abuja, announced that the Federal Government would stop petroleum products subsidy payments in June 2022.
Sule clarified that governors, who are members of NEC, have no role to play in determining the prices of petroleum products.
He added that with the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) in place, the decision on the new price regime belonged to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited.
In the interview with The Nation, Ajaero explained that the rallies which will have civil servants and others participating were to sensitise Nigerians on the implications of subsidy removal.
“Nothing stops the rally planned for this week; whether they are removing it (subsidy) tomorrow or next year. The thought of it is not acceptable.
“Mobilisation is high in all the states. We need to sensitise Nigerians. We are through synergy meetings with civil society groups. We are going to states to mobilise workers, civil servants and other Nigerians.
“There is a letter to every person; every affiliate because they took a decision at the National Executive Council meeting. Letters have been sent to state councils on the mode of operation.
“Letters have also been sent to all the people that will coordinate each state who are coming from the National Administrative Council.
“Labour has been delegated to go to the field from Monday (today) to start holding consultative and preparatory meetings ahead of the protests.
“Civil society groups would go back to their cells and take decisions on how they want to participate.”
But Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige faulted the rallies, saying the government will not stop it from holding.
He described the rallies as unnecessary given the fact the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which according to him, has the final say on whether or not subsidy should be removed, has yet to decide.
“The government has not come out with its own position….All these beats of war, to me, are not necessary,” he told The Nation last night.
He, however, stressed that the government would not stop the rallies since the NLC leadership has failed to understand explanations on why it should sheathe the sword.
“The government has not come out with its position. What the governors are saying is their decision at the Governors’ Forum and they have tabled it to the National Economic Council (NEC) which is an advisory body on economic matters to Mr President.
“All these beats of war, to me, are not necessary. There is an ongoing discussion of two committees. There is the one headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (Boss Mustapha), which is representing the high level of government. I am there.
“Why don’t they wait till we come to that committee meeting? We have not said that (fuel subsidy ending in June) to them.
“It is not a Federal Executive Council decision. So, you cannot call it a full government position for now.
“What the NLC is doing is precautionary; something that should not have been taking place now. It is coming much earlier than it is when it will be necessary.
“The protest is not necessary because they are going ahead with their rallies based on assumptions of the announcement of the Finance Minister (Zainab Ahmed), according to them.
“We are not stopping them. I have held meetings with them and they said it is their right to hold rallies.
“I have explained to them that the issue of fuel subsidy has no government position on it yet.”
Ngige also said the work of the committees on petroleum and electricity tariffs would continue until the recommendations proposed by the committees are adopted.
Also yesterday, the Minister of State for Petroleum Timipre Sylva, confirmed that the Federal Government has no immediate plan to discontinue the payment of petrol subsidy.
The minister, who appeared on Channels Television, said talks were still ongoing on the matter with critical stakeholders, including Labour and governors.
According to him, there is a consensus on the inevitability of subsidy removal, “but everybody is mindful of its likely impact.”
Sylva assured that government will continue to subsidise petrol in the foreseeable future until the details, including alternative fuel, have been worked out with Labour and other stakeholders.
“We are looking at all the options for the citizens’ benefits,” the minister said.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has listed conditions that the Federal Government should fulfil before removing petroleum products subsidy.
It said the government should first fix the existing refineries, establish new ones, including modular refineries, and ensure effective policing of the nation’ borders to curb smuggling.
These were contained in a communiqué by TUC President, Quadri Olaleye, at the end of the Executive Council meeting of the congress at the weekend.
TUC warned that in the case the Federal Government failed to meet the conditions, its state councils and affiliates should commence mobilisation of their members for industrial action.