12 January 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA –THE Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives, Wednesday, expressed their resolve to end the current nationwide strike by organised labour against removal of fuel subsidy by government within 24 hours, following positive responses from both parties after series of meetings held in the past 72 hours.
Senate President, David Mark had called two separate meetings on Monday and Tuesday nights at his Apo residence to settle the impasse between Labour and the Federal Government.
The meetings which were attended by the leadership of organised labour led by President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar and his counterpart from the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele was however deadlocked as the Senate could not convince labour to call off the strike.
It was gathered that the Senate had proposed a middle point where federal government and labour will meet by way of a new price regime for petroleum products instead of the complete removal of fuel subsidy.
Sources said that it was suggested to government to peg the price of petrol at N90 or N100 per litre.
It will be recalled that Senator Mark had given assurance that the impasse between labour and the government on the removal of fuel subsidy will soon come to end.
The House of Representatives on its part was confident an agreement would be reached between labour and government within 24 hours.
Briefing newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday, the chairman of the House Committee on Labour, Pastor Essien Ekpenyong Ayi said this was based on positive responses from the representatives of the organised labour and those of the Federal Government at the ongoing negotiation with the two parties on the issue.
According to the Chairman, “we are making progress, and I sincerely believe that in the next 24 hours or so, the effort of the House to resolve this matter shall be achieved”.
He said that during the interface, labour insisted that certain conditions must be met before the federal government could go ahead with the deregulation policy and lamented that none of the conditions such as fixing the nation’s refineries, fixing of roads, power supply and functional transportation among others, has been met before it went ahead with the policy.
Ayi however said that hope was not lost as both parties have seen reasons why the matter should be resolved amicably before further damage was done to the nation’s economy.
He said: “Today (yesterday) is the third day of the ongoing strike and you will agree with me that government has lost a lot of resources running into billions of naira as a result of the ongoing strike. I am made to understand that Nigeria has lost as much as N158.9 billion on daily basis from the ongoing strike.
“What is accrued to the federal government from her own share of the deregulation for 2012 is about N500billion from the N1.3trillion and if the strike is sustained for about five days, the government shall lose more”.
Govt can’t fight oil cabal with tied hands – Alison-Madueke
Meanwhile, Petroleum Minister, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, Wednesday, gave reasons why the government would not revert fuel price to N65 per litre as being demanded by protesting Nigerians led by labour since last Monday.
According to her, retaining fuel subsidy would entrench the nauseating graft in the downstream sector of the oil industry, mortgage the country’s future and make it almost impossible for the government to check the corrupt activities of some oil marketers, who are reaping bountifully from oil subsidy to the detriment of most Nigerians and the economy.
The Minister, who spoke on an NTA programme, said her experience as Petroleum Minister in the last 16 months showed that fuel subsidy was the main cause of corruption in the downstream sector of the oil industry.
“People want us to fight the oil cabal and yet they don’t want us to remove subsidy, which is the main cause of corruption in the sector. We can’t fight corruption in the downstream sector with our hands tied,” she said.
Besides, Alison-Madueke urged Nigerians not to be unnecessarily hard on patriotic Nigerians, who played key roles in ensuring steady fuel supply in the county as oil marketers. “There are innocent marketers doing genuine business to keep Nigeria wet. We must not mix them with the corrupt ones. We shall go after the corrupt ones,” she said.
Lamenting that countries around Nigeria sell fuel at a gross higher rate even with the N141 per litre price, she said it was not possible to ensure zero smuggling of fuel at the borders, which, according her, even the United States of America had not been able to achieve.
According to her, fuel price in some neighbouring African countries in Naira are as follows: Chad, N210; Ghana, N175; Niger, N181; Benin Republic, N167 and Morocco, N198.
Urging Nigerians and organised labour to accept the deregulation policy in the interest of the country, the Minister said government wanted to leave a lasting legacy for the country and would embark on reforms to ensure a brighter Nigeria.
“We have only one country, one Nigeria. We want to leave a legacy for us to be remembered for in future. We want to ensure that we can look back after the next three years and say we managed well the temporary pains that came with the removal of fuel subsidy,” she said.