*Accuses govt of policy flip-flop
30 December 2015, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Even as the Federal Government announced its approval of new petrol prices to take effect from the new year, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has cautioned the Government not to take Nigerians for granted over plans to remove fuel subsidy, warning that any attempt to tamper with fuel pump price will be met with strong resistance from workers.
NLC’s position was disclosed in a statement by the General Secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, in which he stated that it was ironic that the same party chieftains who supported massive protests when the last administration attempted to deregulate the petroleum sector, could now turn around to rationalise it.
According to him, the flip-flop from the various agencies of government on the fuel situation is meant to hoodwink the people into accepting the subsidy removal.
In order to demonstrate to government that it meant business, the NLC scribe explained that in line with the Central Working Committee, NWC, decision, state councils and other affiliates unions had been placed on red alert.
The statement reads in part: “Party chieftains who supported and encouraged the massive protests against subsidy removal in 2012 are now preaching the inevitability of subsidy removal!
“The Minister of State for Petroleum first announced that come next year, the price of petrol will revert to ₦97 per litre and that subsidy will be phased out. Two days thereafter, he denied this and stated that what he said was that the price will operate within a band of ₦87 to ₦97 and that this did not mean removing the subsidy.
“The same minister now says the price of petrol will now be ₦85 in January signifying the deregulation of the sector. These vacillations and flip flops are, in our view, designed to confuse Nigerians and pave the way for deregulation of petrol prices through the back door.”
He added that, “The fact of the matter is that as long as we continue to depend on imported refined products, deregulation and the abandonment of a subsidy scheme will unleash hardship on Nigerians.
“In any case, according to our laws, the determination of the recommended prices of petroleum products is the responsibility of the Petroleum Products Prices Regulatory Agency, PPPRA.
The NLC scribe pointed out that by law, the board of PPPRA is made up of stakeholders. “None of the contradictory prices the minister is throwing up is a product of the agency.
“Indeed, the board of PPPRA has not operated for over two years, although we have made repeated demands for the convening of the board. We call on the government to be guided by the rule of law and constitute and convene the board of PPPRA in accordance with the law without further delay.
“This will enable the agency to examine and agree a new pricing template based on the realities of today. Any price unilaterally determined and announced by the minister is in violation of the law.
“In the meantime, we wish to restate our opposition, adopted at our Central Working Committee Emergency Meeting of 22nd December, to any attempt by the government to increase the price of or remove subsidy on petrol.
“We reiterate our directive to our State Councils and Industrial Unions to commence the process of mobilisation prior to a meeting of the National Executive Committee to be convened in the New Year.”
Although the Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, Farouk Ahmed, duering his announcement of new petrol prices was silent on whether the government would still subsidise petrol, he noted that the new template would be reviewed quarterly with respect to the price of crude oil in the international market.
He also confirmed Kachikwu’s recent statement that there was no subsidy on petrol under prevailing market trends (the prevailing price of crude oil in the international market).