Nigeria: Labour says govt losing credibility over fuel, power crisis

*Nigeria Labour Congress.

*Nigeria Labour Congress.

…Declares one-day nationwide warning strike

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

07 April 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, yesterday blasted the Federal Government’s handling of the economy, even as it has resolved to go on a one-day warning strike over the recent increase in electricity tariff and ongoing fuel crisis.

The President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who disclosed this in an address to the opening session of the Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting of the congress in Abuja yesterday, said Nigerians are feeling the harsh realities of the economic crises in the country.

Wabba criticised the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) over purported plans to increase fuel price.

He added that said plans by the government to increase fuel prices even when it has not been able to provide the product adequately was an illegality.

The labour leader noted, “We dare say that one of the fastest ways for government to lose its credibility before the ordinary citizenry is scarcity of petroleum products because the combined effects of scarcity of petroleum products and low power supply create misery for the people as well as have a damning impact on travel, jobs, productivity and the economy as a whole.”

He lamented that the response to the prevailing economic situation by all the tiers of government in the country had been a source of worry for many Nigerians, especially the workers.

Specifically, the NLC president decried the unjustifiable 45 per cent increase in electricity tariff, saying the increase was “illegal, unfair, unjustifiable and a further exploitation of the already exploited Nigerians.”

He said, “While the process is on, the tariff increase has remained, and under a worsening power supply situation. Not a few Nigerians are groaning under this burden. Not a few of them look to the Congress for a solution.”

He pointed out that the due process in the extant laws for such an increment was not followed in consonance with Section 76 of the Power Sector Reform Act, 2005.

According to him, there has not been any significant improvement in service delivery coupled with the fact that most consumers are not metred by the signed Privatisation Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of November 21, 2013 which stipulated that within 18 months gestation period, all consumers are to be metred.

He regretted that despite the national action organised by the Congress in the 36 states of the federation including Abuja, which was adjudged successful, the intervention of the National Assembly and especially the Senate President, who received the protesters at the National Assembly premises in Abuja, the power firms remained adamant.

The NLC leader stressed that the privatisation of the power sector was done in bad faith and it has become obvious that the investors do not have the capacity to improve power generation and supply in the country.

He said the CWC will agree on a day to embark on the strike, because according to him, several actions promised by the Federal Government to checkmate the tariff increment have not been implemented.

On the issue of fuel scarcity, Wabba pointed out that when the first incident occurred under this government, “we put it to sabotage and urged the government to deal decisively with the saboteurs but with an eye to enhanced local production as an enduring solution. When the second incident happened, we similarly reasoned the same way.

“However, with the latest incident of prolonged scarcity and confession by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources that scarcity will persist till May as he is not a magician, regular scarcity might as well be a familiar feature, and we would do well to brace ourselves for long spells, except government does the needful.

“We must, however, make the point that spells of scarcity will not be acceptable to Labour and other Nigerians because the human and economic costs are unimaginable,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the organised labour on Wednesday assessed the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in the last ten months and came to the conclusion that it was losing credibility in the eyes of Nigerians.

This, the organised Labour said, was due to the myriad of challenges confronting the citizenry.
NLC’s leadership, which highlighted the sufferings inflicted on Nigerians as a result of persistent scarcity of petroleum products and arbitrary increase in electricity tariff even in the face of inconsistent payment of salaries of workers, also resolved to stage a one-day nationwide strike to protest the irregularities.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) supported NLC’s position when Bobboi Bala Kaigama, its president, said the country had been stifled economically because of ongoing challenges.

He claimed that thousands of Nigerians might lose their jobs due to the closure of companies in the coming months, adding that the situation might also be compounded by the dearth of U.S. dollars, which has made it impossible for firms to repay foreign loans and import materials for production.

“The food and beverage sector alone in the last few months has lost over 500 employees, the naira currently exchanges for N197 to a dollar at the official window and N320 at the parallel market, and firms that borrowed dollar-denominated loans are facing the risk of foreclosure on assets pledged as collateral and loss of credibility among creditors because of exchange rate fluctuations,” Kaigama said.

Kaigama also decried the lingering fuel scarcity, saying it appears it has defied all solutions: “In a country that is the sixth largest oil producer in the world. We have become a laughing stock in the comity of nations. The man-hours lost in traffic jams due to long fuel queues has become unimaginable. As it stands now virtually all sectors of the economy are groaning in serious and unbearable pain.”

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