14 May 2016, Sweetcrude, Lagos — Trade Union Congress of Nigeria has insisted that the recent hike in Premium Motor Spirit, PMS also known, as petrol by Federal Government is not deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry but simply liberalisation.
TUC River State Council chairman, comrade Hyginus Chika Onuegbu said what government has done in his opinion is to stop the payment of fuel subsidy while opening the market for anybody who has the capacity to source for forex and import refined petroleum products, to do so.
“Government is still fixing prices, and so this is at best liberalisation. This is not deregulation,Onuegbu insisted in a statement.
He continued: “Why is the government not deregulating the downstream sector? Why is government still fixing the price of petrol using the PPPRA template? By so doing, the government simply pushed the responsibility to pay for many of the unacceptable items in the PPPRA template to the consumers,” Onuegbu said.
The TUC Rivers State council chairman explained that many of the items on the template will not be accepted in a truly competitive market noting that government ought to have put in place a legal framework for the deregulation which will include mechanisms for consumer protection and anti-trust legislation.
“And let us be frank, why should we still be paying for bridging charges? What should be the role of Petroleum Equalisation Fund under a deregulated market?
“Obviously PEFMB has no role and the staff should be transferred to the Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Commission proposed in the Petroleum Industry Governance & Institutional Framework Bill 2015.
“What is the road map from fuel importation to the refining of our requirement in-country and ultimately exporting petroleum products? How will the current policy affect the exchange rate, inflation and general condition of living? What are the advantages and the disadvantages of the policy. Merely shouting market forces will do this and market forces will do that is not enough.
“Market forces also fail! The fact is that there are many questions begging for answers and it is important that we the people engage the government to get things right,” Onuegbu said
He explained that his experience with government and corporate policies changes is that the government officials and corporate leaders usually paint a very excellent picture of such change programmes but noted that when the change programme fail, it is the ordinary people and workers that pay the hefty price.
He, therefore, stated that now is the time to engage the government and proffer workable solutions.
Onuegbu added that he expect the national leadership of NLC and TUC to organized some kind of workshop or symposium where petroleum industry and energy economists and similar experts will be invited from within and outside the country to x-ray the new policy and help the labour movement co-create workable win-win solutions to the challenges in the Nigerian downstream sector.
Without its own policy recommendations,Onuegbu insisted that labour movement will not make any meaningful impact in any engagement with the government adding that the interest of the workers and the ordinary people cannot be protected effectively without taking an informed position based on the current economic and global realities.
“This is the age of knowledge and it is knowledge that drives any successful economy,” Onuegbu said.