19 September 2011, Sweetcrude, Abuja- Crisis looms in Nigeria as both the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) are poised to boycott planned talks today with the government on the move to deregulate the downstream petroleum market and hike the price of a litre of petrol to N150.
President-General of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Peter Esele, says the union will not be a part of the negotiations while one of the deputies of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC’s) hierarchy, Kiri Mohammed, now deputising for the NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, said yesterday he had rejected the assignment to participate in the talks.
Mohammed, said he had gone to Dutse, Jigawa State, where he works at the pension board. In his absence, the lot falls on either Promise Adewusi or Joe Ajaero who are the other deputy presidents. Mohammed had earlier announced NLC’s scheduled rally in Abuja for Thursday to protest the state-of-the-nation.
Esele alleged that government was broke and that it was searching for ways to get cheap money to finance its projects without first pruning its re-current expenditure.
He said he was requested to attend the meeting, “but we (TUC) will not attend. I also know that government is proposing N150 pump price per litre of petrol. We ask how do you do that? There is no infrastructure in place and the recurrent expenditure is as high as 70 per cent. Even a businessman does not run recurrent expenditure of more than 40 per cent talk less of the government of a country. They are quick to announce salary payment as reason for this jerk up, but I ask how much is paid on salary yearly?”
Maintaining that the government pays only N11 billion on salary yearly with the new minimum wage to its workers, he asked for answer from governmnet on how much it was expending on maintaining ministers, special advisers, senior special advisers, ambassadors, governors, commissioners and National Assembly members yearly.
He alleged that what they call constituency project is a fraud and “yet the government is not interested in plugging all these leakages but interested in removing fuel subsidy. We will resist that unless there is infrastructure for the people.”
Esele stressed that government is not coming to the negotiation table with something new, saying, “they are not coming to the table with any new idea and therefore nothing new to discuss.”
Announcing NLC’s plans for the protest rally in Abuja at the weekend, Mohammed said: “In the midst of mass suffering despite our huge natural resources and income, it is provocative for the government to want to further increase the price of petrol. In fact, this will tantamount to cruel injustice against the Nigerian people.
“The primary motive for this planned price increase is the insatiable greed of some politicians to get more money to squander; they see an increase in fuel prices as easy way to access more of the country’s wealth. There is also the calculation to render the new minimum wage worthless by embarking on a hyper inflation-inducing project like the astronomical increase in the prices of petroleum products.”
Also, governors of the 36 states of Nigeria are poised for another showdown with the Federal Government over the latter’s continued deduction of huge amount of money from the Federation Account for fuel subsidy.
In their renewed opposition to the policy, the governors said at the weekend that it was no longer relevant because ordinary Nigerians meant to be the major beneficiaries of the scheme had been sidelined.
The governors further said that the Federal Government is violating the provisions of the Constitution and an earlier agreement they reached on the matter by persistently deducting money for fuel subsidy from source in the Federation Account.
Niger State Governor Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu, who made his colleagues’ position on the matter public in Osogbo, Osun State at the weekend, said the government was breaching the agreement the parties reached that the deduction be stopped.
Aliyu lamented that the deduction, which the governors challenged in court, still continues despite an out-of-court settlement sought by the federal authorities on the matter.