19 May 2016, Sweetcrude, Lagos — The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC has given reasons why it opted out of the proposed nationwide strike over the price hike of petroleum products.
TUC said the decision not to participate in the strike is in the interest of the Nigerian people and the survival and growth of the Nigerian oil and gas sector.
Speaking on behave of the TUC, Rivers State chairman of the union, comrade Chika Onuegbu explained that petroleum subsidy programmes started in 1973 which serves as a short-term measure aimed at assisting the citizens to pay some part of the full cost of the imported refined petroleum products, but has now become a huge burden and a haven for corruption.
“And since then, there has been 19 price increases from 1973 to 2016. And in each of the previous 18 times, the government will increase the price from say N6 to N10 and the organised labour will lead a protest.
“After the protest, the government will reduce the price to N8 with palliatives and promise of improving our critical infrastructure. Nigerians will then applaud the labour leaders.
“So Labour leaders became populist but ineffective in resolving the real issues confronting the downstream sector. For some 42 years this has been the circle in Nigeria,” Onuegbu said.
He added that in the process of labour’s negotiations with the government, the nation’s refineries became moribund producing some 25 percent of their installed capacity noting that in the same period, private sector shunned investment in refineries.
“The result is that Nigeria is now forced to depend on imported fuel,” Onuegbu said adding that there was no incentive for private investors to build refineries but an increase in investments on infrastructures for the importation of refined petroleum products such as tank farms, fuel depots and the rest.
As a result, the union leader stated that in those 42 years, effective policies to grow the Nigerian downstream sector were not articulated or pursued by the labour movement.
“Rather the movement continued on the same circle that have destroyed the industry and denied it the much needed private sector participation in building and operation of refineries.
“So it is clear to us that treading this same part again in 2016 is truly NOT in the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians,” Onuegbu said.
The TUC Rivers State Chairman maintained that PENGASSAN and indeed TUC have always insisted on the need for import is driven deregulation noting both unions had also urged the government to adopts policies and business model that will make the nation’s refineries work, encourage private businesses to invest in refineries and grow Nigeria’s local refining capacity such that we will no longer depend on importation.
Unfortunately, Onuegbu said “our voices were drowned by that of the larger labour movement and the need for solidarity.
“A programme that has lasted for 42 years without increasing our local refining Capacity is not a good programme for the country.
“Therefore, if we truly love Nigeria, then we must seek for better alternatives that will grow the local refining capacity and stop the regime of importation and the subsidy with its associated frauds,” he said.