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Subsidy Withdrawal Could Trigger Industrial Crisis in 2022, NLC Warns

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday warned the federal government to desist from actions that could precipitate a crippling industrial crisis in 2022. President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who gave the advice in Abuja, insisted that organised labour remained opposed to the plan by the government to withdraw fuel subsidy.

Wabba spoke during an interview with journalists on the side-lines of the 48th National Executive Council meeting of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN). He warned political leaders not to neglect governance in preparation for the 2023 general elections

The NLC president called on Nigerians to be ready to fully mobilise and vehemently reject the federal government’s unfriendly policies, if implemented in 2022 as being proposed.

He stated, “NLC has remained very consistent in its position about the issue of what we call subsidy. The position of NLC is that Nigeria has no reason to continue to import refined products for domestic use, particularly PMS, because we have also found out that we are the only member country of OPEC doing that.

“It’s an imposed policy on Nigeria, and our leaders must find a way and means to actually get us out of that imposition. We have made this point very clear that because of the devalued value of our currency, it then means that the policy of importation will continue to have a negative impact on consumers.

“We have seen that with kerosene, we have seen that also with diesel, which our government has claimed that they’ve fully deregulated, but the price has never been at the reach of ordinary Nigerians. Even the cooking gas, people are now using firewood.

“So, the position of NLC remains very consistent that we’ll be against any policy of removing subsidies in the name of deregulation if it is based on importation. And we’ve said so that we export our jobs, and yet our refineries remain under lock and key. It’s a patriotic position that many Nigerians have supported.”

Wabba described the continued importation of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol, by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as “forced policy” on Nigeria,

He said the congress was also urging the Federal Ministry of Health to ensure that the amount agreed on the consolidated health salary structure was captured in the 2022 budget to avoid another round of industrial action in the health sector next year.

Wabba disclosed that the labour movement would meet today to review many pronouncements made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the federal government through the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, on fuel subsidy. He warned the government not to transfer its inefficiency to the Nigerian people by inflicting more pain on the masses in 2022, saying N5,000 palliative policy is not sustainable.

According to him, “That remains the official position of NLC. But we are going to meet tomorrow and next tomorrow at the level of the National Executive Council (NEC) to also review some of the pronouncements that have been made by the IMF, World Bank and, even by the Nigeria government through the Minister of Finance.

“There will be an official position of the NLC National Executive Council, which is composed of all our state councils, presidents and general secretaries of our 49 affiliates.

“There will be an official statement and actions that will be lined up to try to do proper engagement in order to make sure that they don’t impose this policy on Nigerians.

“Today, the cost of goods and services has gone very spiral. Not many families can have more than one meal on their table per day.”

He said “increasing the price of this important commodity, which will affect the life of every family,” would carry adverse consequences.

Wabba added, “It’s not only the 40 million we’re talking about because, whether you like it or not, directly or indirectly, every Nigerian will feel the impact. It’s either you have a car or you use commercial transport or you use a small generator, which we call ‘I pass my neighbour’ or you use a small grinding machine.

“There are many factors that have not been considered. As I speak, in 49 countries around the world, energy is still subsidised. So, our own is about making the process transparent, which shall be part of the programme.

“So, instead of making the process very transparent, the policy of the government is about transferring the inefficiency to the Nigerian people, and to continue to pay for the inefficiency, which I think is not correct.

“It’s still a misery that despite the fact that diesel and kerosene have been deregulated, the price has never come down, even when the price of crude oil at the international market was almost at zero dollar, the price never came back, Nigerians must realise that.

“Market forces are actually for profit and, therefore, it is not for serving the people. We must realise all of these. Also, in the context of argument, we must try to compare apples with apples because I saw some of the comparisons, where we are comparing Nigeria with many countries, without looking at what GDP is.

“Per capita income of many of those people we’re comparing with, where subsidy has been removed, they have many means of transportation and the impact could not be felt. But in the context of Nigeria, whether you like it or not, the impact will be felt by every family.”

On his part, National President of MHWUN, Comrade Biobelemoye Josiah, said it was counterproductive for the federal government to consider privatising some public health facilities, noting that the union would use every available means to resist the move.

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Copyright 2021 SIGNAL. Permission to use portions of this article is granted provided appropriate credits are given to  www.signalng.com and other relevant sources.

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