The Nigeria Labour Congress has berated the Federal Government over its plan remove fuel subsidy next year and instead pay 40 million poorest Nigerians N5,000 monthly transport grant.
The NLC described as “comical” the offer by the government to pay Nigerians N5,000 as palliative to cushion the effects of astronomical increase in the price of petrol.
NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, in a statement on Thursday, said that the total amount involved in what he called “queer initiative” was far more than the money government claimed to spend currently on fuel subsidy.
The Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Malam Mele Kyari, had on Monday disclosed that petrol could cost as much as N340 from February 2022.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, also disclosed that the N5,000 monthly transportation grant is to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal on poor Nigerians.
But Labour kicked against the palliative. It also rejected the planned increase in the price of fuel.
Wabba said: “We wish to warn that the bait by government to pay 40 million Nigerians N5,000 as palliative to cushion the effect of astronomical increase in the price of petrol is comical, to say the least.
“The total amount involved in this queer initiative is far more than the money government claims to spend currently on fuel subsidy.
“Apart from our concerns on the transparency of the disbursement given previous experiences with such schemes, we are wondering if government is not trying to rob Nigerians to pay Nigerians? Why pay me N5,000 and then subject me to perpetual suffering?
“Clearly, government thoughts on the so-called removal of fuel subsidy is cloudy and appears to be a “penny wise-pound foolish” gamble. It is clear that the palliative offered by government will not cure the cancer that will befall the mass of our people who suffer the double jeopardy of hype-inflation while their salaries remain fixed.”
While rejecting both fuel price increase and the transportation grant, NLC called on the Federal Government to consider various options that can help Nigeria navigate out of the quagmire constructed by the failure of successive governments to embrace developmental governance and accountable leadership. NLC suggested that the government should insulate the domestic consumers from the market pressure brought about by the free fall of the Naira by making arrangement with contiguous refineries not far from Nigeria to swap crude oil with refined petroleum products.
It recommended an accelerate work on the rehabilitation of Nigeria’s four major refineries which are all currently operating at near zero installed capacity; and that the government should establish empirical data on the quantity of refined petroleum products consumed daily by Nigerians.
“It is unfortunate that this record remains a myth and a huge crater for all manner of official sleaze and leakages in the downstream petroleum sub-sector of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry,” Wabba said.
But Wabba called on the Federal Government to consider options to help the country embrace developmental governance and accountable leadership.
“The NNPC GMD said that the price increase would be consequent on the plans by the Federal Government to remove subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, also commonly referred to as petrol or fuel.
“The grand optimism of the NNPC GMD was predicated on the claims that the removal of fuel subsidy is now backed by an act of parliament probably the Petroleum Industry Act which was recently signed into law,” he said.
Wabba noted that the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, re-echoed same on Tuesday at the launch of the World Bank’s Nigeria Development Update (NDU).
He added that the minister announced government’s plans to disburse N5,000 to 40 million poorest Nigerians each as transport grant to cushion the effect of the planned removal of the fuel subsidy.
Wabba said the disclosures by NNPC GMD and the Minister were in symphony with the positions of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which urged the Federal Government to do away with fuel subsidy.
“The response of the NLC is that what we are hearing is the conversation of the Federal Government with neo-liberal international monetary institutions.
“The conversation between the government and the people of Nigeria, especially workers under the auspices of the trade union movement on the matter of fuel subsidy was adjourned sine die so many months ago.
“Given the nationwide panic that has trailed the disclosure of the monologue within the corridors of government and foreign interests, the NLC wishes to maintain its rejection of deregulation based on import-driven model.
“We wish to reiterate our persuasion that the only benefit of deregulation based on import-driven model is that Nigerian consumers will infinitely continue to pay high prices for refined petroleum products.
“This situation will definitely be compounded by the astronomical devaluation of the naira which currently goes for N560 to one US dollar in the parallel market,” he said.
The NLC president said that any attempt to compare the price of petrol in Nigeria to other countries would be set on a faulty premise as it would be akin to comparing apples and mangoes.
Wabba said the contemplation by the government to increase the price of petrol by more than 200 per cent was a perfect recipe for an aggravated pile of hyper-inflation and astronomical increase in the price of goods and services.
According to him, this will open a wide door to social consequences such as degeneration of the current insecurity crises.