Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday indicated that it has started mobilising its relevant organs, civil society groups, organisations and professional bodies against plans by the Federal Government to revert the pump price of petrol to N97 from next year.
This followed media reports quoting the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, as saying at the National Assembly that the government might change the price of petrol as well as adopt a strategy of gradual removal of subsidy.
The NLC accused the minister of being an agent of those who were working to undermine the President Muhammadu Buhari administration over his constant insistence on the removal of subsidy on petroleum products.
Its President, Ayuba Wabba, who gave the workers’ position at a symposium to mark the 10th anniversary of Comrade Chuma Ubani’s death, said if Buhari wants to succeed in his programmes, he must be wary of the likes of Kachikwu.
Wabba added that the minister constantly showed his preference for subsidy removal right from when he was appointed the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC) Group Managing Director, even when the President had made it clear that he was yet to be convinced that the ordinary citizen could afford increased prices of petroleum products.
The NLC president said: “At the Senate, the Minister of State on Petroleum Resources talked about ‘gradual removal strategy’, which, he said, would begin with the return to the pump price of N97 per litre from the current N87. Mr. Kachikwu threatened of the possibility of the Buhari government considering total withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
“According to him, ‘the government doesn’t need to fund subsidy. There is energy around the removal of subsidy. Most Nigerians talked to today would say that’s where to go’.
“With the figures being disclosed as the amount our political elite have stolen in the name of security, but which are used to ‘consult’ spiritualists etc, listening to Mr. Kachikwu talk about the so-called most Nigerians that they talked to wanting fuel subsidy to be removed, one can only wonder out loud who these Nigerians that the Kachikwus of this world are talking to.
“These Nigerians certainly won’t be the millions of downtrodden mass of Nigerians who weathered every odd, including threat of violence to vote out the PDP- led government and embraced on March 28, 2015, the change agenda they believed Muhammadu Buhari symbolised.
“The NLC wishes to state without equivocation that Kachikwu represents the same forces that have misled past government on the issue of removal of subsidy and deregulation of the downstream operations of the petroleum industry.
“While the position of congress on these issues clearly remains unchanged, we make bold to however caution President Buhari to be wary of the likes of Kachikwu, whose sweet tongues on the issue of subsidy removal had derailed former Presidents from achieving their lofty goals.
“Now that the Buhari government may have, through Kachikwu, sent the message to Nigerians on the path it wishes to take on the issue of petroleum subsidy, congress will meet its relevant organs, hold consultations with civil society and other organisations and professional bodies and carry out the instruction as we will be mandated.”
Wabba added: “Against the background of the serious national crisis we are currently going through, caused by the mismanagement and recklessness of our political elite since the return of civilian rule in 1999, there is always the temptation to ask whether the struggle for democracy was indeed worth it after all.
“However, I think that no matter the level of our frustration, we should not allow the question to be posed in this way. In modern times, there is hardly any alternative to democracy. What I think we ought to be questioning is the quality of our democracy and what we, labour and civil society actors should be doing to improve the quality of this democracy.
“We should rightly be addressing the question of how the working class and its allies can participate in the struggle for capturing political power so that we are able to project the programmes and the visions of the working class in rebuilding our nation.
“We must renew our determination to enthrone accountability by the political class in our country. We need to ensure that we apply maximum pressure on government so that all the ongoing disclosures of massive pillages and crimes against Nigerian people do not go unpunished.”
Meanwhile, the Federal government Monday alerted Nigerians to prepare ahead for what it termed, more austere conditions in view of the strict economic policies being put in place by the Muhammadu Buhari led administration, just as it vowed to strictly monitor expenditure of all Ministries, Department and Agencies, MDAs to avoid wastes.
The Federal government has also planned to in that 2016 budget, reduce the Personnel cost form N1.8 trillion to N100 billion as part of moves to reduce expenditure and save cost.
According to the government, an excess of N1 trillion was spend on fuel subsidy in the year 2015 which include the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, just as it disclosed that attention would be given to Internally Generated Revenue, IGR to fund the N6 trillion 2016 budget, adding that in 2016, it would remove fuel subsidy, move the price of petrol per liter from N87 to N97.
These were disclosed Monday when the Ministers for Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma; Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun and State for Petroleum Resource; Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu; Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Babatunde Fowler appeared before the joint committee s of the National Assembly on Finance to defend the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, MTEF & FSP documents presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.