The National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) said on Saturday it would stand strongly in support of the federal government’s resolve to fully deregulate the downstream sector of the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
The declaration of support by the aircraft pilots and engineers came barely few hours after the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC; Trade Union Congress, TUC and their affiliates and allies in the civil society issued a 96-hour ultimatum to government to rescind the decision or face the wrath of their members.
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, told reporters in Abuja that the policy, which resulted in the hike in petrol price from N86.50 per litre to N145, was rejected because it was “unrealistic, unaffordable, and unacceptable.”
But, NAAPE, in a contrasting opinion, described the deregulation policy as a step in the right direction, pointing out that although it was long overdue, it was better late than never.
National President, Isaac Balami, who commended the government for the bold decision, said the subsidy scheme was extremely fraud-prone, adding that trying to reform the process was like “attempting to reform Satan (devil) – an impossibility task”.
“Our advice to the government is to use the money that will be saved to put in place infrastructures that will create jobs for Nigerians; ensuring that our refineries are working optimally, and encouraging local production to ameliorate the temporary hardship the citizen are going through,” Mr. Balami said.
He said the operators in the aviation industry, government must begin the refining of the aviation fuel, popularly called Jet A1 from the Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries, to help reduce the costs of operation and flight tickets, since fuel alone constituted about 30 to 40 per cent of operational cost.
Mr. Balami said government should also look into the issue of establishing a national carrier as promised or strengthen the local domestic carriers as soon as possible, as the industry was currently at a standstill.
“We need more jobs to be created for our pilots and engineers, while reiterating our unalloyed support for this novel and bold decision the Federal Government has taken to secure the future of Nigeria,” the NAAPE said.
Despite the threat by the NLC to call workers out on strike if the federal government fail to accede to their demands, the NAAPE president said the association would not allow pilots and aircraft engineers to join in any strike.
“As far as we are concern, Nigerians should go ahead with their travel plans. The truth is that the industry itself is already being affected by the current challenges in the country and any move to short down the aviation Sector will lead to a total collapse of the Sector,” Mr. Balami said.
In what appears a division in the rank of labour, the two influential oil workers unions, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, and its counterparts in the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, had on Friday at the end of its emergency National Executive Council meeting in Calabar also opted to support government.
The groups said in a joint communique that they would want the government to intensify consultations with various interest groups to work out ways the proceeds from the removal of fuel subsidy would be utilized to the benefits of the people.
Although the President of PENGASSAN, Francis Johnson, was present at the briefing by the NLC on Saturday, he said the decision of the two oil workers unions to support the government policy was not to suggest they would not abide by whatever final resolution would be arrived at at the end of ongoing consultations.