The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress on Friday in Abuja called for a legislative framework that would facilitate the revival of government-owned refineries.
The unions made the call at the 2015 May Day celebration theme, The Working Class, Democratic Consolidation and Economic Revival: Charting the Way to National Rebirth.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, expressed displeasure that 56 years after commercial oil mining began in Nigeria, the country had not been able to meet its domestic demand of petrol through local refining.
“In our estimation, boosting local refining on a sustainable basis is an option we hold dear,” Mr. Wabba said. “We urge that all the necessary legislation and policy should be put in place to realise this. We believe our refineries can work.
“We believe that rather than sell them as scraps, an enabling environment should be created for government-owned refineries to co-exist and compete with private refineries.
“The information on the non-provision of fuel subsidy in the 2015 national budget is already public knowledge.
“We hope this is not an attempt to plunge the country into unnecessary crisis.”
Mr. Wabba said the position of the labour movement on the need for internal refining of crude oil into various petroleum products was well known.
He noted that as an oil producing country, Nigeria must have functional internal refining capacity in order to meet the nation’s domestic petroleum consumption needs.
The NLC president said the government had a responsibility to ensure that the existing refineries work and that new ones were set up.
Mr. Wabba said modular refineries could be established within 24 months, adding that the turnaround of our refining capacity would eliminate the need for petroleum subsidy and the inherent corruption.
He also noted that in spite of the investment in excess of $40 billion over the past 16 years in the power sector, the only things to show were “megawatts of darkness and gigabytes of excuses”.
According to him, currently, power generation in Nigeria hover around 3,000 megawatts.
“Yet, the 25-billion-dollar Three Gorges Dam in China generate more than 22,000 MW of electricity,” he said. “The excuse of inadequate gas for the power stations is already time worn.”
He said the privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, which was said to be one of Nigeria’s success stories, was predicated on greater efficiency and more jobs for workers.
Mr. Wabba, however, observed that the unbundling of PHCN had led to more darkness and criminal tariffs for consumers as the successor- companies seemed to be more interested in rent-collection than providing basic service.
He said the recent directive by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission allowing Distribution Companies to fix their charges was worrisome.
“To allow monopolies such freedom is to open up consumers to unfettered exploitation,” he said.
“We believe there has to be a verifiable and reasonable framework for electricity pricing. Nigerians are groaning under unjustifiable bills,” he said. “This must stop. We believe regular power supply will certainly unlock the potential in the economy.”
The NLC president appealed to the Federal Government for a waiver in respect of loans to both congresses to run their mass transit programmes.
“Our request is in line with the gestures by previous governments in this direction,” he said. “Moreover, we run these transport services as social services.
“We remain indebted to Mr President Jonathan for his immense contributions to the mass housing and transport programmes from which some of our members have benefitted.
Bobboi Kaigama, the TUC President, urged the government to do the needful and ensure that all existing refineries function at optimum capacity.
Mr. Kaigama also urged the government to explore viable avenues for the establishment of more private sector-driven refineries, to enable Nigerians to benefit maximally from nation’s hydrocarbon resources.