Amid the continued fall of global crude oil prices, the Trade Union Congress, TUC, of Nigeria has asked the federal government to take advantage of the window to reduce the retail price of petroleum products in the country.
The price of crude oil, which has shed close to about 40 per cent from its pre-July level of over $80 per barrel, dropped to about $51.91 per barrel on Friday, January 2, 2015, compared with $52 on Wednesday
According to TUC, the best time to review the retail pump price of premium motor spirit, PMS, popularly called petrol at the filling stations across the country was now, in line with the argument put forward by government in 2012 when the price was adjusted from N70 per litre to the current N97.
On December 17, 2014, during the presentation of the analysis of the 2015 budget details, Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had said that the federal government was already awaiting the revised pricing template from the Petroleum and Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA to guide the appropriate decision on the issue.
According to the minister, the government was careful to avoid taking a decision to adjust the pump price now that the price of crude oil was yet to stabilise, only to be compelled to review it again soon after.
The congress said apart from reducing the fuel price, the government must do something about the salaries of workers, as the falling crude oil prices have also negatively impacted on the value of the take home pay of the average worker in the country.
However, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala had also argued during the same event that rather than ask for salary increment for workers at this time, the labour unions should be agitating for a pay reduction.
The pointed at available statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, which she said showed that recent inflationary trend was heading downwards, from 8.2 per cent in November to 8.1 per cent in December 2014.
But, the TUC warned in a statement on Sunday by its President, Bobboi Kaigama, and the Secretary General, Musa Lawal, that workers would soon commence the agitation for increased wages to enable them cope with economic pressures posed by declining oil prices.
The congress reminded government that since its decision to adjust upwards the price of petrol in 2012 was hinged on the argument of rising crude oil prices at the time, it should not be difficult to reverse the decision now that crude oil prices were falling.
TUC therefore urged the government to direct the appropriate agencies responsible for monitoring and regulating prices of petroleum products to immediately adjust the pump prices to ameliorate the suffering of Nigerians.
“Following the recent devaluation of the Naira, we are going to ask for wage increase to cushion its effect on workers’ plight,” the Congress said.
It however cautioned the government against mass retrenchment of workers as a result of the decline in government revenue with falling oil prices.
TUC criticised governments at all levels for failing to prepare for the rainy days and opting to take the easy way out by depleting the savings in excess crude revenue accounts.
The group said the labour movement and other well-meaning Nigerians have, on several occasions, asked government to careful utilise the excess revenue by diversifying the economy.
Unfortunately, it said the politicians rejected the advice and opted to share the savings in monthly allocations, pointing out that this was not part of the social contract with the people.
Criticising the government its decision to devalue the Naira, TUC described the decision as hasty, saying this has brought untold hardship to the real and other sectors of the economy.
“Congress will not tolerate cases of job losses arising from government’s insensitivity. The unemployment figures remain high; unimaginable crime rates, poverty, epileptic energy sector and inexplicable high tariff have become our lot,” said.
“It has become pertinent to warn against such moves now to avoid worsening the spate of insecurity in the country today, which was occasioned by the gross mismanagement of the economy,” the group added.