The organised labour in the country has rejected Federal Government’s New year-day decision to hike the pump price of petrol from N65 per litre to N141, as it announces the take-off of its policy withdrawing fuel subsidy.
Government, through the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), on Sunday announced the immediate commencement of deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry with the removal of the controversial subsidy on premium motor spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol.
But the Labour movement, under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), said the decision by government to hike fuel price at the time Nigerians were mourning the death of scores of bomb blast victims as well as grappling with unprecedented insecurity across the country is not only “callous and insensitive”, but intended to “cause anarchy.”
The two labour bodies said in a statement by NLC Acting General Secretary, Owei Lakemfa, and TUC Secretary General, John Kolawole, that Nigerians should brace up to resist the policy, saying their various state councils and unions have already been directed to await the date for a grand nationwide protest.
The unions said, “This New Year “gift” by the Presidency is callous, insensitive and is intended to cause anarchy in the country.
“In the next few days, the leadership of the NLC and TUC will jointly issue directives on the date organized national strikes, street demonstrations and mass protests will commence.”
They pointed out that the decision contradicted government repeated assurances that it was yet to take a decision on removal of fuel subsidy, as it was still consulting with stakeholders, and that if any was being contemplated Nigerians should not expect it earlier than April 1, 2012.
Warning Nigerians that the Federal Government thrives on falsehood, the two labour centres said the decision to remove fuel subsidy and impose new fuel prices when no consensus had been reached is “a clear demonstration that the Jonathan administration cannot be trusted.”
The groups said they were already aware of plans by government to fix the price of petrol for N150 per litre initially, before asking the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to cut down the price at its mega filling stations by a few Naira after protest by Nigerians, ostensibly to show itself as being responsive.
Urging Nigerians to mobilise to defeat whatever government’s schemes are on the issue, it asked pro-people Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and professional organisations to join Labour in rejecting the imposition of petrol prices other than N65 per litre.
“We alert the populace to begin immediate mobilization towards the D-Day for the commencement of the strikes, street demonstrations and mass protests across the country.
“With the decision of the Jonathan administration to create chaos in the country, we Nigerians have the duty and responsibility to restore the country to normalcy and reclaim our birthright.
“This promises to be a long drawn battle. We know its beginning, but we do not know its end, or when it will end. But, we are confident that the Nigerian people will triumph over the cabal in Aso Rock,” it said.
On the role of the National Assembly and state governors, Labour urged them to be on the side of the people, while calling on security agencies to resist the temptation of being used to attack Nigerians for publicly resisting this decision.
Meanwhile, filling stations have already commenced dispensing fuel to commuters at the new pump price.
Though most filling stations visited in Abuja and environs were shut, the ones that opened were selling petrol at N141 per litre.
At the Conoil and Total filling stations directly opposite the NNPC Headquarters in Abuja, long queues of anxious commuters jostle to fill their tanks, though the service pumps were yet to be adjusted from N65.
To buy, the customer would indicate the quantity he wants to buy, while the attendant manually calculates the cost at the rate of N141 per litre.