News - Oil & Gas - January 25, 2022

Fuel subsidy: Labour reciprocates govt. gesture; suspends plans for Thursday’s nationwide strike

By Bassey Udo

The Federal Government may have recorded a major victory in its quest to avert a national industrial crisis over its now suspended plan to remove fuel subsidy, as the Nigeria Labour Congress has announced the suspension of its nationwide protests.

The protest earlier scheduled for Thursday, January 27 and February 2 simultaneously in all states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, was suspended on Tuesday.

The announcement suspending the planned protest was made at the end of the emergency congress of the Nigeria Labour Congress held virtually on Tuesday to deliberate on the decisions by its National Executive Council.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said the decision to suspend the protests was informed by the decision by the Federal Government to suspend the proposed removal of fuel subsidy from the pricinhg template of petroleum products in the country by the end of June.

During the presentation of the details of the 2022 Budget, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said in line with the provisions of the recently enacted Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) all petroleum products in the country, including petrol, should be fully deregulated.

By implication, the Minister said petrol would no more enjoy the luxury of subsidy usually paid by the government, but be subjected to the interplay of the fundamentals of the Petroleum products market place.

Subsidy is the price differential between the landing cost of petrol and the official retail price fixed by the government at the filling stations, to save consumers the burden of paying above a certain retail price threshold.

Although the NLC had stepped up its efforts to mobilised and sensitise workers and Nigerians in the run up to the planned nationwide strike, Wabba said the decision to demobilise was to reciprocate government’s gesture to reverse its plan to remove fuel subsidy by June ending.

Prior to the Congress, Labour had insisted on going ahead with the mobilization of its members and Nigerians towards the strike regardless of the the announcement by the government.

However, the NLC President said the decision by the Congress to shave plans towards the protests “followed the reversal and reapproach by government.”

“At the peak of very rigorous mobilization of Nigerians by the Nigeria Labour Congress and a host of her civil society allies, the government through the Minister of Finance (Budget and National Planning) on Monday, January 24, 2022, made a public announcement suspending the plans to increase petrol pump price.

“The position of the government was also officially communicated to the Congress with calls for further engagement. Following the reversal and reapproach by the government, the National Executive Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress met this morning virtually to consider the new position of the government.

“The NEC after vigorous debates took a decision to suspend the planned nationwide protest scheduled for January 27, 2022, and the national protest scheduled for February 2, 2022,” Wabba said.

He said Labour has already communicated its decision to its civil society allies who have continued to support Nigerian workers in their determination to achieve social and economic justice and equity.

Labour insists the attendant effect of the proposed removal of petrol subsidy would have pushed the retail pump price of petrol to an average of N320 and N340 per litre.

Such astronomical rise in price from the current average of N162 and N165 per litre would have exacerbated the inflation in the country, deepen poverty, heighten social tensions and push the country and millions of poor citizens to the very precipice.

Consequently, the NLC said going forward Labour would continue to engage with the government on the very critical issues of ensuring local refining of petroleum, creation of sustainable jobs and affordable price of petrol for Nigerian workers and people.

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