By Bassey Udo
The support of organised Labour to the presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 presidential elections, Peter Obi, does not contradict its well-known opposition to the removal of subsidy on petroleum products in the country, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has clarified.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, gave the clarification on Saturday in Abuja in reaction to the statement by the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, who is also the spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign council accusing Labour of abandoning the cause.
In a statement on Saturday, Keyamo challenged the NLC to clear itself of the allegation that its support for the candidacy of Obi in the 2023 presidential elections has not compromised its open declaration of strong opposition to the removal of fuel subsidy, if elected.
Recalling organised Labour’s pledge at the national retreat of the Labour Party held two weeks ago in Abuja to mobilise its members across the 774 local government areas in the country to ensure victory for Obi in the 2023 presidential election, Keyamo said this was a contradiction to the candidate’s resolve to remove fuel subsidy if elected President.
He therefore asked the NLC leadership to reconcile its opposition with the declaration by the Buhari administration at inception to remove fuel subsidy from pricing template for premium motor spirit (PMS) with Labour’s open support for Obi who has vowed to take the same decision under his government come 2023.
“We note that the leadership of the organized labour under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Monday, September 13, 2022, at a national retreat of the Labour Party in Abuja, promised to mobilise its members across the 774 local government areas in Nigeria to ensure victory for Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, in next year’s presidential election.
“We also note that in several interviews he granted in the last few months and weeks, Mr. Peter Obi has vowed to totally remove subsidy on petrol if elected President.
“We also note NLC’s long-standing opposition to total removal of fuel subsidy. Other left-leaning supporters of the Labour Party were also present at the event to cheer Mr. Peter Obi.
“Consequently, the following questions are urgently begging for answers by the leadership of the NLC:
“Before adopting Mr. Peter Obi as its candidate, did the leadership of the NLC have a discussion with him on the issue of removal of fuel subsidy?
“If they did have that discussion, did Mr. Peter Obi agree to back down on the issue of subsidy removal? Was that a basis for supporting him? If he did not back down on the issue, did organised Labour agree with him?
“If no such discussion held, does it mean the leadership of the NLC now fully supports the removal of fuel subsidy? Or will that not be reckless of the NLC to adopt a candidate without thoroughly interrogating the candidate on his policies as they affect the Nigerian workers or the masses? The NLC must make a public statement and come clean on this.
“If the excuse is that Mr. Peter Obi has said that the money saved will be used in other critical areas of the economy, how is that different from what the Buhari’s Government is also saying?
“These questions have become necessary because Nigerians deserve to know whether organised Labour’s adopted party, which is the Labour Party, supports and promotes a policy that the leadership of Labour opposes in another breath when it is adopted by the government of the day. They cannot be blowing hot and cold,” Keyamo said in his statement.
Responding to Keyamo’s statement, the NLC in a statement signed by its President, Ayuba Wabba, clarified that Labour was not only maintaining its opposition to the removal of subsidy on petroleum subsidy, but has indeed also amplified same in its worker’s Charter of Demands incorporated into the Manifesto of the Labour Party.
Wabba, in the a statement titled, the Position of Nigeria Labour Congress on Petrol Subsidies Has Not Changed… It Only Got Amplified!” said Nigerian workers, through a number of painstaking processes articulated a Nigerian Workers’ Charter of Demands the NLC and its affiliate, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) are using to engage the political process.
Wabba explained that a major focus in the Workers Charter of Demands dwelled on the administration and management of petroleum resources to benefit the people.
“A major demand in the Nigerian Workers Charter of Demands is that our local public refineries must work. We have also demanded that we must stop 100% importation of refined petroleum products. The NLC and indeed the Labour movement in Nigeria has over many decades been vehemently consistent that the only way to address the issue of the so-called petrol subsidies is to get our refineries to work. The logic is very simple: it is atrocious to buy from abroad at very expensive prices a product that a country like ours can easily produce at home.
“At the heart of our demand on the management of Nigeria’s mineral resources, especially our downstream petroleum sub-sector, is the issue of the Production Economy. We believe that the rescue of Nigeria from the current ruinous path of Consumption Economy to Production Economy is the only way to resolve Nigeria’s economic nightmares of massive depletion of scarce foreign exchange reserve; continuous devaluation of the Naira; significant jobs haemorrhage and destruction, deepening of poverty and downturn in the living standards of our people,” Wabba stated.
He said in the effort to propagate the positions in the Workers Charter of Demands, the NLC and TUC were hosted at its retreat last week in Abuja, when the Charter of Demands was adopted and mainstreamed into Labour Party’s manifesto.
The NLC President said the decision was a determined effort to popularise the NLC and TUC positions in the Nigerian Workers Charter of Demands was at the behest of the Labour Party, and which hosted the National Retreat of the leadership cadres in Labour movement on September 12 – 13, 2022.
At the retreat, Wabba said the Labour Party and Organized Labour in Nigeria adopted and mainstreamed the Workers Charter of Demands into the Manifesto of the Labour Party in line with its persuasion that issue-based campaign anchored on the manifesto of political parties should drive Nigeria’s political process.
He cautioned any political party with any agenda of selling the country’s refineries to defend it before Nigerians in the course of electioneering.
“If any political party goes around saying that they plan to sell our refineries, remove subsidies, and further oppress long-suffering Nigerians, they should be ready to defend such stance to Nigerians at the campaigns. The NLC, Organized Labour, and Labour Party position has not changed. It only got amplified!” Wabba insisted.
Although he commended Keyamo for raising the issue, he said this was in line with NLC’s earlier admonition on politicians to engage in the contest of ideas and issues during the campaign.
“We believe that an issues-based campaign will help sift the facts from fiction, address burning national issues, review the performance of those in government at all levels, especially on the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals, improve Nigeria’s public accountability frameworks, prepare voters behaviour on election day away from the destructive lines of ethno-religious divide and defuse the looming political tension,” he said.