Labour threatens industrial strike over pump price

Helen Shok Jok. Abuja

Organised labour in Nigeria says it will embark on an indefinite strike beginning Wednesday next week unless government heeds its demands.

This was stated in a joint communiqué in Abuja by the Nigeria Labour Congress-NLC, the Trade Union Congress-TUC and Civil Society Organisations after their emergency meeting.

Addressing the media, President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba said government has until mid night of Tuesday May 17, to revert the pump price of petrol to the old regime as well as the pre-45 percent electricity tariff increase or face a nationwide workers’ action.

Reducing suffering
By this, the government has to meet these two demands by mid night Tuesday, to avoid a nationwide indefinite strike by workers.

In the communiqué, which was signed by the NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba and the TUC President, Mr Bobbio Kaigama, labour said reverting to the old price regime would reduce the suffering of the people.

“We consider this singular act of mindless pump price increase as a betrayal of trust.

“We urge government to revert to the pre-45 percent electricity tariff increase, make meters available to consumers and stop estimated billing.”

The communiqué urged the government to reconstitute the boards of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) without further delay.

It also urged the government to intensify efforts to prosecute all those involved in subsidy scams in the country with a view to recovering what was due the nation and sanctioning all those culpable.

It advised the government to enhance local refining capacity within a specified period instead of  what it called  “endless importation’’ as an enduring solution to the perennial problem of scarcity.

Labour further advised the government to “reverse the entire deregulation and privatisation process, which foists on the nation, private individuals as drivers of the economy in contravention of the constitutional provision that says government shall be the driver of the economy and engage the organised labour in the process of negotiation on key policy issues,” the meeting said.

The communiqué said in parts: “We call on government to uphold the electioneering promises to Nigerians instead of subjecting them to the vagaries of slavish policies such as full devaluation of the Naira and total removal of subsidy.

“In the event government fails to accede to these demands on or before 12 midnight on Tuesday May 17, 2016, NLC, TUC, and their civil society allies resolve to go on strike and commence the following actions with effect from Wednesday, May 18, 2016:

“Mobilise ordinary and helpless Nigerians to whom they owe the duty of protection, to the streets across the country.

“Shut down all banks, sea and airports, government and private offices as well as markets.

“Fight/ resist the machinations and cruelties of the neo-liberal forces in the government as part of the process of saving it from itself and the generality of Nigerians from slavery.’’

The communiqué called on Nigerians to “stock sufficient food items that would last for a while for the prosecution of the strike.”

Meanwhile, Wabba has said that NLC, TUC and their civil society allies are not unaware of the positions taken by the unions in the oil and gas sector who have aligned themselves with the government’s deregulation policy.

He said that a process of engagement would be put in place to ensure the “success of the struggle to protect the overall interest of the Nigerian people’’.

Also speaking with newsmen, Mr Francis Johnson, the President, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, said that the unions in the oil and gas industry were not against deregulation.

According to him, “the unions in the oil and gas sector are not in support of the new pump price of fuel as it will not be regulated across the country”.

He said the unions were rather “against the import-driven deregulation in the country”.

Petroleum Industry Bill
Johnson called for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill into law, saying it would address major issues in the oil and gas sector.

He said that the unions in the oil and gas sector would meet with NLC and TUC to harmonise the differences in the outcome of their positions.

President TUC, Bobboi Kaigama said government would do well to do all in its power to stop the impending strike.

It could be recalled that a similar policy action by the then President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012, had seen Nigerians coming together with one voice to protest with demonstrations across the country which  saw that government rescinding that decision.