Nigerian workers have vowed to ferociously resist any move by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to deregulate operations of the downstream sector of the country’s petroleum industry and remove fuel subsidy through the back door.
The workers’ umbrella body, the Nigeria Labour Congress, said on Tuesday that any attempt by government to adjust the fuel price in the country without recourse to the institution legally authorized to do so would be considered unlawful.
The NLC General Secretary, Peter Ozo-Eson, said government officials and some chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress have in the past few weeks made discordant tunes about the future of petroleum products prices and the management of the subsidy scheme in the country.
The NLC said the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, had initially announced that come next year the price of petrol would revert to ₦97 per litre, while fuel subsidy would be phased out.
However, Mr. Ozo-Eson noted that two days later the Minister had denied the report, claiming that what he said was that fuel price would operate within a band of ₦87 and ₦97, which he said did not mean subsidy removal.
“The same minister now says that the price of petrol will now be ₦85 in January, signifying the deregulation of the sector,” Mr. Ozo-Eson said.
“These vacillations and flip flops are, in our view, designed to confuse Nigerians and pave the way for deregulation of petrol prices through the back door.”
He noted that as long as the country continues to depend on imported refined petroleum products, the decision by government to deregulate the petroleum sector and abolish the subsidy scheme would unleash untold hardship on Nigerians.
Noting that the determination of the recommended prices of petroleum products was, by law, the responsibility of the Petroleum Products Prices Regulatory Agency, the NLC said none of these contradictory prices by Mr. Kachikwu was a product of the agency.
PPPRA is the government agency charged with the responsibility of monitoring and regulating the price of petroleum products in the country.
The NLC said despite repeated demands for the reconstitution of the board of PPPRA, the government has refused to do so for over two years, thereby ensuring the agency did not perform its role for the period.
“We call on the government to be guided by the rule of law and constitute and convene the board of PPPRA in accordance with the law without further delay. This will enable the agency to examine and agree a new pricing template based on the realities of today,” the NLC said.
While restating its opposition to any attempt by government to increase the price of fuel or remove subsidy on petrol, the NLC said “any price unilaterally determined and announced by the minister is in violation of the law.”
The labour movement said it has already directed State Councils and Industrial Unions to commence the process of mobilization prior to a meeting of the National Executive Committee to be convened in the New Year to respond to ensure appropriate response to government’s action on the issues.