The disagreement between the Federal Government and Labour over the planned removal of subsidy on petrol has deepened as Labour insisted on mass action against the policy even as it advised President Goodluck Jonathan to resign from office.
The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, made the call for Jonathan’s resignation against the backdrop of government’s disclosure last week that it was in the process of instituting a body of eminent and trusted Nigerians to manage the funds that would accrue from the removal of the subsidy on petrol. The position was in response to Labour’s opposition to the fuel removal bid.
Labour’s position, made available to Sunday Vanguard, yesterday, is that “once the Jonathan administration has openly admitted that it can not be trusted to effectively manage the funds that would accrue from the proceeds of the subsidy removal, the economy and government should be handed over to the eminent Nigerians”.
NLC acting General Secretary, Owei Lakemfa, who spoke on the position of government to get a body of eminent Nigerians to manage the funds, said “the position of the NLC is that government is not serious.
“If government is telling Nigerians that it cannot be trusted, that it can not effectively administer the funds when they are realized, then it had better hand over the reins of power to those eminent Nigerians.
“The NLC has not even said it is in agreement with such a proposal from government. Government’s position on the eminent Nigerians is premised on the assumption that we have agreed that the subsidy should be removed. I’m sorry, we have not agreed.
“What government is doing is not different from a farmer who is supposed to have the capacity to utilize his farm produce for production of a variety of foodstuffs but willfully sells all his farm produce and then goes to a five-star hotel to pay a five-star price for food and turns around to say the difference is subsidy.
“The first problem of this administration like the ones before it is that it sells 100% of our crude oil leaving nothing for local consumption and then it goes abroad to buy petroleum products at exorbitant prices; it then adds the cost of insurance and freight, adds the cost of discharging the products into smaller vessels as well as the cost of distributing the products to marketers and it calls that subsidy, when in fact if we refine crude oil in Nigeria, we stand to benefit much more because of the derivatives we would get”.
According to him, there are about 114 additives that can be derived from the local refining of crude oil.
Continuing, Lakemfa declared that Labour’s position is that for so long as some of the conditions in the agreement reached between the Federal Government and Labour are not met, then there should be no subsidy removal.
“Government is talking about deregulation which is import-based; a deregulation that is anchored on finished petroleum products rather than one that encourages local refining.
“In any case, this issue of eminent Nigerians is not new and it is just a throw-back to military mentality. During the days of Ibrahim Babangida, the Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructure, DFRRI, was established to manage the funds; during Sani Abacha’s era, it was the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF – these bodies were decreed into existence.
“What President Jonathan plans to do is create that body which is not known to Nigeria’s constitution and saddle it with the responsibility of administering funds meant for the consolidated accounts.
“NLC is not falling for that!
“Our fear is that all the conditions that led to the crises in the Arab world are present here in Nigeria, so anything can happen”.
Earlier, yesterday, speaking on the statement by Allison-Madueke, Petroleum Resources Minister, that the government was yet to take a decision on the subsidy removal, President of the NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, in a statement, advised Nigerians not to be hoodwinked by the government antics. Omar said the government antics and statements were calculated to mislead the international community and to lure Nigerians away from the on-going mobilization against “the anti-people policy”.
According to him, “The truth is that President Goodluck Jonathan in his letter to the National Assembly on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework of his administration stated categorically that the government has decided to remove fuel subsidy and that the take off date is January 2012. Also the president on his way to the Commonwealth Summit in Perth, Australia, to which the Petroleum Minister accompanied him, had told the country that fuel subsidy must be removed as the alternative is the collapse of the economy.
So Mrs. Allison-Madueke is not forthright on this matter and the NLC urges Nigerians not to relent in their patriotic mobilization to resist this policy that will further impoverish the citizenry.”