Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva are not on the same page over the fresh hike in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, commonly known as petrol announced by the Federal Government.
The hike in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, commonly known as petrol, took effect last Friday, but congress has demanded for immediate reversal.
In a statement by Ayuba Wabba, the President of NLC, on Monday, Congress warned that there was a limit to what the citizens could tolerate “if these abysmal increases in the price of refined petroleum products and other essential goods and services continued.”
However, Chief Timipre, Sunday, assured that Nigerians will get used to the deregulation of the pump price of petroleum product just as they have become in the case of kerosene and diesel.
The Minister also said that the earnings of government has reduced by 60 percent including the resources generated by the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, thereby pushing the nation’s economy under serious pressure.
In the statement, Wabba said given the current inflation, the recent increase in the pump price of the fuel exacerbated the level of pain and anguish in the country.
He noted that the increase was against “the spirit and content of what Organised Labour agreed with government at the last negotiations over the last fuel price increase.”
He added: “It has also cast our utmost good faith in very bad light with regards to government explanations that it lacks funds to continue bankrolling the so-called subsidy payments, as such would sooner than later cripple the entire economy, throw the country into severe economic crisis and cause loss of jobs in millions.”
NLC expressed regret that the government could not ensure full value for the numerous Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) which were poorly and/or barely executed and the horrifying lack of interest in prosecuting public officials and private business people who have profited from the rot in the petroleum sector.
Labour said: “There is a limit to what the citizens can tolerate if these abysmal increases in the price of refined petroleum products and other essential goods and services continue.”
Offering solutions the fuel crisis, NLC said the government should declare a state of emergency in the downstream petroleum sector, enter into contract refining with refineries closer to the country and ensure that the cost of supplying of crude oil is negotiated away from prevailing international market rate.
Wabba added, among others, that “Government should also demonstrate the will to stamp out the smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria.
“We need to see big-time petroleum smugglers arraigned in the court of law and made to pay for their crimes against the Nigerian people.
“The question in the minds of many Nigerians is if the government is willing to go headlong against major financiers of the major political parties known to the public as the architects of the current national woe.
“We also demand that Nigerians should be carried along on the distribution of refined petroleum products and information of the distribution of petroleum products to petrol stations should be advertised and made public knowledge.”
Speaking to State House correspondents after his routine briefing of President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Chief Sylva said diesel and kerosene were even more important to the ordinary citizens than petrol, which he said was mostly used by the elite.
He explained that trucks that move food produce from one part of the country to another use diesel while kerosene also used by most of the Nigerian masses has since been deregulated.
According to him, “Look at it, a situation where diesel has been deregulated long ago, a situation where kerosene has been deregulated long ago, and these are the fuels the poorest people in Nigeria interact with more.
Why do I say that? “If you want to transport food from the north to the south, it will be by trucks that are run by diesel, not with petrol. Those trucks that transport food from the north to the south are usually run by diesel.
“Kerosene is the preferred fuel at the lowest level of our society. These have been deregulated long ago. So, what is the problem with deregulating petrol, which is mostly used by the elite?
“Let us be fair to this country, let us be fair to the poor people in this country. “If we have deregulated what they were using, then there is actually no reason why we should continue to subsidize petrol. I feel so. That’s my personal feeling.”