Moves to avert a massive workers’ strike over the fuel price increase – from N86.50kobo to N145 – began at the weekend.
Labour unions are planning to go on strike as from Wednesday to force a reversal of the increase. But the Federal Government is calling for talks to stop the action.
Besides, the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and a coalition of civil society organisations have called on Labour to take it easy.
The government has said the new price regime came about because there is no forex for importers who must now source for their forex from secondary sources and import in a deregulated environment.
In a statement yesterday, the President of the ACCI, Mr Tony Ejinkeonye, said: “ACCI is calling on the NLC to shelve their planned nationwide strike.
“We in ACCI made it clear over the years that it’s impossible for government to continue subsidy payments on petrol.
“That is why we are asking labour and indeed all Nigerians to support the government at this time,” the ACCI president said.
According to Ejinkeonye, a strike will offer more knocks to the economy.
Also yesterday, an elder statesman and retired Bishop of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Right. Rev. Bolanle Gbonigi, urged the unions to embrace peace.
Rev. Gbonigi made this appeal at the weekend in Akure, the Ondo State capital, during the presentation of two books written by a radio journalist, Mr Oye Agunbiade.
The retired Bishop said what President Muhammadu Buhari needs from Nigerians, particularly the labour unions, is support for this decision on the oil sector.
He, however, urged the Federal Government to explain clearly to Nigerians if the policy is full deregulation or partial.
Rev. Gbonigi, who is also the Chairman of the Yoruba Unity Forum, maintained that he had been an advocate of subsidy removal.
He explained that the oil subsidy removal was long overdue and that Nigerians should praise the Buhari’s administration for having the courage to take the bold step.
The elder statesman pleaded with the workers’ unions to exercise patience.
He urged them to seek negotiations that would lead to better reforms in the oil and gas industry rather than embarking on a strike.
Rev. Gbonigi said the government must sensitise the masses on the issue.
He noted that the government must beg Nigerians genuinely on why the step was necessary.
On the perception that the Buhari administration is slow in delivering dividends of democracy to the electorate, Rev. Gbonigi said “slow and steady” would make things work better.
A Lagos lawmaker, Mr Segun Olulade, also yesterday urged organised labour to dialogue with the Federal Government rather than engage in an industrial action over the increase in the pump price of petrol.
Olulade, the Chairman, Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Health, gave the advice in a statement signed by him in Lagos.
He said rather than protest, organised labour should discuss with the government so as not to put Nigerians through further suffering.
“The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) should dialogue with the government rather than marching innocent workers out for a protest that can earn them no tangible outcome,” he said.
The lawmaker praised the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) for showing understanding and support for the policy.
“I share the pains of Nigerians and labour force, but there is nothing reasonably viable than to deregulate the sector.
“This will save Nigerians the incessant and persistent agony of accessing petroleum products which are God- given resources to the Nigerian masses.
“Among all the oil exporting countries, Nigeria is the only country that still lives in the euphoria of oil sector regulation and, as such, denying the nation of economic benefits accruable from the sector.
“From availability of the products to job creation and to huge oil sales revenue, the hardship is temporary and I am sure Nigerians will smile in no distant future,” Olulade said.
He praised the patience and cooperation of Nigerians, stressing that the people deserved nothing but the best from the government.
The lawmaker said that President Buhari’s administration would not let the people down, pleading for their endurance and cooperation.
A coalition of civil society organisations has called on the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to shelve their proposed nationwide strike over the increase in the price of petrol.
A statement signed by Mr Tosin Adeyanju, Executive Director, Conscience Nigeria, for the group issued yesterday in Abuja listed some members of the collation supporting deregulation of the oil sector as Stand up Nigeria, Centre for Leadership Development (CPALD), National Youth Council of Nigeria and Arise Nigeria.
Adeyanju said embarking on strike would do more harm than good to the country’s economy.
“We all know the implication that will arise as a result of this sudden change.
“We must endure this phase in other for our country to survive these present economic realities that are very obvious.
“We equally appeal on the NLC and other civil society colleagues to shelve the proposed nationwide strike and engage the government.
“We want NLC to engage government on the need to create immediate palliatives to cushion the effect of this policy instead of worsening the already bad economy of the country.
“If our country is shut down as proposed, billions of naira will be lost and the country will suffer for it in the long run,” Adeyanju said.
He said that no fewer than 20 CSOs were in support of the bold step of the Federal Government to fully deregulate the oil sector.
According to Adeyanju, the new phase of deregulation championed by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources was worthy of commendation after many years of monumental corruption in subsidy regime.
“No nation can move forward without liberalization or deregulation of its critical economic sector like ours as it was done in the telecommunication sector.
“About 80 per cent of our country’s revenue comes from oil proceeds and as the global economic meltdown continues, there is need for this to take place if we must be taken seriously in the comity of nations.
“Therefore, the step taken by the minister to deregulate this critical sector is the best at this material time,” he said.
The group proposed immediate interventions by government to cushion the effect of the new pump price of petrol, and called for introduction of subsidized transportation system across the country to ameliorate sudden hike in transportation rates.
They also urged government to immediately begin the implementation of the 2016 budget.
“Government should also begin immediate engagement of all stakeholders across the country to inform them about the benefit of deregulation and its benefit to the Nigerian people.
“We all must be conscious of the fact that we have no other country than Nigeria.
“We all must strive to make sure that the country works for the good of all and the present leadership of the country has demonstrated that by its action thus far.”