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Nigerians have never had it so bad ― NLC

With the latest fuel price increase just as the government increased the electricity tariff; the Nigeria Labour Congress ( NLC) on Friday declared that Nigerians have never had it so bad.

It immediately demanded a reversal of fuel price to N121; and called for a national conversation on the management of the nation’s oil assets.

It stated that Nigerians have groaned to pay these unjust costs for years, and strongly warned that “this latest increase will be the last straw that would break the camel’s back.”

The congress has also resolved to call the meeting of its various organs to deliberate on the next line of action, and marshal a well-planned strategy to confront the present situation and development in the country, should the Federal Government refused to do the needful and reverse the pump price.

But, feelers from the Labour circle revealed that the NLC, in particular, wants the Nigerian people to come out themselves to lead the process, going by what they experienced before, and especially, during the fuel price hike in 2016.

The NLC had earlier condemned and rejected the increase in electricity tariff and declared that the increase will be resisted by the Nigerian working class and people, just before the sudden increase in petroleum price.

The congress had also warned the government that the father of all protest is imminent with the recent increase in the pump price of fuel. The President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba had told our correspondent that labour leadership cannot continue to guarantee industrial peace and harmony in all the sectors of the economy.

However, in a formal statement released to the media on Friday, the congress demanded that the pump price be reverted to N121 old price, which was given during the lockdown, but which Nigerians couldn’t enjoy as a result of COVID-19 lockdown.

The statement signed by Comrade Wabba said: “We demand that the Federal Government reverts to the old price of N121 given during the lockdown associated with Covid-19 pandemic which Nigerians who were mainly confined in their houses hardly enjoyed.

“We also renew our call for a national conversation on the management of our oil assets which we insist must be in tandem with the provisions our country’s constitution which clearly mandates that the commanding heights of our national economy must be held by the government in the interest of the citizens of Nigeria.

“Finally, we demand that our four national petroleum refineries must be fixed without any further delay. Nigerian workers want to be appraised of the timeline set by the government to ensure that this is effectively done.”

He said the NLC condemned and rejected “the daily arbitrary, unjust and insensitive increases in the price of petrol,” popularly called premium motor spirit.

The NLC President said: “Just as Nigerians are dealing with the recent hike in electricity tariff, the Federal Government released a new upwardly reviewed pricing band for the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly referred to as ‘petrol’ or ‘fuel’. This is the third increase in a space of about three months. Nigerians are shocked and bewildered at this latest increase.

“It is disheartening that despite the gale of opposition by labour and Nigerians to the previous hike in the price of petrol, the government went ahead to add scorpion to the scourges on the back of Nigerians. This is indeed a whole new level of government insincerity and insensitivity.

“This latest increase in the price of petrol is indeed a crass display of complete apathy to the sufferings Nigerians are going through at this time. While other countries also going through the blues of the Covid-19 pandemic are reducing taxes, increasing welfare benefits and providing palliatives to their citizens, our own government is reducing interest rates on savings by the poor, increasing taxes and hiking tariffs on essential goods and services. Nigerians have never had it so bad.”

He added: “It is said that while poor Nigerians are being pilloried by the government of the day with obscene fiscal burdens, those connected to the highest echelons of political power are daily amassing public wealth and rubbing their illicit loot on our faces. Hobbesian state of living appears to be the perfect metaphor for the state of affair today in Nigeria.

“As we have always maintained, the Nigeria Labour Congress will never accept the transfer of government incompetence on Nigerians through a hike in the pump price of petrol. The incompetence of the government in this regard is particularly manifest by the rundown of our public refineries and resort to the unscrupulous economics of fuel importation.

“At the risk of shouting ourselves hoarse, we reiterate that the increase in the pump price of petrol is simply the cost of profits made by countries that have enough sense to maintain refineries that refine our crude oil, the cost of sea freight of refined petrol, the cost of demurrage at our seaports when the refined products arrive, the cost of the frequent devaluation of our national currency, and the cost of official corruption by gatekeepers managing the downstream petroleum sub-sector.

“Nigerians have groaned to pay these unjust costs for years. This latest increase will be the last straw that would break the camel’s back.

“Nigeria belongs to all of us. Workers are major stakeholders in the Nigerian project. Nigerian workers and people must not only be treated fairly but must be seen to have been so treated by their government.”

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