NLC bickers over hike in fuel price, demands emergency in oil downstream sector

The organised labour yesterday called on the federal government to immediately declare a state of emergency in the downstream arm of the petroleum sector as a means of arresting the rising price of petrol.

In addition, it advised the government to enter into a contract with refineries closer home to Nigeria to reduce the freight cost of the product.

While reacting to the fresh increase in the pump price of fuel from N160 per litre to N168 per litre, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Dr. Ayuba Wabba, asked the federal government to reverse the increase in the fuel price, saying the action is condemnable.

He described the recent increase in the pump price of petrol as a breach of the spirit and content of what the organised labour agreed with the government at the last negotiations over the last fuel price increase.
In a statement yesterday, Wabba said the congress had asked its affiliate unions in the petroleum industry for updates on how the federal government had kept to the agreement reached with labour to enable it to decide on the next line of action.

According to him, there is disquiet in the land over the extraordinary level of inflation in the country.
He added that the recent increase in the pump price of fuel has only exacerbated the suffering of the people whose standard of living is dropping by the day.
He said one of the measures NLC is proposing is “for government to declare a state of emergency in our downstream petroleum sector.”

The NLC said the government should enter into a contract with refineries closer home to Nigeria to ensure that the cost of supply of crude oil is negotiated away from the prevailing international market rate so that the landing cost of refined petroleum products is significantly reduced.

It said: “The 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 government has the resources available to it to ensure this economic justice to Nigerians. 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 that are 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. Information on the distribution of petroleum products to petrol stations should be advertised and made public knowledge. It should not be difficult to establish the average time it takes a petrol station to exhaust its supplies.”

It called on the government to review the entire process of licensing for modular and bigger refineries.

“It is queer to depend on the enterprise of one man to fix Nigeria’s downstream petroleum subsector. The more public and private refineries in play the higher the competition. This would serve end consumers who would benefit from lower prices,” it said.

The organised labour said it would not accept a fait accompli of the monopoly of Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector or the emergence of a cartel of oligarchs whose end game is mass pauperisation.

It added that in line with its recent agreement with the government, it would be receiving updates in the next few days from its unions in the petroleum sector, which had been given the mandate to keep surveillance on the government’s promise to overhaul public refineries.

It said it would also receive updates from its representatives in the electricity review committee to enable it to determine whether the government has kept to its side of the bargain which is to take serious steps to recover and reposition the nation’s public refineries.

“The outcome of this engagement will determine our response in the coming days. But while we are at that, we condemn the recent price increase and we call for its reversal with immediate effect,” it said.

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