Labour in dilemma over tariff hikes
- Agitators push for N120 per litre of fuel
• Threaten to shut down oil production in 11 days
• NNPC takes over pricing, confusion in PPPRA
The Nigeria labour movement appears to have finally lost the battle to stop tariff hikes in the two critical sectors of downstream petroleum and electricity.
Niger-Delta Youth Council (NDYC), yesterday, threatened to shut down oil production over increase in pump price of premium motor spirit (PMS).
NDYC Convener, General Ebi Tamuno, in a statement, said there was no justification for worsening the plight of Nigerians through persistent hikes in price of fuel. It said, given the existing economic realities, COVID-19 and #EndSARS issues that put the country out of productivity in various forms, it would be a policy aberration to allow any form of price increase in electricity tariff or fuel pump price because it would impact negatively on Nigerians.
“We make bold to state that it is an affront on the survival of Nigerians, who are already finding it hard to feed on daily basis, to be made to suffer from years of bad governance. We will not hesitate to stand for the rights of Niger Deltans in particular and Nigerians in general.”
The group demanded immediate reduction of pump price of PMS to N120 per litre within 11 days. It also enjoined the authorities to fix the nation’s refineries and immediately put them to use, to forestall incessant price increment.
Calling for a more robust policy to reposition the petroleum industry, NDYC threatened that oil workers would be forced to leave the Niger Delta region within 14 days if government fails to live up to their expectation.
“Let it be noted that their safety cannot be guaranteed if government fails to revert the pump price to N120. We will not hesitate to declare a national day of action for a nationwide protest as the economy is biting hard on citizens,” NDYC noted.
THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), on Monday, decried increment in pump price to about N160 but failed to state if it was going to embark on protests or nationwide strike to force a reduction. Its Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart also condemned the hike but failed to state whether, or not, it would embark on any action.
The Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC) has, in the last three months, been conveying the price of PMS to Nigerians through issuance of memos to its depot managers. Before now, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) was in charge of announcing monthly price guide, which stakeholders in the sector and in the transportation sub-sector used in determining the price of its services.
In the meantime, there is confusion regarding which agency is in charge of the downstream sector as the PPMC has assumed the core responsibilities of the PPPRA.
The PPMC, as marketer like any other, is in charge of price announcements. This has resulted in arbitrary pricing by marketers, with no clear-cut agency monitoring compliance in the sector. Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, has since disbanded the Price Review Committee (PRC), which was set up by the Federal Government to review price of PMS.
Even before the disbandment, the NNPC had declined to attend the meeting for two consecutive months.
The PRC drew its membership from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Ministry of Finance and Budget, DPR, PPPRA, among others.
WITH the COVID-19 foisting a decline in foreign exchange earnings, the Federal Government had a ready alibi to push through its deregulation of the downstream down the throats of Nigerians.
The Guardian gathered in Abuja last night that Labour’s failure to obtain the commitment of the Federal Government to refrain from increasing price beyond N160 per litre has put the NLC into a difficult situation.
In agreeing to accept deregulation, labour pushed for immediate gains for workers that belong to its affiliate unions and not the generality of Nigerians.
In the hurried deal, the Federal Government agreed to make available to Organized Labour 133 CNG/LPG-driven mass transit buses immediately and provide to the major cities across the country on a scale-up basis, thereafter to all states and local governments before December 2021.
About two months down the line, no single bus has been provided by the Federal Government.
Part of the agreement entailed that the Federal Government would make 10 per cent of it housing project outputs available to workers through the NLC and TUC.
Both government and labour resolved to set up a technical committee, which had two weeks to examine the justifications for the new policy in view of the need for the validation of the basis for the new cost reflective electricity tariff. This was as a result of the conflicting information from the fields that appeared different from data presented to justify the new policy by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), metering deployment, challenges and timeline for massive rollout.
Nigerians have since started paying the new tariff without labour achieving any tangible result.
Following the suspension of the two week ultimatum against the increase in tariff, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) has said that the NLC and TUC acted responsibly to avoid heating the polity and disrupting economic activities.
THE Director General, Timothy Olawale said the major challenges confronting the nation were the new price of electricity tariff and hike in petrol.
However, he maintained that NECA believed that, with the economic instability, one would understand why labour took the line of suspending the strike.
On the electricity tariff, he urged that government should ensure issue of metering was not abandoned, maintaining that consumers must be metered to avoid paying outrageous bills.
He urged the distribution companies to expedite action on distributing pre-paid meters to all consumers.