The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, yesterday threatened to shut down the economy without giving notice to the government, if the petrol pump price was increased again.

It also raised alarm over the alleged hijack of the duties of the Ministry of Labour and Employment by the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, and the Federal Ministry of Justice.

But the Presidency in a swift reaction, said President Bola Tinubu is concerned about economic hardship in the country and is working hard to ameliorate the situation.

This is even as oil marketers yesterday in Abuja, urged the Federal Government to act urgently to halt the consistent slide in the value of the naira against the dollar, saying the development had significantly impacted the pump price of petrol.

NLC President, Mr Joe Ajaero, issued the threat while responding to the advice of the Director, Trade Union Services, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Emmanuel Igbinosun, that Labour should explore due process in its agitations before embarking on strike.

Igbinosun gave the advice in his remarks at the on-going African Trade Union Alliance meeting holding in Abuja.

Ajaero warns FG on petrol price

Ajaero warned that Nigerians had suffered enough from the policies of government and will not take kindly any increase in petroleum pump price that would worsen the situation.

He said: “I commend the Director of Trade Union Services for his labour-friendly disposition and for finding out time to be here. We need to commend you. But I was feeling uncomfortable when you had legions of advice to the Labour movement. In actual fact, the centrality of your office is to advise government on some of these issues.

“Maybe I will advise that we engage you as adviser of labour, adviser of trade union services, since you appear to be closer to us than the Nigerian state who you are employed to serve, that we should concern ourselves with issues of wages, issues of employment relations but you didn’t say anything about those issues that depreciate our wages, those policies of government that reduce our wages to nothing.

“For you, those are exclusive preserve of the Nigerian state to take decisions probably to increase pump price of petroleum product and our wages will be next to nothing. You didn’t speak on it and maybe we should concern ourselves with those issues

“But I want to plead with you that those bad economic policies by the state that make our wages next to nothing should be checked. If you check those policies that lead to inflation and the devaluation of the currency, even where we are, we will be comfortable.

“If naira is at par with dollar today, we will ask you to leave the minimum wage at N30,000, it will make sense. If inflation is checked to zero, we will ask you to leave it where we are. But if inflation is flying, if even by the admittance of the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, we have over 130 million Nigerians that are multi-dimensionally poor. I think you should address those issues.

If we go for even wage increase tomorrow, the inflation that will come up will destroy it.

“As we are here now, they are contemplating increasing the pump price of petrol and the Ministry of Labour for sometime now, will only go to Ministry of Justice to come up with so-called injunction to hold the hands of Labour not to respond.

“I didn’t want to say some of those things you will not be comfortable with because probably if they ask you to represent them tomorrow, you will not be around.

‘No notice’ll be given’

“But let me say this, Nigerian workers will not give any notice if we have not addressed the consequences of the last two increases and we wake up from our sleep to hear that they have tampered with the prices again. They have started floating ideas of a likely increase in the pump price of petrol.

“Lastly, the Inspector General of Police is now performing the duty of the Ministry of Labour. The duties of the Ministry of Labour includes addressing the issues, both inter and intra-union disputes. They’re not within the purview of the Inspector-General of Police.

‘’I think there is the need for the Ministry of Labour to know that they don’t have the right to usurp your function. If they do that, the Ministry of Labour will go into extinction and there will be no basis for the ministry to remain.

“I say it’s illegal, we demand an apology from the IGP to have arrested or even contemplated to arrest the President of the National Union of Road Transport Workers for whatever reason, on the eve of an election. It’s unheard of in the history of this country and never again should that be entertained.

“The Nigerian Police are Nigerian workers and we will not waste time to march to their office. Let them use the same gun that was bought with workers’ salaries and tax to now engage us. So I felt I should balance.

‘’You have advised us, we have to advise you too. Go and collect your functions from Police and from the Ministry of Justice.

“We can now see that even when there is a dispute, intra or inter, it’s your function to refer such to either Industrial Arbitration Panel, IAP, and in the most instances to National Industrial Court, NIC, but this doesn’t come from you again.

“As Nigeria Labour Congress that relates with the Ministry of Labour so much, we are afraid that your work is going to extinction. Please I am not sure there is a routine change of Permanent Secretaries today but your Permanent Secretary has moved.

‘’Only God knows who will come there and the minister that will come there. But we are ready to cooperate with you, laugh with you and fight with you at the appropriate time.”

Reacting to NLC’s threat, the Presidency said President Tinubu was working hard to ameliorate the hardship in the country.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, while responding to the threat said: “There is no monopoly on the deep empathy that we feel as fellow Nigerians concerning the pain and economic hardship currently befalling Nigerian families across the country.

‘’The labour union absolutely does represent the interests of Nigerian workers and our role as a government and particularly is to ensure that every government action was aimed at the most urgent and the most efficient amelioration of those difficult conditions facing our people.

“With respect to energy cost and prices, let us be very clear that the deregulation of the market means that market conditions that are decided outside of the shores of any one country will determine the price of these commodities.

“The notion that government is controlling or is leveraging in anyway the cost of these commodities in the country is a total misunderstanding of the market dynamics in the petroleum sector.

“The President will continue to engage in effective and direct dialogue with the labour unions and he is committed to living up to every word and every letter of the agreement made so far and we expect that such agreements are not going to be tied to vagaries of international petroleum market that Nigeria does not have control over.

“What those negotiations and conditions will be based on is to the extent in which government is living up to its side of the ongoing negotiations that it has entered into with the labour movement.
“If the market forces decide the price, it’s Nigerians that are bearing the brunt, is there any way the government will intervene to cushion the effect so that the exchange rate will not be going up?

“This is why the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been very forthright and open.

We have seen the President come out publicly several times, very communicative with Nigerians on what’s being done to crash the cost of energy, with respect to families and businesses across the country, which is why we have been very aggressive in detailing the actionable plans we put in place for CNG.

NNPCL/NIPCO enter pact to build 56 CNG filling stations

“As we speak, between the NNPC and the NIPCO, there has been an agreement struck for the establishment of 56 new CNG filling stations nationwide, across all states of the federation in two phases to be running between now and April 1, 2024. And then phase two, from April 2024 to May 2025.

‘’So, these have already been put in place. Aside from that, His Excellency, Mr. President, clearly enunciated that N100 billion has been set aside and has now as of this week, been paid out for the provision of over 3,000 CNG fuel buses because we are targeting commercial transportation, which is where the bulk of our masses are feeling the pinch, with respect to the cost of how they will get from home to business and from business to home on daily basis.

“We believe that with CNG and depending on market conditions running from between N175 per litre and N250 per litre, against PMS’ N670 per litre to over N700 per litre, depending on where you are buying the commodity.

‘’With that savings in the first phase, we can save the energy cost of millions of Nigerians that are relying on commercial transportation, businesses and systems across all states of the federation.

“This is really the immediate solution, even if as we have our short to medium to long term plans on local production of electronic vehicles and solar power charging stations across the country .”

FG should tackle forex challenge — Marketers

Meanwhile, oil marketers yesterday in Abuja urged the Federal Government to act urgently to halt the consistent slide in the value of the Naira against the dollar as it has significantly impacted on the pump price of petrol.

The President of the Natural Oil and Gas Suppliers Association of Nigeria, NOGASA, Mr. Benneth Korie, told journalists that the pump price would rise in the coming days due to the significant fall in the value of the naira to the dollar.

He disclosed that petrol pump price might increase next week to reflect the market exchange rate of the naira to the dollar, stressing that the government needed to streamline the currency trading market.

Korie said: “As we speak, diesel is going for N920/950 per litre, before now, it was N600 plus, and then the government introduced tax on the product.

‘’We will suggest that the government takes action on the dollar issue, otherwise diesel and petrol and other petroleum products will go up more than what you are seeing today.

“The only way out is for the government to take serious action by calling the BDCs (bureaux de change) and bank managing directors to sit down with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and come up with one uniform price for the naira against the dollar.

‘’Leaving it freely to be determined by the market will spell doom for the country. The way it is going, it will destroy a lot of things for us”.

The marketers also insisted that fixing the moribund refineries had become an urgent national issue, saying getting the refineries back in operation would stabilize petrol pump prices and relieve the pressure on the local currency.

“We have Nigerian engineers and they should be saddled with fixing the refineries. I believe Nigerian engineers can fix the problems and with the right machineries. Every time, billions of naira is spent on repairing the refineries by foreigners, now see where it has got us.

‘’One of the factors responsible for the problem we are facing today is that the government removed subsidies before fixing the refineries”.

Pump price may rise next week
The marketers also tasked the government on the need to fix the road networks in the country, stressing that it was having a heavy toll on the cost operations in the downstream sector.

“The route from Warri to Abuja is a no-go area. Our trucks are at a standstill, and our drivers are being kidnapped and killed. Our trucks are vandalized and the products taken away and this is a waste of money.

‘’We had this same problem last year in the same place, yet nothing has been done,’’ Korie added.
He lamented that the business environment had become stifling with several filling stations shutting down due to high cost of operations.

“If you go round, you’ll see a lot of filling stations closing down. If you were trading with N10 million before, forget about it.

‘’Someone who was trading with N100 million, you could buy one million litre of petrol in a month to sell but now, with N100 million you can only buy 150,000 litres in a month. You’ll also incur the same expenses when selling one million liters in a month.”

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