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Labour gives conditions to support subsidy removal

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24 states sold petrol above fixed price in August —NBS

Leaders of labour unions have said they are not totally against subsidy removal on premium motor spirit by the federal government, but argued that certain conditions must be met.

The labour leaders in a meeting on Tuesday in Abuja outlined the conditions which included refurbishment and operation of major petroleum refineries in the country, provision of infrastructure, among others.

Officials of the Trade Union Congress, Nigeria Labour Congress, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, among others, spoke at the Annual General Meeting and inauguration of the newly elected National Executive Committee of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria in Abuja.

The National President, Trade Union Congress, Quadri Olaleye, blamed corruption and incompetence of government officials for the energy crisis in Nigeria, adding that the country had wasted $9.5 bn on the maintenance of moribund refineries.

He said, “The fuel subsidy and the proposed hike in fuel price is a rather prominent and recurring one. Nigeria is the only OPEC member country that imports more than 90 to 95 per cent of refined petroleum products for consumption.

“Nigeria has a total of five refineries across the country of which four are owned and managed by the government, and one by NDPR (Niger Delta Petroleum Resources Limited).

“It might interest you to know that none of the government-owned refineries is functioning, yet in the past 10 years alone, the government has wasted about $9.5bn for turnaround maintenance of the moribund refineries.”

However, Olaleye said the TUC was not against the removal of the fuel subsidy but the union was skeptical about the sincerity of the government.

“How can we trust the government and be certain that they will actually remove it this time round, because in the past, they have claimed to remove the so called ‘subsidy’, so how can what has been removed be removed again?

“Will there be construction and utilisation of modular refineries as the government has previously promised and failed to deliver? Will there be a rehabilitation of existing moribund refineries?

“What will the government do to put an end to dependence on imported fuel? It is imperative to note these questions because we need adequate answers on what the government has to offer as failed promises from the government have become the order of the day.”

The TUC demanded that if the subsidy was eventually removed, the government should engage more on expenditures that were beneficial to the economy rather than projects that generate losses.

“There should be the establishment of modular refineries and construction of functioning refineries in the country,” Olaleye said.

He added, “Proactive committees must be set up to check, balance, and ensure successful execution of projects and to generally oversee activities.

“The moribund refineries must be active and we must put an end to the counterproductive acts of importing petroleum products when we can refine here and sell at a competitive price.”

He said Nigeria had the capacity to meet these demands and even diversify like advanced countries, “but that will not happen because the current political class does not want it.

“Finally, if these demands are not met, organised labour shall respond.”

Also speaking on the issue of petrol subsidy, the National President, IPMAN, Debo Ahmed, gave credence to the position of the TUC.

He said the association was in support of subsidy removal but its conditions include availability of products, proximity of supply, and other related issues.

“What we would love to see is that the government makes sure that most of these moribund refineries are on the ground and functioning.

“If most of these refineries are working, it will be easy for the implementation of subsidy removal, because products will not be subjected to foreign exchange,” he said.

By Oluwatobi Odeyinka…

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