Thursday, 21 March 2013

Labour, others warn Jonathan against fuel price hike

Organised labour  and two opposition parties on Wednesday warned President Goodluck Jonathan against another petrol price hike.

They said in their  reactions to Jonathan’s statement on Tuesday that petrol price would go up, that  he (the President)  would be courting  trouble if he did so.

The Federal Government had in January 2012 increased  petrol price from N65 per litre to N141 per litre. But following protests  that greeted the action, the goverment  made a  U-turn by reducing  it to N97 per litre. Petrol, however,  still sells  above N110  per litre in some parts of the country, especially the  South-East.

Jonathan, at the  Nigeria  Summit in Lagos on Tuesday,  said  his administration would still remove fuel subsidy after due consultations with Nigerians.

He  had said, “We cannot continue to waste resources meant for a greater number of Nigerians to subsidise the affluent middle class, who are the main beneficiaries(of fuel subsidy).”

But the  two major  labour  groups  in the country –  the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress – reminded the President that the opposition by majority  of their members and  other Nigerians to fuel subsidy removal had not changed.

A Deputy President of the NLC, Chief Promise Adewusi , spoke for the congress while the Secretary -General of the TUC, Mr. Musa Lawal, spoke for the  trade union  in separate telephone interviews with our correspondents.

 The NLC   called on Jonathan  to drop the plan  which it  insisted would deepen the suffering of several members of organised labour and  other Nigerians who are not  part of  “the affluent middle class .”

 It  said that even though it  did not know the form the consultations the President spoke about would take, it had a position that  fuel price increase was inimical to the well-being of Nigerians.

 The congress  said that its opposition to fuel subsidy removal could only change if Nigerians took a decision to embrace suffering.

 The NLC said, “We  have a subsisting position on the issue of the removal of the fuel subsidy. Our position is that the issue of fuel increase is something that Nigerians cannot live with; The President should drop it.

 “We do not know the mode of the  consultations that the Federal Government  intends  to take. However, unless Nigerians decide to swallow hardship, then it could happen. Our  disagreement is not just to disagree but because of our members, and other Nigerians who we feel will suffer from  an increase in fuel price.

 “They want to consult with Nigerians; and you can see that they are going beyond labour.  Let us wait;  maybe  there is going to be a referendum or a plebiscite so that it would not be as if you are fighting the removal when the people you are fighting for are supporting it.

 “Let us wait for the modality for the consultations.

 On its part, the  TUC said the joint position of organised labour on subsidy removal had not changed.

 It said, “The two labour centres have the same position on it and it has not been reviewed and it is still the same thing.”

 One of the three major opposition parties , the All Nigerians Peoples Party, said Jonathan  would see the wrath of Nigerians if he increased the price of petrol again.

The  party said through its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Emma Eneukwu, that the  President would know that Nigerians are not docile.

Though the ANPP  said it was unthinkable for anyone to  contemplate  hiking fuel  price now, it however remarked that there was nothing beyond the President.

It  said, “We don’t think that the President will do that again going by what happened when he did that the other time. Maybe his time has come to see the wrath of Nigerians fully. He will see it if he does that.

“Nigerians are waiting for him and if he wants to see their red eyes, let him do it. He  wants to contest in 2015 and he won’t stop making life difficult for the people he wants to govern.  That is wickedness.”

The party  said before such an action could be taken, the President should know that he needed to gauge the mood of the nation.

“Is it with this insecurity or high level of unemployment that calls for more punishment?” it  asked.

The party advised  Nigerians to be on the lookout  for  any move by the government “as it could go out to do that without their knowledge.”

Also, the Congress for Progressive Change berated Jonathan  for making such a statement when, Nigerians were still mourning bomb blasts victims in Kano.

Describing the President as “uncaring,” the CPC said since he  had once  said he did  not give a damn;   Nigerians should expect anything from him.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, in an interview with one of our correspondents, added, “The President does not give a damn. Even if Nigerians masses that are already pauperised   are mangled.

“Even if the country moves into anarchy, the President does not give a damn. Is it not totally out of place that you have a situation where there is no welfare Nigerians are getting from their own government?

“When Nigerians are still mourning over the bombing that took place in Kano, this government is thinking of how to further add to their sorrow.

“That is President Jonathan in his true element. A man that is anti-people and does not care about  what happens to the people he claims elected him.

 On  its part,  the Campaign for Democracy said  the President was courting another “Occupy Nigeria protest.”

“What would be his undoing is the fire this time around . He is shielding subsidy thieves, pardoning criminals but bullying Nigerian people. Maybe he needs the final lesson from the suffering people of Nigeria,”the CD said through its President,  Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin.

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