Joe Ajaero, the president of the NLC, asserted that the federal government deceived when it stated that there was no funding for subsidies beyond May. He insisted that records demonstrated that subsidies were available until the end of June.
According to NNPC, contrary to the federal government’s position that there is no provision in the budget for subsidy beyond May 29, 2023, the labour leader argued that there is a backlog of approximately $2.3 trillion.
In addition, the president of the NLC argued that the NNPC lacked the constitutional authority to set prices in a competitive market such as Nigeria.
Ajaero stated, “If he claims that there is no budget for subsidies, then that’s acceptable. We can proceed from there and must discuss the matter. The absence of a subsidy appropriation does not imply that the NNPC, a private limited company, will now determine the price for us.
“If they claim to have eliminated the subsidy and that pricing should be determined by market forces, then the NNPC should not set prices. As a limited liability company, they lack such authority and there is no indication that their board ever convened and passed such a resolution. Such information is unacceptable to the labour movement.”
Ajaero continued, “On Tuesday evening, I met with Mr. President and his staff. Immediately, the NNPC stated they would release figures and prices. And on the spot, I warned them that we would fight back if they did so. There is no justification for you to reach that conclusion prior to discussion. They went ahead and performed the action.
“We resolved to boycott the meeting, but the people won out in the end. We attended the meeting and requested a return to the status quo in order to facilitate open discussion. And to date, they have not done so. What are we going to do there?”
Ajaero challenged the government to provide Nigerians with information regarding the subsidy they had been paying and the recipients.
“We had previously agreed upon some alternate options. Why are these alternatives ineffective?” he inquired.
Ajaero responded to a question about why labour was not persuaded by various factual arguments presented by the federal government and the probable impact the newly constructed Dangote refinery would have on the industry by stating that market forces do result in monopoly in a particular industry.
He stated, “How can market forces exist if Dangote is the only producer? Are we not replicating a monopoly in the private sector?
“Why doesn’t the Port Harcourt refinery operate? Why isn’t the Warri refinery operational? Why is the refinery in Kaduna not operating? Unless there are other competitors in the industry, we cannot discuss market forces. We cannot discuss competition in this sector. We cannot have a sole market participant in this industry, as we are discussing market forces.
“It does not work like that. If no precautions are taken between now and December, and if Dangote is the only producer, a litre of oil will cost over N1,000. Therefore, the argument makes no sense to us.”
Mr. Benson Upah, the NLC’s Head of Information and Public Affairs, described the suggestion that the congress may have split over Wednesday’s planned nationwide strike as a “laughable and desperate attempt by enemies of the people to polarise Nigeria Labour Congress along ethnic or regional lines on an issue with a national scope.”
Upah continued, “Fortunately, this scenario exists only in their imagination, as the Nigeria Labour Congress remains the largest pan-Nigerian organisation with a shared vision/mission and national values.”
Regarding the impending strike, the NLC stated, “We want to assure you that all the affiliated unions of the congress will stand united with an unwavering resolve to prosecute on Wednesday, unless the NNPC and government do what is required.”
“While primordial sentiments such as religion, region, or ethnicity may be a refuge for some, they have no place in the Nigeria Labour Congress.
“What matters to us are issues such as the mindless and criminal increase in the price of PMS at the pump, whose burden will be borne by the already impoverished communities of Nigeria’s poor.”
“The burden of this malevolent policy will not be borne by regions other than the North and South-west. Therefore, these regions have no cause to abandon the strike.”