Fuel Subsidy Removal: Labour Threatens to Mobilize Workers

By Jude Atupulazi

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress have given conditional support for the removal of fuel subsidies.

It will be recalled that the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, said there was no going back on fuel subsidy removal after swearing-in.

But the two labour bodies have said that they would only allow the removal of fuel subsidy if the incoming administration of Bola Tinubu would take steps towards the repair and revitalization of government refineries across the country and allow modular refineries.

Failure to do this, they said, they would oppose the subsidy removal and mobilize workers to protest against the decision.

The regime of the President Muhammadu Buhari had stated that the subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called Petrol, would be removed before the end of its tenure on May 29, 2023.

The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, later explained that the subsidy removal was delayed by the 2023 General Elections and the planned Population Census.

The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, had after the Federal Executive Council meeting held on March 15, said no conclusion had been reached on how to lessen the likely impacts of the proposed petrol subsidy removal on the citizens.

He said although a committee headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had been working for about a year, nothing definite had been agreed upon.

Speaking on Channels Television on Tuesday, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said the government would hand over the implementation of petrol subsidy removal and palliative measures to the incoming administration.

But the NLC and the TUC noted that there would only be a conditional acceptance of the removal of the subsidy.

One of the principal officers of the NLC and President of the National Union of Local Government Employees, Hakeem Ambali, said the union remained opposed to the removal of fuel subsidy.

Ambali, who is the National Treasurer of the NLC, stated this in an interview in Abuja.

‘We are opposed to the removal of fuel subsidy until the Nigerian Government acts responsibly by fixing our moribund refineries,’ he stated.

Ambali also called for the standardization of private refineries, saying, ‘It is a shame that Nigerians are made to suffer for the incompetence of the government. We are the only oil-producing country in the world that imports petroleum products; let the government license and serve as the regulator by standardizing the operation of private refineries to service the domestic value chain.’

The National President, of the National Union of Teachers, Titus Amba, said the union would stand by the decision of the NLC on fuel subsidy removal.

‘We are working together with the NLC. The position of the NLC as regards the issue of fuel subsidy is our own position,’ he stated.

Corroborating the stand of the NLC, the TUC advised the President-elect to ensure the smooth running of modular refineries across the country, while noting that fuel subsidy was a scam.

The Vice-President of the TUC, who also doubles as the National President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Tommy Etim, explained why Nigeria needed functional modular refineries.

Etim advised the Incoming Administration of Tinubu to set the ball rolling.

He said, ‘The Subsidy Regime is a scam. I doubt if there is any subsidy to remove. Every day we wake up to new fuel prices and tariffs, so which subsidy are they talking about again? I think we have passed the level where we get shocked or get moved whenever we hear about the removal of any subsidy.

Our advice to the incoming administration is for them not to hide under the shadow of any subsidy. We were made to believe that there was a subsidy. The solution now is for our refineries to work.

‘The money used to service the so-called subsidy should be used to repair our moribund refineries. We have been kept in bondage. There is nothing else to excite us about subsidy. Let them repair the refineries and then the money used to service the so-called subsidy should be used to service other critical sectors. In the education sector, for instance, a lot of issues need to be addressed. Similarly, we need to review the Minimum Wage.

‘So, when we say we don’t believe that the subsidy is still in existence, we are telling you what we believe. Fix the refineries and let us all move on,” he stated.