The planned industrial action scheduled for Wednesday by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has experienced a setback as the union appears divided with the South-west and northern states’ chapters pulling out of the proposed action.
This is as one of the spokespersons of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bayo Onanuga, has accused the President of NLC, Joe Ajaero, of working for the Labour Party (LP) and attempting to destabilise the newly inaugurated government with the planned strike.
Our correspondent gathered last night that following the alleged politicisation of the planned action that was scheduled in protest against the removal of petrol subsidy, the South-west and northern states’ chapters have resolved to back out of the plan.
However, to make the strike effective, NLC has written all its 43 affiliate unions to mobilise for the scheduled industrial action.
However, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general election and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has weighed in on the controversy over the removal of subsidy by President Bola Tinubu, saying his party had initiated the removal but would have provided palliatives.
Atiku, who referred to Tinubu’s administration as a “temporary government,” expressed confidence that he would reclaim his “stolen mandate” at the court.
The planned strike by the NLC is in reaction to the removal of the petrol subsidy, which led to a hike in the pump price of petrol. Some of the affiliates of the NLC include the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), among others.
In a letter written to the affiliates, which was signed by the NLC General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, the Congress said: “We bring you greetings from the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress. You will recall that arising from the National Executive Council meeting held on June 2, 2023, it was decided that Congress will embark on a nationwide action and withdrawal of services, against the fraudulent increase in the prices of fuel across the thirty-six states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the FCT.
“Please be informed that the nationwide action will commence on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. To this effect, all national leaders are expected to mobilise their members for the action and ensure full compliance with the directives as services in both the public and private sectors are expected to be fully withdrawn by Wednesday, June 7, 2023. All Presidents and General Secretaries are expected to help ensure the implementation of the decisions of the National Executive Council,” the NLC explained.
During his inaugural speech at the Eagle Square in Abuja, the President, Bola Tinubu declared that the era of subsidy payment on fuel has ended.
Tinubu had also disclosed that the 2023 budget did not make provision for fuel subsidy as such, further payment is no longer justifiable.
“The fuel subsidy is gone,” Tinubu had declared, adding that his government would instead channel funds into infrastructure and other areas to strengthen the economy.
The presidential pronouncement led to an instant return of fuel queues across the country, with Nigerians lamenting the sharp increase in the price of petrol at the various filling stations.
This development led to the resistance of the organised labour to what the workers described as Tinubu’s unilateral action.
To cushion the attendant hardship, President Tinubu later promised to review the minimum wage to align with the current economic realities of the country.
According to him, the federal and state governments need to take a look at the minimum wage together and also strengthen the source and application of the country’s revenue.
He made this known on Friday while meeting with the members of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), who declared support for him on the removal of subsidy.
APC Accuses Union of Working for Labour Party
In his reaction to the threat by the labour unions, one of the spokespersons the APC, Onanuga, has accused the President of NLC, Ajaero, of attempting to destabilise the newly inaugurated government with the planned strike.
Onanuga, who posted a statement on Twitter yesterday, said Ajaero was privy to the fact that the government was going to remove the subsidy and accused him of playing politics with the decision. He asked Nigerians to ignore Ajaero’s call for a strike.
“The politically-tainted NLC, TUC, and NLC President, Joe Ajaero have asked workers to go on strike next Wednesday over the removal of petrol subsidy, despite being privy to the distressing financial figures, which justified why subsidy ought to have been scrapped a long time ago.
“My advice to the perceptive workers and the Nigerian populace is simply to ignore Ajaero and his ilk. He is playing politics and is actually acting the script of the opposition Labour Party, out to destabilise the young Tinubu’s administration.
“Besides, one wonders whose interest Ajaero is championing, when he did not oppose the position of his Labour Party and presidential candidate, who campaigned with the promise to scrap subsidy from Day One if elected. NLC and TUC leaders knew since last November that the subsidy will be scrapped from July 1 as no provision has been made in the budget for it, beyond this date.
“The federal government, which already commits 96 per cent of its revenue in servicing debt, is not in any position to continue selling subsidised fuel, most of which is smuggled across our borders for criminal and obscenely unpatriotic profit.
“Subsidy of fuel is no longer unsustainable as the federal government is virtually broke. Apart from its N77 trillion debt, it also owes NNPC Limited about N2.4 trillion for past subsidies. The Nigerian people and workers should support the government as it works out new wages and rolls out other interventions, as promised by President Tinubu, to mitigate the effects of the new fuel price.
“Let’s not make ourselves pawns in the hands of the politically biased and tainted NLC and TUC. Ajaero is no longer a labour leader. He is a politician and leader of the Labour Party. He is no more representing all the Nigerian workers,” Onanuga said in a statement posted on Twitter.
PDP Would Have Provided Palliatives First, Atiku Declares
But speaking in Bauchi State yesterday when he addressed the PDP officials elected in the 2023 general election, Atiku faulted the approach adopted by the Tinubu-led government in the subsidy removal.
“Between 1999 and 2007, the PDP government initiated the petroleum subsidy removal and I chaired the committee. We achieved subsidy removal in two phases but only after providing palliatives to those most affected by the subsidy removal,” he said.
“We have the experience as a party in government. That is what we would have done and not just announced subsidy removal without discussion with the affected sectors of the economy. I think Nigerians should appreciate what they have temporarily lost.”
Atiku, who referred to Tinubu’s administration as a “temporary government,” expressed confidence that he will reclaim his “stolen mandate” at the court.
He charged the members of the National Assembly elected on the PDP’s platform not to be “rubber stamp members of the National Assembly,” adding that “you are there to serve as a formidable opposition to this temporary administration.”
He said that: “So, for the time being, they have to prepare to work as an effective, constructive opposition while also preparing for possible roles of the majority party when the cases are resolved. A government is waiting, so to speak.
“Therefore, you must please remain resolute; do not work in isolation from one another; you are a team and should always work together as a team to achieve meaningful results and also remain connected to your roots, your constituents, and other stakeholders.
“I like the statement of Oyo State governor today here; let us not let our egos blind our vision of what a political party is and what we should be doing for our party’s growth and our country’s development,” he added.
New Petrol Price May Push Inflation to 30% in June, Says Kale
Meanwhile, the Partner and Chief Economist at KPMG Nigeria, Yemi Kale, has said the new prices of petrol may add about six per cent or more to Nigeria’s inflation rate.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the rate of change in prices of goods and services, climbed to 22.22 per cent in April 2023 — the fourth consecutive surge in Nigeria’s inflation figure since the year started.
Analysing the implications of the new petrol price on the country’s inflation figure, Kale said the inflation rate may increase to 30 per cent in June 2023.
However, the former statistician-general of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said the CPI for May would not be impacted.
“Using the NBS CPI model+my macro model, the new petrol prices may add about six per cent to CPI in June over whatever is reported in May, holding other things constant,” he tweeted.
“April was 22.22 per cent and May is unknown and won’t be affected. So, June will be somewhere about 30 per cent. Not as bad as I expected.”