Subsidy Removal: Stop misleading Nigerians with planned strike-CSO cautions labour unions
We the members of Citizens Voice Against Corruption (CIVAC) a platform of numerous civil society organizations and professional bodies, declare our support for fuel subsidy removal and condemn in strongest terms the hypocrisy of some Nigeria’s political figures. For example both major candidates in the last presidential election made promises to remove fuel subsidy if elected president, but now they are all over the place blaming president Tinubu for doing what they promised to do for Nigerians. We also urge Nigerians not to partake in the planned strike by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) against the removal of fuel subsidies by the Federal Government. Any confrontational action in this regard can be described as misguided, unwise and self-defeating. The leaders of NLC and TUC should rise up to their duties and stop playing to gallery or the books of some elites who are benefiting immensely from the petroleum subsidy. NLC and TUC needs to get their acts together by putting future and survival of Nigeria first.
The intended strike and protest will put a halt on the operations of government offices, banks, shopping centres and schools, transportation workers and will also significantly affect the informal sectors including markets and local transportation services. This will cause an untold hardship on Nigerians and have significant damaging effect on an already struggling economy. Paralysing the country of more than 200 million people, majority of the citizens live on daily wage will be highly irrational.
Moreover, considering the delicate security situation in the country, it will be of great concern that grieving politicians, provocateurs and anarchist can hijacked the strike to stage protests and demonstrations, or hide under the cover of protestors and promote discord, anarchy and unleash mayhem to the detriment of public peace. We have all witness how criminal elements hijacked the End SARs protest and the amount looting and burning that took place, while turning into tribal violence and killings in some states. Similarly, politicians and other interests beyond the implementation of the deregulation policy can hijacked the national protest to derive personal and selfish agendas. It is thus imperative for NLC and TUC leaders to avoid putting Nigeria in such delicate security situation.
For most oil producing countries, high oil prices means high government earning, more spending on education, health, infrastructure, poverty alleviation etc. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the Nigeria, as the high profit margin earn from high oil price is largely swallowed by petroleum subsidy. If NLC and TUC leaders are not in terms with the proposed stoppage to paying petroleum subsidy despite the glaring evidences of the failure of the scheme, they can explore other avenues to prevent high petroleum price in the country. One important option is to engage with the government to find a more suitable solution. For example by putting pressure on the government to revamp the three national refineries (in Kaduna, Warri and Port-Harcourt) which can play a significant role in easing the pressure on our forex reserve thus strengthening our currency. A strong Naira and local refining capacity will make the petroleum products cheap even without subsidies. In addition if these refineries are revamped, hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs will be created, thus creating a multiplier effect in the fight against poverty and the growth of our economy.
In conclusion, it is very critical that NLC and TUC leadership to keep in mind that in pushing the interest of Nigerians forward, they need to choose options that will not worsen our security situation, is economically sustainable and that which will open brighter future to Nigerian’s economy and teaming populace – a lot of which are unemployed. Also of note is that in a petroleum subsidy free system, when oil prices go low e.g. what happened in 2015-2017 Nigerians will equally pay for a much cheaper petroleum prices than they were paying in a petroleum subsidy regime.