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|Deregulation: We’ll Ground Nigeria - Nlc, Tuc by depapa06(m): 7:20pm On Nov 15, 2009|
Deregulation: We’ll ground Nigeria - NLC, TUC
By WILLY EYA, BIMBOLA OYESOLA, SUNDAY ANI & ONUKWUBE OFOELUE
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Nigerians had better brace up for yet another mother-of-all-strike by the organized labour if the federal government goes ahead with its planned deregulation of the downstream oil sector. To be led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the labour unions have dared the government to totally remove the subsidy on petroleum products and risk grounding the country.
This followed the collapse of talks between both parties.
The unions vowed that they will deploy industrial action as a means to make the government realize its folly in the pursuit of the total deregulation policy.
The NLC president, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, in a telephone interview, however said the congress would use strike action as a last resort.
“We cannot rule out industrial action because everybody, government and labour so far have gone back to their respective positions,” he said.
Omar however said the congress’ position would be conveyed to Nigerians when its recently inaugurated l0-man committee finalizes its work.
He noted that the NLC does not consider the meeting with the government as deadlocked and that there was still room for dialogue.
“As far as NLC is concerned, we have decided to have another look at our position. That is why we decided to set up the committee whose report will guide us subsequently,” he stated.
The NLC president however explained that the congress had always been guided by well-articulated reasons and would only see reason with the government if things were put in proper perspective.
“We have always advanced that the refineries should work, there must be a system of mass transportation, good roads and some other things that will cushion the effects on the Nigerian masses. Provided these are in order, government cannot find an ally in labour,” he warned further.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) president general, Comrade Peter Esele, on his part, said the senior workers association had called its three major organs - National Administrative Council (NAC), National Executive Council (NEC) and Central Working committee (CWC) - to a meeting this week to deliberate on the issue.
“I would not like to pre-empt my national organs but when we meet next week, we will take a decisive position on the issue of deregulation,” he said.
Esele however said although he would not be pre-empting the government, he believes the agitation would follow the usual trend.
“I still see this government doing what they used to do in the past, which will be met by Aluta. Then we will meet all the parties at the negotiation table,” he said.
The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), an affiliate of the NLC, likewise promised to support the congress in making the strike effective anytime it is called.
The union said it would withdraw the vehicles of its member from the roads.
FG courting trouble – David-West
Former Minister of Petroleum, Prof Tam David-West, advised President Umaru Yar’Adua to resist the temptation of deregulating the downstream oil sector to avoid jeopardising the stability of the present administration.
Speaking with Sunday Sun in a telephone interview, David-West warned of dire consequences if Yar’Adua allows his advisers to mislead him with cooked books and false reasons about the desirability of the move.
He dismissed the arguments of those who are pro-deregulation, describing them as fraudulent, deceitful and self-serving.
According to him, it is the mafia and their cronies who mismanaged the oil industry and sabotaged the local refineries to justify fuel importation that were behind the clamour for deregulation in order to fleece helpless Nigerians.
“There is a limit to which people can endure suffering. There comes a time when people will say to live is like dying. So, we prefer to die.
“St Augustine said, rebellion against bad government has the support of the gods. Edmund Burke said government is a contrivance of human wisdom. Men have a right to expect that this wisdom will also meet their many demands,” he added.
The Professor of Virology called on the labour unions to mobilise Nigerians in protest against deregulation.
“If labour cannot go on strike now, they are useless and should shut up forever. No time is better than now to go on strike on this issue,” he insisted.
The former Minister wondered why the common man should be allowed to suffer the failure of successive administrations to address the problem of the oil sector.
“I am advising Yar’Adua not to do anything that will put more pain on the masses of this country. Already, the system is mostly unjust to the ordinary people, most asymmetrically immoral against the ordinary man.
“We have a system in which a Senator who hardly contributes in parliament earns N3million a month and that same system cannot give N7,000 to a hardworking labourer as monthly pay.
“My position is that if your refineries are working, you will have no need to import refined products.”
It’s shameful FG can’t fix refineries – Igini
Condemning the proposal, social commentator, Mr Mike Igini, said the government’s move to deregulate the sector was a result of incompetence to manage the nation’s four oil refineries.
He contended that since 1978 when the whole idea of deregulation started, the government’s argument has always been the same.
“I have said it over and over again that government’s deregulation is a result of incompetence. Since 1978 when the whole idea of deregulation started, government’s argument has always been the same. But it has consistently broken its promises in terms of the usage of the proceeds from the removal of oil subsidy. Forty-eight years after the country’s independence, there is no infrastructure to justify the removal of subsidy,” he lamented.
Speaking further he said, “I think the whole idea of deregulation is not bad. Deregulation means that government is pulling out all the things that are making it difficult for private businessmen to thrive in the oil industry.”
But he took a swipe at those who compare the oil sector with the telecommunication industry.
“Deregulation in the oil industry is not the same with the telecommunication industry. It was easy for MTN and ECONET to bring in their machines and start operation but it will take at least six years to build a refinery,” the social critic stressed.
For Igini, deregulation is coming up at this time because of government’s failure to manage the country’s four oil refineries. “It is importation deregulation,” he said.
On the economic implication of deregulation, Igini said: “The move will cause untold inflation because the multiplier effect of N100 per litre of petrol will jerk up prices of cassava, yam, vegetables as well as gari. It will affect all the stakeholders in the country because prices of essential commodities will be twice what they used to be before deregulation.”
Protest ‘ll be worse than ASUU strike - CLO
Chairman of the Lagos chapter of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Comrade Eneruvie Enakoko, called on Nigerians to resist the planned deregulation of the downstream sector.
Speaking in an interview with Sunday Sun, the CLO leader said politics and the economy of the Nigeria has been too volatile on the masses to be able to handle the pressure of deregulation.
Urging Nigerians to prepare to sustain a strong resistance through strikes and demonstrations, Eneruvie said if the government remains adamant about deregulation, the CLO along with labour unions, other civil society groups as well as every Nigerian would take to the streets in protest.
“It will be worse than the ASSU strike because not only are we going to protest, we are going to sustain the protest. Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor to the oppressed. It must be demanded by the oppressed. The privileged groups who oppress the people must be confronted by the people.”
Describing our leaders as wicked and insensitive to the plight of the common man, he advised that government instead should regulate the downstream sector, while embarking on massive repair and installation of basic infrastructure.
His words: “What government should embark on is proper regulation of the downstream sector. While repairing the refineries, government should also take steps to provide petroleum products at a cheap price. When fuel price went up internationally, government did nothing and it went up in Nigeria too. When it came down, nothing was also done apart from bringing it down by N5. That is wickedness to a people in their own property.
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