Opposition yesterday piled against the federal government’s planned removal of subsidy on petrol, otherwise known as premium motor spirit, PMS, and its decision to secure an $800 million World Bank facility as a palliative to cushion the effect on the people.
The resistance came from Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress, TUC, Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, and northern youths, under the aegis of the Northern Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN.
While NLC, TUC and NECA insisted that there would be no fuel subsidy removal without local refining of crude, while also kicking against the $800 million palliative, the northern youths threatened to embark on mass action should government remove subsidy, stressing that the $800 million palliative will be looted by government officials.
No local refining of petrol, no subsidy removal, NLC insists
An official of NLC, who spoke to Vanguard on grounds of anonymity yesterday, said the labour movement stands on its initial position that there could be no subsidy removal without local refining of crude to stave off the importation of petrol.
“We have nothing to do with petrol subsidy removal, neither do we have any business with the $800 million secured from the World Bank for palliatives. We have told the government what to do and we have also let them know that we will not accept the removal of subsidy without locally refining the product in the country,’’ he said.
On subsidy removal palliatives, FG on its own — TUC
Reacting in a similar vein, the Trade Union Congress, TUC, also rejected both subsidy removal and the government’s $800 million palliative to cushion its effects, saying the Federal Government was on its own.
TUC’s Secretary General, Nuhu Toro, said Organised Labour never had any discussion with the Federal Government on palliatives.
He said: “This is another neocolonialism tactic by the World Bank to hold Nigeria, the hostage. It is shocking to hear that the Federal Government has secured $800 million for the so-called palliatives.
“The government did not discuss with Organised Labour palliatives. The government is on its own.
“It is instructive to note that social dialogue is undermined in this circumstance. Over the years, Nigeria has been misled by the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and World Bank. It is unacceptable to us.
“There is no doubt that our country’s debt burden and high-interest rate will be worsened by this development. We have made it clear that the government must fix our refineries and address the issue of the local refining capacity of Nigeria.”
NECA faults $800m palliatives, insists on fixing local refineries
Also reacting yesterday, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, faulted $800 million grant from the World Bank to the Federal Government for palliatives, saying among others, previous palliatives had proved not to palliate the economic woes of the citizens.
Speaking through its Director-General, Wale-Smatt Oyerinde, NECA said fixing local refineries must be the pre-condition for the removal of subsidy.
He said: “We commend the efforts of the Federal Government in its bid to provide support to millions of Nigerians who would be affected by the eventual subsidy removal. We must also commend the World Bank for considering Nigeria worthy of the grant.
“It is without a doubt that an abrupt removal of the subsidy without any aid to cushion the hardship this would heap on the masses, especially the most vulnerable in the society, could lead to extreme forms of poverty.
‘’The cost of living is already at a pace inconsistent with household incomes and the disposable income of workers and Nigerians, in general, has been eroded significantly by myriads of challenges. These issues also affect employers considerably and significantly.
“While we support the removal of fuel subsidy and also commend the support of the World Bank, we believe government should not shy away from the fundamental issues. These issues include fixing the refineries as a pre-condition for the removal of subsidies.
“The questions that successive governments have refused to answer are, why can’t the refineries work? If millions of dollars had been expended on Turn Around Maintenance, TAM, why are the refineries still not working?
“Why is it difficult to prosecute those that have collected money for the TAM and refused to fix the refineries? These questions beg for urgent answers.
“It is worthy of note that over the past eight months, Nigerians have been buying petrol at different prices far above the approved price. We, on several occasions, had called on the government to fix the refineries and be deliberate about establishing the right institutional and policy framework to keep them running. We had hoped this would have been given attention first.
“We cannot over-emphasize that government must stop using scarce resources to fix policy problems. It is both unrealistic and unsustainable. The subsidy regime is a scam and has not in any way benefit the so-called “vulnerable” citizens.
‘’Therefore, it makes no economic sense to inject cash in the form of palliatives into an economy that is already beset with unending inflationary pressures.
“The $800 million at best is equivalent to about N360 billion and when you divide this by the targeted 10 million households, that amounts to approximately N36,000. What significant or tangible effect would this have on anyone, irrespective of status?
“We will only end up adding more woes to our shrinking economy. What we request is a more all-encompassing institutional structure to manage the gradual removal of subsidies after fixing the refineries and not the proposed palliatives.
“It is worthy of note that previous palliatives had proved not to palliate the economic woes of the citizens.
“We would, again, reiterate that the government must fix all the refineries. If the government is truly interested in doing this, which appears to be the most important palliative it can provide to the citizenry, then all those who have continued to sabotage every effort at fixing and having them function at optimal capacity must be held culpable.
‘’That is the first bit of it. As a matter of urgency, as the subsidy regime gradually comes to an end, accountability must be prioritized. All those who had any involvement in the subsidy regime directly or indirectly should be investigated.
“Our anti-graft agencies should brace up to the occasion and apprehend the situation, with a view to recovering stolen funds.”
Northern youths threaten mass action, say palliatives will be looted by govt officials
On their part, Northern youths yesterday expressed their opposition to the proposed removal of fuel subsidy, and threatened mass action against the policy should the Federal Government go ahead with it.
Acting under the aegis of the Northern Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN, the youths raised concerns about the potential impact of such a move on the already struggling economy and the Nigerian people.
The council in a statement issued by the President, Isah Abubakar, expressed fears that any palliative measures put in place to cushion the effect of the subsidy removal would be looted by corrupt government officials as they did with COVID-19 palliatives.
It called on the federal government to reconsider its decision to remove the subsidy, arguing that it would only lead to an increase in the cost of living for the average Nigerian who was already struggling to make ends meet.
“We cannot afford to have another round of hardship inflicted on the Nigerian people, especially the youth, who are already grappling with a high unemployment rate and lack of opportunities,” the council said.
It warned that there would be severe political consequences on those conspiring to throw Nigerians into avoidable crisis. The council vowed to resist any attempt to remove the fuel subsidy and called on other youth organizations across the country to join in the fight to prote