The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has issued a stern caution, asserting that its members are prepared to launch an unannounced nationwide strike if the federal government greenlights yet another increase in petrol pump prices without resolving ongoing negotiations.
During the ongoing meeting of the African Alliance of Trade Unions in Abuja, NLC President, Joe Ajaero, made this emphatic warning.
Simultaneously, the National Oil and Gas Suppliers Association of Nigeria (NOGASA) has called for the elimination of the 7.5% tax on diesel fuel, citing its contribution to the escalation of overall petrol prices within the nation. NOGASA has additionally pressed the federal government to urgently address the continuous depreciation of the naira’s value to mitigate the mounting costs of petrol.
In recent days, oil marketers have disclosed their projection that the price of petrol could surge to between N680/litre and N720/litre in the coming weeks if the dollar maintains its trading value at around N950 to a dollar in the parallel market.
These marketers have also disclosed that a shortage of foreign exchange is hindering petrol imports and the official Investors and Exporters’ forex window is failing to meet their greenback demands.
Reacting to these unfolding events, Ajaero stressed the imperative for the federal government to amend “those bad economic policies that make workers’ wages next to nothing.”
The NLC president stated, “As we’re here now, they’re contemplating on increasing the pump price of petroleum products. But the Minister of Labour for some time now, will only go to the Ministry of Justice to come up with an injunction to hold the hands of labour not to respond. They have started floating ideas of a likely increase in the price of petroleum products.
“But let me say this. Nigerian workers will not give any strike notice if we have not addressed the consequences of the last two increases in fuel pump price, and we wake up from asleep to hear that they have tampered with the fuel pump price again.”
Ajaero further said, “I want to plead with a government that those bad economic policies that make our wages next to nothing should be checked.
“If you check those policies that lead to inflation and devaluation of the currency, we will be comfortable even where we are. If the naira is at par with the dollar today, we will ask you to leave minimum wage at 30,000; if inflation is checked to zero, we will ask you to leave things the way they are.
“But inflation is flying and by the admittance of the National Bureau of Statistics, we have over 133 million Nigerians that are multi-dimensionally poor. I think these are the issues government should address. If we go for wage increase tomorrow, the inflation that will follow suit will destroy it.”
On the issue of undue harassment of labour unions by the Police, Ajaero said, “The Nigeria Police, the Inspector General is now performing the duties of the Ministry of Labour. The duty of the Ministry of Labour includes addressing the issue of both inter and intra-union disputes.
“It is not within the purview of the Inspector General of Police to go into that area. And I think there is a need for the Ministry of Labour to educate the police to tell them that they don’t have the right to usurp its functions. If they do that, the Ministry of Labour will go into extinction and there’ll be no basis for the Minister of Labour to remain there.
“We say it is legal and we demand an apology from the IG of police for arresting or even contemplating to arrest the president of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, for whatever reason, at the eve of the election.
“It is unheard of in the history of this country. And never again should that be entertained. Nigeria Police against Nigerian workers, we will not waste time too much to their offices. Let them use the same gun that was bought with the workers’ tax to engage us?”