The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has vowed not to organise any protests against the current fuel crisis in the country until Nigerians are prepared to offer tangible support.
Deputy President of the Congress, Peters Adeyemi, made this known yesterday in an exclusive interview with The Guardian.
Meanwhile, there is still no respite for motorists in Abuja, Lagos and other major cities and towns across the country, as the elusive petrol appears to be even becoming more difficult to get, with prices skyrocketing to between N200 and N250, especially in the suburbs.
This comes as the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, shifted his promise of end to the queues within two days to the weekend, ostensibly as the queues persist in filling stations with product to dispense, while many owned by independent marketers remained closed due to non-availability of petrol or hoarding, only to sell at night, in some cases.
Adeyemi, who is also the General Secretary of Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), criticised Nigerians for tolerating the upward adjustment of fuel price from N87 to N145 per litre in May 2016, which set the tone for the current hardship.
Adeyemi said Nigerians must be prepared to say enough is enough and summon enough courage to resist more hardship that may be foisted on them by the current fuel scarcity.
On whether the labour movement would occupy Nigerian streets if the current scarcity were not resolved early in the New Year, Adeyemi said: “Why do Nigerians have short memories?
“In May last year when the price was moved to N145 per litre, the NLC moved to the streets and Nigerians refused to follow us. We went on the streets in Abuja and some Nigerians stoned us. Are Nigerians so quick to forget?
“Trade Union Congress (TUC) and some guys, who claimed they had another NLC and were claiming to be operating under illegal labour body, abandoned the struggle. They were hobnobbing with the federal government. They humiliated us.
“But is history kind to them today? These were comrades that sold out. Today, 18 months on, we are back to the same struggle they betrayed. We told Nigerians not to go to work, but they went.
“So, Nigerians must pay the price, and they are paying heavily for it now. The NLC has been vindicated. No one can blame us for the ongoing hardship. We called them at that time, but they said No; they went to romance with government. This is where the romance has taken them.
“It is not about the NLC not willing to lead the struggle if the need be, but Nigerians must now lead the struggle from the front. Though NLC can call a strike, NLC cannot prosecute strike or protest all alone; struggles can be prosecuted by the mass of the people.
“If Nigerians are not ready, there is no problem, but Nigerians must know that the present leadership of the NLC is ready to lead when the people themselves are ready.”
He said the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration became the first government in the history of Nigeria to move the price of petrol up by over 75 per cent in May last year, recalling that NLC had argued that there was no way marketers would import petroleum products under a highly devalued naira, adding:
“Asking marketers to source for hard currency means that they have to resort to the parallel market, which would then be above N360 per dollar. How can this work under the current N145 per litre?”
The NLC leader also accused government of lying to Nigerians that there are products, saying: “Where are the products? Who has the products? How many marketers have petrol? How many litres does the NNPC have?
“Baru told Nigerians that the queues would end in two days last week, that they had enough products. That is a lie; they don’t have. Has it ended now? Now, he has come with another ultimatum of the queues going away at the weekend. Today (yesterday) is (was) Friday. Have the queues gone?
He submitted that with the marketers asking for increase to N171 per litre, government couldn’t increase, because they had lied to Nigerians before.
Adeyemi also lambasted the government for lying to Nigerians again that there was a N500billion Intervention Fund, where petrol price was moved to N145, only for Labour to discover that there was no money meant to cushion the effects of the price increment.
He added: “The Federal Government told us in the NLC that there was a N500billion palliative fund meant to cushion the effects of the price adjustment. When we then asked for it and to work on the modalities to disburse the money, government then told us the money was on paper only.
“What a deceit by a government that came to power on the altar of change, to fight corruption and foster transparency?
“The government never cushioned the effects of that increase and now, another increment is on the horizon.”
The NASU scribe equally berated government for reneging on the minimum wage as part of palliatives for the fuel price increment, as the issue is yet to be resolved, one year and seven months (since May 2016) after the price of fuel was moved to N145 from N87 per litre.
“It is a shame to the current government and a heart of insincerity on the part of government officials,” he lamented.