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Planned Withdrawal of Subsidy: NLC Will Not Guarantee Industrial Peace

September 7, 2010

The attention of the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has been drawn to a statement by the Minister of Finance, Mr Olusegun Aganga, on the issue of withdrawal of subsidies on petroleum products.

The attention of the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has been drawn to a statement by the Minister of Finance, Mr Olusegun Aganga, on the issue of withdrawal of subsidies on petroleum products.

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The Minister was quoted by some national newspapers to have revealed that government plans to remove subsidies on domestic fuel prices beginning from December this year or latest by the end of 2011. According to Mr Aganga, this plan is as a result of government’s investment in mass transit system which he said will ease the impact of subsidy withdrawal on the masses.

As far as Congress is concerned, the position of the Honourable Minister is completely against the subsisting dialogue between labour and government which began a few weeks Dr Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as President and Commander-in-Chief when he set up a committee to look at labour’s critical areas of concern. To the best of our knowledge, nothing meaningful has come out of the discussion up to now. We see the minister’s comment therefore as pre-emptive of the dialogue and invariably a mark of government’s insincerity on the policies of subsidy and deregulation.

We wish to state that the NLC still remains opposed to the twin policies of subsidy withdrawal and deregulation principally because the arguments usually advanced by government do not take into consideration the broader social and economic ramifications on especially the masses who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of subsidy.

We wish to make it abundantly clear that the implications of the removal of subsidy go far beyond the question of availability of mass transit system or whatever amount of money government would be saving. It is essentially the question of government living up to its basic responsibility of providing governance in the best interest of the masses. In the oil sector which is the hub of our economy, this will be symbolised in functional refineries, effectively coordinated distribution network and other variables all geared towards serving national interests.

The NLC therefore believes that what we require are the will, commitment and courage on the part of government to frontally confront the numerous challenges in the oil sector, the most profound of which is corruption. It is purely for this reason that Congress has maintained that it will not accept increase in the prices of petroleum products in the name of subsidy withdrawal or deregulation. 

We wish to therefore restate our call on President Goodluck Jonathan to ignore any advice to remove subsidy on petroleum products without exhaustive engagement with relevant stakeholders particularly labour since we believe that this is not the time to put additional burden on already overburdened Nigerians. For this reason, Nigeria Labour Congress will not be able to guarantee industrial peace in the country if government goes ahead to unilaterally withdraw subsidies on fuel products as the Minister of Finance stated.

 

Onah Iduh

Acting Head, Department of Information and Public Relations

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