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Fuel price hike: Be prepared for long strike, NLC told Nigerians

Posted by By FRANCIS AWOWOLE-BROWNE and KINGSLEY OKEKE, Abuja on 2007/06/09 | Views: 930 |

Fuel price hike: Be prepared for long strike, NLC told Nigerians


Against the background of declaration that there was no going back on the increase in the pump prices of petroleum products, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Wednesday talked tough over the planned nationwide strike, maintaining that nothing short of total reversal of the hikes in prices of fuel, Value Added Tax (VAT) and revocation of the sales of the Kaduna and Port-Harcourt refineries would be acceptable to the workers.

Against the background of declaration that there was no going back on the increase in the pump prices of petroleum products, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Wednesday talked tough over the planned nationwide strike, maintaining that nothing short of total reversal of the hikes in prices of fuel, Value Added Tax (VAT) and revocation of the sales of the Kaduna and Port-Harcourt refineries would be acceptable to the workers.

It also asked Nigerians to prepare to not only make necessary sacrifices but also for a long drawn battle needed to have government do what is right and know that that the people count in its policy thrusts.

Both NLC and its senior staff counterpart, Trade Union Congress (TUC) had given government 14 days ultimatum within which to reverse the hikes and cancel the sale of the refineries, failure of which they promised to call workers out on national strike. The ultimatum will expire June 18.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) declared that there was no going back on the fuel price increase, saying government could no longer cope with rising subsidy.
Reacting to this, President of the NLC, Mr. Abdulwaheed Omar, who addressed newsmen on the readiness of labour to fight the unpopular actions taken by former administration, said the congress was particularly peeved at the silence and indifference of government over the arbitrary upward hike and sale of national assets to a few individuals.

Besides, the NLC boss lamented that the Federal Government could not even acknowledge its letters on the matter, adding: "The NLC is now sufficiently convinced that the country may be in for a long drawn battle with the executive to right the wrongs perpetrated by the defunct Obasanjo regime."

According to him, the NLC has begun a series of meetings with a broad segments of the populace as well as labour’s allies, on the need to embark on an industrial action, with a view to ensuring that blatant anti-people and poverty-multiplying policies is checked.

He stated that the coming strike would be different from those in the past as the labour would not allow it to be bamboozled into calling off the strike only after a marginal reduction has been effected.
"We are demanding total reversals" he noted.

Omar argued that labour, ordinarily, ought not to give such a long ultimatum for government to retrace its steps, but that it did that bearing in mind that the government is new and needed time to settle for national assignment, regretting that government has not been forthcoming. He said that the congress had, in the last 48 hours, been receiving many delegations from various segments of the society, including market people, the self employed, faith-based organizations and structured civil society coalition and others.

Explaining the situation, which gave rise to the ultimatum and the need for the people to respond to the call for action, Omar stated: "The immediate trigger of the ultimatum was the mindless increase in the prices of petrol, kerosene, and diesel in the twilight of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime. That regime which has become infamous for its pro-IMF, anti-people and poverty inducing policies, also increased the Value Added Tax (VAT) by 100 per cent while depriving workers of their hard earned 15 per cent salary increase.

"Another issue was the rush sell of Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries by Obasanjo regime to its cohorts, in the process that is void of due process and transparency,"
He called on Nigerians to start stockpiling essential items, like food.

Said he: "We have in the last 48 hours received many delegations from various segments of the society, including market people, the self-employed, some faith-based organizations, the structured civil society coalition and of course, workers. Their messages were to register support for the patriotic steps that the NLC has taken last as the situation has become unbearable."

Consequently, to avert the national paralysis, the NLC appealed to the National Assembly to ask the Presidency to shelve the increases, more so when the lawmakers’ task had been made easier by the fact that the bill sponsored by the executive to have the hike in VAT had been rejected by the Senate just for the executive to now impose it.

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