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Reps, Labour clash on petrol subsidy removal

From Ndubuisi Orji, Adanna Nnamani, Abuja, Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin, Lukman Olabiyi,  Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin 

 

President Bola Tinubu’s pronouncement on Monday that fuel subsidy is gone is causing ripples across the country with oil marketers and filling stations shutting down. The situation has led to products’ scarcity, astronomical rise in pump price and long queues in the few retail outlets that are dispensing product.

A visit to filling stations across the country indicated that pump price of petrol had been raised from N184 per litre to between N350 and N800 per litre.

The hike has led to 100 per cent increase in transport fares across various intra-state routes. This is as some commuters who could not afford the new transport fares had to trek long distances to the destinations.

A retail attendant at one of the stations in Ikeja, Lagos said they were told to shut down until they were issued directives from their headquarters on whether to dispense products to customers or not. Most customers, however, blamed the president for creating the crisis with a pronouncement that failed to state in unambiguous terms the commencement date of the subsidy removal.

“President Tinubu is the one that threw the industry into crisis on Monday and created room for shylock marketers to exploit Nigerians overnight with exorbitant cost of petrol even when we were told by the outgone government that it has made provision for fuel subsidy till June,” said Uduak Mkpamkpa, who lamented buying fuel at over N550 per litter in Uyo.

“He should have been specific on the exact date the policy is taking off and this would have stopped the panic buying, prepared minds of citizens on the new price of petrol and also checkmate the exploitation of customers by marketers.”

•Don’t dare Nigerians, NLC warns

However, an angry Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has warned President Tinubu not to dare the people.

Its president, Joe Ajaero, in a statement, said Tinubu, by his “insensitive” decision,  on his inauguration day brought tears and sorrow to millions of Nigerians instead of hope.

According to the labour leader, the subsidy removal is ill-timed and violates the condition precedent necessary before such a decision is made.

   He warned that the implications of the decision were grave for the country’s security and well-being and  demanded immediate withdrawal of the policy.

“If he is expecting a medal for taking this decision, he would certainly be disappointed to receive curses for the people of Nigeria consider this decision not only a slight but  a big  betrayal.

“We wonder if  President Tinubu gave  a thought to why his predecessors in office refused to implement this highly injurious policy decision?

“We also wonder if he also forgot the words he penned down on January 8, 2012 but issued  on Januray 11, 2012.

“Though someday, Nigeria will have to remove the subsidy, the time to do it is not now. This subsidy removal is ill-timed and violates the condition precedent necessary before such a decision is made. First, government needs to clean up and throw away the salad of corruption in the NNPC. Then, proceed to lay the foundation for a mass transit system in the railways and road network with long term bonds and fully develop the energy sector towards revitalising Nigeria’s economy and easing the burden any subsidy removal may have on the people,” he stated.

•Consult stakeholders   –TUC

The Trade Unions Congress (TUC), however, differed as it asked President Tinubu to suspend his plans.

The union, in a statement by its President, Festus Osifo, and General Secretary,  Nuhu Toro, said it expected the Tinubu’s government to be wise on such a sensitive issue and be more explicit in its pronouncement to avoid contradictory interpretation when comparing his written statement, what he said and the provision in 2023 appropriation act.

According to the Congress, fuel subsidy removal is a delicate issue that touches on the lives, citizens, especially workers hence ought to have been treated with utmost caution, and should have been preceded by robust dialogue and consultation with, the representatives of the working people, including professionals, market people, students and the poor masses.

“Accordingly, we hereby demand that President Tinubu should tarry awhile to give room for robust dialogue and consultation and stakeholders engagement, just as he opined in his speech until all issues and questions – and there are a host of them! – to ensure that they are amicably considered and resolved. Nigerian Workers and indeed masses must not be made to suffer the inefficiency of successive governments,” it stated.

•Brace up for more rude shocks, surprises –LP

The Labour Party (LP) has advised Nigerians to brace up for more rude shocks and surprises in the coming days, stating that the pronouncement of fuel subsidy removal was an example of the many shocking policies to come.

According to a statement by its Acting National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, “Labour Party has been confronted with the stark reality that less than 24 hours after President Bola Ahmed Tinubu took over the reins of power, Nigerians woke up to see the pump price of petrol shot up to N600 per litre and N750 per litre in the black market. This is arising from the immediate removal of subsidy on petrol as announced by the new administration.

“As we speak now the queues are back again and Nigerians will, as was the case in the previous administration begin to keep vigils in the filling station to get just a few litres of petrol. As expected commercial transporters have hiked their trip fares across the country in response to the developments. While product hawkers are once more the king of the jungle.

“This scenario easily reminds one of the story of a certain Pharaoh who on assumption of throne empowered his task-masters to triple the daily tasks of the Jews. What a way to announce once emergence as the Sheriff in town. President Tinubu’s first executive proclamation was such that it is purposed to inflict pains on Nigerians.”

The party called on the government to quickly reevaluate the policy, and come up with a more practical plans to remove the subsidy in such a way as not to jeopardise the peace of the nation.

•Reps back fuel subsidy removal

Notwithstanding, the House of Representatives has resolved to support the decision of President Tinubu.

The House, in a motion sponsored by Jimoh Olajide, at plenary, appealed to Nigerians for patience and understanding and lauded the immediate past administration for phasing out fuel subsidy.

Presenting the motion, Olajide said President Tinubu was a concerned senior citizen whose agenda was to favour the down trodden for the purpose of humanity.

He noted that there was no provision for fuel subsidy in the 2023 Appropriation Act, adding that the ninth Assembly and the past administration gave it a legal backing. He said any legislative action in support of the president to deliver dividends of democracy to Nigerians would go a long way in enhancing development. “The president is concerned about the masses and has meaningful objective to utilise Nigeria funds appropriately with budgetary reforms agenda on education, health, and infrastructure Others include agriculture, food, security and above all security of lives and property as embedded in the constitution,” he said.

•Sanwo-Olu, Diri knock marketers

In Lagos, Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, berated marketers for taking undue advantage of Nigerians by hiking the price of petrol arbitrarily.

The governor, who stated this when he paid a surprise visit to civil servants at the secretariat in Alausa, Ikeja, Sanwo-Olu, described as unfair the sudden hike in petrol price by marketers.

“I think it’s unfair of our major marketers to seize opportunities in areas when not needed. We all need to be sincere in this country if we really want to get things done. Let us know that we might need to belt up a little bit, but we really need it so that we can have a better life in future.”

Worried by the situation, Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, warned that his administration will take stern measures against any filling station that flouted the directive.

He said it was wicked for oil marketers to swiftly seek to profit at the detriment of the people following a mere pronouncement that had not taken effect.

He had directed the Ministry of Mineral Resources and the petroleum task force in the state to shut down any filling station hoarding the product or caught selling above the usual price.

•Kwara gov to revoke CoO

Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Chairman and Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, has cautioned oil marketers to avoid imposing needless hardship on citizens with artificial fuel scarcity and hike in pump price.

A statement from Government House, Ilorin, yesterday said: “The Governor is seriously concerned about reports of sudden fuel scarcity in different parts of the state. This is totally uncalled for. He asks fuel marketers to immediately discharge fuel to the public under the normal pricing system since they had bought what they currently have at subsidised rates,” according to a Government House statement on Tuesday morning.

“Creating artificial scarcity amounts to intentional misrepresentation of the statement of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on the question of fuel subsidy. The people should not be made to undergo any hardship.

“The governor urges the marketers to desist from anything that qualifies as economic sabotage of the people. Hoarding fuel bought at subsidised price and creating panic in the state is opportunistic and will not be condoned. Deputy Governor, Kayode Alabi, will be leading a task force to ensure that no fuel marketer causes undue hardship to the citizens in Kwara State.

“Fuel stations are to note that the Task Force will dip into their pits. Any filling stations found to be hoarding fuel will have their Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) revoked, among other penalties.”

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