Organised labour has vowed to shut down the government of the Federation next year should the Jonathan administration go ahead with its proposal to remove the fuel subsidy by half in 2015. Various key members of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress who spoke with The Street Journal on condition of anonymity today said it would be a repeat of the January 1, 2012 historic industrial action embarked upon by the NLC that paralyzed government activities for a week before government decided to back down on its earlier N196 per litre fuel price.
The nation-wide industrial action took a new dimension when Save Nigeria group led by renowned Lagos-based Pastor, Tunde Bakare whose group occupied Lagos before the Nigerian troops were moved in to save the situation from snowballing into a change of government by the military.
The respondents who claimed they did not have the authority of their respective organisations to speak to the press on the matter for now said it would be a huge joke for the Federal Government to increase fuel price at a time the generality of the populace were groaning in pains of bad management of the nation’s resources.
They noted that since it’s still at the domain of the national assembly, Nigerians should mount pressures on their representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives to throw out the proposal in order not to compound the impoverishment of the citizenry.
According to the labour leaders, both the presidency and lawmakers should be held responsible should the NASS sanction further impoverishment of Nigerians under the guise fuel price increase. They asked rhetorically whether the masses of the country benefited from the oil boom when it lasted, stressing that it would be unfair to make the poor suffer for the maladministration of the nation which culminated in the unprecedented level of corruption in the system.
It was argued that the nation wouldn’t have found itself in this present economic crisis if the managers of the economy had been more sincere in curtailing corruption in the country. ”Let’s wait and see; we are watching how the whole episode is unfolding and we are more than prepared for them”, said a top TUC official.
The Federal Government had said it planed to cut subsidies on petroleum products by half next year after sharp falls in global crude prices, spurred a reversal of its 2015 budget downwards.
President Goodluck Jonathan submitted the revised budget figures to lawmakers last week, proposing to spend 458.68 billion naira ($2.59 bln) on petrol subsidy in 2015, down from 971.14 billion naira presented for 2014.
It also assumed further cuts to petrol subsidies in 2016 to 408.68 billion naira and 371.18 billion naira for 2017.
The Minister of finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has proposed lowering the assumed benchmark oil price for the 2015 budget to $73 per barrel from the $78 proposed in September, after global crude prices collapsed.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters last week that declines in the price of oil, which has lost almost 30 percent since July, would impact the economy, requiring the government to cut non-essential spending and raise more revenues.
Recall that the FG tried to end subsidy in 2012 in efforts to cut government spending and encourage badly needed investment in local refining, doubling the price of a litre of petrol overnight to about 150 naira ($0.93) from about 65 naira
The budget proposals assumed an exchange rate of 162 naira to the U.S. dollar for 2015, weaker than 160 naira assumed for 2014. It expects the naira to weaken further to 163.50 in 2016, reaching 165 in 2017.