FG replies Labour: No plan to increase fuel price, strike threat premature


…’Subsidy gone permanently’

By Ukpono Ukpong

Twenty-four hours after labour warned of nationwide total strike should there be any further hike in petrol pump price, President Bola Tinubu yesterday assured Nigerians that there is no plan for such increase.

He also stressed that there was no plan to return to the fuel subsidy regime which his administration exited from in May this year.

The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Ajuri Ngelale, disclosed these to State House Correspondents at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

On Monday at the African Trade Unions Alliance meeting in Abuja, President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, said labour will straightaway, without notice, proceed on strike and shut down the economy, if the price of petrol is increased one more time, stressing that workers and ordinary Nigerians were suffering untold hardship on account of the two recent increases which, he noted, had upped the number of very poor persons in the land and rendered most salaries valueless.

His words: ”As we are here now, they are contemplating increasing the pump price of petroleum product…But let me say this: Nigerian workers will not give any notice if we have not addressed the consequences of the last two increases and we wake up from our sleep to hear that they have tampered with the prices again. They have started floating ideas of a likely increase in the pump price of petroleum product.”

The labour leader added: “But I want to plead with you that those bad economic policies by the state that make our wages next to nothing should be checked. If you check those policies that lead to inflation and the devaluation of the currency, even where we are, we will be comfortable.

“If Naira is at par with dollar today, we ask you to leave it (minimum wage) at N30, 000, it will make sense. If inflation is checked to zero, we ask you to leave it where we are, but if inflation is flying, if even by the admittance of the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, we have over 133 million Nigerians that are multi-dimensionally poor, I think you should address those issues. If we go for even wage increase tomorrow, the inflation that will come up tomorrow will destroy it.”

Briefing newsmen, however, Ngelale said: “This morning, I have the privilege of sitting down with His Excellency President Bola Tinubu as we discussed the current unfolding situation in the country as it relates to fuel supply and demand.

“The President wishes first to state that it is incumbent upon all stakeholders in the country to hold their peace. We have heard very recently from the organized labour movement in the country with respect to their most recent threat.

“We believe that the threat was premature and that there is a need on all sides to ensure that fact finding and diligence is done on what the current state of the downstream and midstream petroleum industry is before any threats or conclusions are arrived at or issued.

“Secondly, Mr. President wishes to assure Nigerians following the announcement by the NNPC Limited just yesterday (Monday) that there will be no increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit anywhere in the country. We repeat: the President affirms that there will be no increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit.

“We also wish to affirm that the President is determined to maintain competitive tension within all subsectors of the petroleum industry. He is determined to ensure that our policy drawn up as well as policy implemented follow the cue that there will not be any single one entity dominating the market.

“The market has been deregulated. It has been liberalized and we are moving forward in that direction without looking back.”

While noting that there are some inefficiencies within the midstream and downstream petroleum subsectors, the President said that once very swiftly addressed and cleaned up, “it will ensure that we can maintain prices where they are without having to resort to a reversal of this administration’s deregulation policy in the petroleum industry.”

He, however, presented a set of graphics supplied to the President by NNPCL which showed the present cost of refined Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol, at the pump in each of the West African nations contiguous to Nigeria.

Ngelale added: “I wish at this juncture to also provide a set of graphics which the President has authorized me to share with Nigerians that otherwise would be confidential. These are graphics supplied to Mr. President by the NNPCL.

“In the graphic, what you will find is the present cost of refined Premium Motor Spirit at the pump in each of the West African nations that neighbour us and I’ll just name some for example; even as I know you will be showing your audiences the graphics which the President has graciously approved for public release today.

“Senegal at pump price today of N1,273 equivalent per litre; Guinea at N1,075 per litre; Côte d’Ivoire at N1,048 per litre equivalent in their currency; Mali N1,113 per litre; Central African Republic N1,414 per litre; Nigeria is presently averaging between N568 and N630 per litre.

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“We are presently the cheapest, most affordable purchasing state in the West African sub-region by some distance. There is no country that is below N700 per litre.

“So, this is the backdrop we have seen that at the inception of our deregulation policy as of June 1 as Mr. President took office, we have seen PMS consumption in the country drop immediately from 67 million litres per day consumption, down to 46 million litres per day consumption. The impact is evident.

“What it also does mean though, is that we are not at the end of the tunnel. There is still a bit of darkness to travel through to get toward the light. And we are pleading with Nigerians to please be patient with us. And as we promised from the beginning we will be open with Nigerians, we will be transparent with them.

“We are ready to show you exactly what it is that our nation is facing with respect to the illiquidity in the market in terms of foreign exchange, as a result of what is now known to have been a gross mismanagement of the Central Bank of Nigeria over the course of several years preceding this time.”

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