Good governance is the solution, not deregulation, Labour told President Umaru Yar’Adua at the weekend, in reaction to the full deregulation of the petroleum sector after years of dispute over it.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said the policy will not boost the economy, and urged the government to join the global trend of good governance by slashing the price of all fuel products, fixing the refineries, and re-evaluating the Naira, among other measures.
A statement issued by NLC Vice President, Issa Aremu, noted that if subsidy is totally removed from fuel, the pump price could rise to about N73.37 per litre.
And "coming on the heels of a downward review of the price to N65 recently, this development lends credence to the conspiracy theory that the earlier N5 reduction was to prepare ground for the controversial deregulation policy and subsequent serial price increases," he added.
"Again, contrary to the global trend of downward and indeed general collapse of fuel price, Nigeria -by policy incoherence and indeed policy confusion -is set to impose unnecessary hardship on its impoverished citizens through irrational and illogical price increases.
"By this singular action, Yar’Adua, like his predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo, exhibits gross incompetence and indeed insincerity of purpose in getting Nigeria and Nigerians out of the economic crisis, poverty and general deprivations."
Labour argued that the march of the new world order after the economic meltdown is in the direction of stimulus to cushion the effects and lower energy cost, so as to trigger economic growth, improve purchasing power, and eradicate poverty.
"It is unexplainable that Nigeria, which had been in crisis well before the current global mess, will move against the wind of change and hold on to the same neo liberal, do nothing, least resistance to governance."
The greatest challenge for the government, Labour stressed, is to put Nigeria on the path of long term economic recovery through innovative and pragmatic policies, not a return to discredited zero sum policy of deregulation that would benefit the privileged few and impoverish the majority.
On Sunday, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) criticised the removal of fuel subsidy as insensitive, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, blamed the negative reaction on poor communication between the government and the governed, and former Kaduna State Governor, Balarabe Musa, described it as unpatriotic.
"The CNPP has resolved to join forces with Labour and other progressives to stop the government’s ungodly decision and unpatriotic move to subject Nigerians to double jeopardy by a failed government," said Osita Okechukwu, CNPP National Publicity Secretary.
"Our anger is that our own Adams Oshiomhole, Governor of Edo State, is part of this fraud against Nigerians, (being a member of) a Presidential Committee that wittingly failed to ask where is the over N600 trillion oil proceeds that accrued to the country between July 1999 and July 2008 -covering the golden oil age when a barrel of oil sold for several years over $100 -and the country is still in darkness, with bad roads, poor social services and gross unemployment."
Nnamani advised the government to communicate effectively with the public, since "he who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. The government may have good intentions because it has the real facts but it must properly educate the people."
Musa said the decision to remove subsidy may have been informed by superficial indices, whereas the government should provide Nigerians with palliatives for the economic crunch.
He counselled: "The way the government is handling the situation would eventually return Nigeria to the 1930s, which was the era of slavery. To avoid this possibility, we need to re-order all social and economic systems in order to be self-sufficient and minimise the effects."
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) asked the government to account for the $200 million spent in the last two years on the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of refineries.
TUC President General, Peter Esele, and Secretary General, John Kolawole, accused the government of insincerity in the management of the refineries, and noted that the man in the street has not contributed to the problems of the country and should not bear the burden to satisfy the insatiable appetite of corrupt leaders.
"It is our belief that full deregulation only means uncontrolled price increases in petrol, kerosene and other products," they said.