Nigerian labor and trade organizations have been mobilizing its members and the entire labor and trade ecosystem in Nigeria, for a nationwide strike action aimed at forcing the federal government to reverse the recently increased petroleum pump price and electricity tariff.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), on Tuesday announced the decision of its Central Working Committee (CWC), to commence a nationwide indefinite strike and mass protest from September 28, after it was approved by its National Executive Council (NEC).
The CWC had last week Wednesday issued a two-weeks ultimatum to the federal government, its NEC has now ordered the 36 NLC state’s councils and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to prepare for the showdown.
NLC’s president, Ayuba Wabba on Monday, after the organization’s NEC meeting held in Abuja, called on the federal government to heed the warning and save the country from the industrial action, as there would be no going back unless the increased fuel and electricity prices are rescinded. He also gave reasons why the NLC is not going to renege on the planned nationwide strike.
“The National Executive Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress comprising members of the National Administrative Council, president and General Secretary of members of the affiliate unions and our state council chairpersons and secretaries of the 36 states and FCT met today (Monday) and resolved as follows:
“NEC resolved to reject in its entirety the issue of hike in electricity tariffs by almost 100 percent as well as the fuel price increase in the name of full deregulation. This decision is premised on the fact that these twin decisions of government including the increase of VAT by 7.5 percent, numerous charges being charged by commercial banks on depositors without any explanations will further impoverish Nigerian workers and citizens, including their families.
“Therefore, this increase coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is not only ill-timed, but it is also counterproductive. NEC also observed that the privatization of the electricity sub-sector seven years down the line has not yielded any positive result.
“Whereas the entire privatization process, the entire sector was sold at about N400 billion, we are also surprised that government within the last four years injected N1.5 trillion over and above the amount that accrued from this important.
“Therefore, NEC came to the conclusion that the entire privatization process has failed and the electricity hike is actually a process of continuous exploitation of Nigerians.
“On the issue of the refineries and also the increase in the pump price of PMS… whether it’s in the name of full deregulation or subsidy removal, what is obvious is that it is fuel price hike and this has further eroded the gains of the N30,000 minimum wage because it has spiral effects which include the high costs of food and services and the reduction in the purchasing power of ordinary Nigerians.
“In light of all these, NEC thought that the issue of deregulation would be a continuous exploitation if it is import-driven.
“While demanding that our three refineries should be made to work optimally and then, it would benefit Nigerians, NEC also concluded that government has business in doing business because the primary purpose of governance is about the security and welfare of the people and if in other countries, they are working optimally for the benefit of the people, Nigeria cannot be an exception.
“In the light of these, NEC decided to endorse the two week ultimatum given to the federal government to reverse those obnoxious decisions and also pronounce that the action proposed by the Central Working Committee is hereby endorsed by the NEC that 28th of September should be the date that those decisions should be challenged by the Nigerian workers, our civil society allies and other labor countries,” Wabba concluded.
In solidarity, the TUC said it has moved its mobilization strategies to be in par with September 28. The president of the congress, Quadri Olaleye said the ultimatum it gave to the federal government, which expires in September 22, has been moved forward to September 28. He appealed to Nigerians, “especially those in the informal sector to bear with us while the industrial action lasts.”
Some of the reasons raised by TUC are the poor minimum wage, which about eight states are yet to implement, and the government’s inability to fulfill its promise to build refineries. Moreover, the present administration had said in 2014, before it was elected, that there is nothing like fuel subsidy, accusing the past administration of using the words to embezzle public funds. Therefore, the TUC said it’s unacceptable for Buhari’s administration to increase pump price based on fuel subsidy removal.
However, while there is overwhelming support from the general public for the scheduled strike action, the impact on the already fragile economy could not be ignored. The Nigerian government was forced to prematurely lift the coronavirus induced lockdown as it was close to crippling the economy.
Consequently, the economic figures have been rising and falling against Nigeria’s economy. With public debt increasing, unemployment rate has risen to 27.1% for the second quarter of 2020, inflation is at 12.56% and GDP growth rate, year-on-year is at -6.1%. With these numbers and more indicating that Nigeria is up for a rough ride, shutting the economy down once again through nationwide strike will be the enabler it needs to fall into recession.
However, reversing the price hike decisions comes with a huge price that the government evidently cannot afford to pay now. With the public debt at N31 trillion, borrowing to fund fuel and electricity subsidies will have an impact as devastating as the strike. Against this backdrop, the federal government has a tough decision to make before September 28.