Emerging body language from Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) tends to indicate that the organized labour is bent on prosecuting its anti-fuel price rise war if Abuja ignores its opposition to increase the pump price of energy in the country.
The organised labour was tough-talking as Northern Independent Petroleum marketers cried out that Petroleum Equalisation Fund was yet to settle their N50 billion Bridging Claim for over nine months. The situation, according to them, has thrown many of them out of the business.
The marketers said failure to settle their claims may lead to scarcity of fuel in the North as the majority of its members run out of capital hence could not buy and transport fuel to the region.
Chairman of the marketers, Musa Maikifi, who in a statement lamented that during a meeting with members from the nine depots across the Northern states, at Ni’ima Guest Palace in Kano on Saturday, pointed out that for the past nine months they had made efforts to get their money paid but in vain.
“If this continues, so many of us will have to close down our fuel stations. This will add to the fuel scarcity in the region because the marketers have no capital. The Federal Government couldn’t settle our claims of over N50 billion.
‘’We met the authority involved and they promised to pay us but yet they haven’t. So, that is why we are here to plead with them to pay us our unsettled claims so that we can continue our business smoothly’’, he said.
Continuing, Maikifi said they formed the Northern Independent Petroleum Marketers Forum to always have one voice that will speak on their behalf, adding that the leadership crisis rocking the IPMAN has also added to their burden which their Forum is ready to address.
On his part, the Secretary of the Forum, Zarma Mustapha, said the bridging claims were supposed to have been paid within two weeks but for months now they are not settled, and that over 3000 marketers from the north are involved.
“One thing that will surprise you is that this money does not belong to Government. It is generated from the consumers that purchased fuel from us marketers and the NNPC gathered the money and then pay us through PEF. But still, they hold our money.
“Presently you can see that there is fuel scarcity here and there in the north, and if we enter January-February without our claims settled, I assure you that we can’t do it, we can’t do the business.”
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of State for Petroleum to intervene into the matter to help them sustain their business.
Labour is however warning against the planned fresh fuel price increment by the Buhari administration, insisting that it has fixed January 27 for nationwide protests over the fuel price hike.
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, who said so is calling on Abuja to have a rethink on developing locally produced fuel rather than craze for imported fuel.
“NEC considered: That an increase in the pump price of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as ‘petrol’ by government will further expose Nigerian workers and the generality of the citizenry to acute deprivation, hardship and suffering as it would worsen the already established trend of hyperinflation in the country.”
According to Wabba, “the genesis of the crisis in Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sub-sector especially as it relates to the petrol pump price regime could be linked to a policy of importation based pricing template for refined petroleum products as against local production based pricing template.”
”As long as the pricing of refined petroleum products is based on Importation pricing template which is heavily dependent on a volatile foreign exchange rate heavily skewed against the naira, the price of petrol and other refined petroleum products will continue to rise beyond the reach of average Nigerian workers and citizens and that the foregoing informed the traditional position of the congress to reject an incessant increase in the pump price of petrol which is usually disguised as deregulation or removal of fuel subsidy’’, he said.
Wabba added that, “NEC, therefore, condemned plans by the Federal Government to increase the pump price of petrol.
Labour has therefore resolved to reject and resist the planned increase in the pump price of petrol by the Federal Government which it described as extremely insensitive to the acute hardship being experienced by Nigerian workers and people.