By Ononye VC
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has said the plans of the federal government to remove the contentious fuel subsidy would be an open invitation to social and economic crisis in Nigeria.
The outgoing government under President Muhammadu Buhari had fixed June as the date for the removal of the fuel subsidy and announced the approval of a ₦5,000 palliative to poor citizens as part of measures to ameliorate the expected difficulties that would follow the eventual removal.
But the NLC explained that the incoming administration of Bola Tinubu must tread with caution on the subsidy policy in order not to further plunge the nation into problems, adding that there would be increased poverty among the citizens if the government goes ahead with the removal.
The chairman of the labour union in Ekiti, Kolapo Olatunde, who spoke while addressing newsmen on Wednesday in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, ahead of this year’s May Day celebration with the theme “Workers’ right and social, economic justice”, alongside his counterpart in the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Sola Adigun, noted that the labour leaders would not accept the removal without government doing the right thing by ensuring the optimal functionality of the nation’s refineries.
According to him, if the government insists on the removal, the workers would only accept an increase of the minimum wage to at least ₦100,000 across the country, saying that ripple effect of the subsidy removal would be devastating for the citizens, especially workers.
Olatunde disclosed that removal of subsidy, which will result in selling of petrol for as high as ₦500 per litre, would have immediate impact on the prices of goods and services in the country, thereby increasing the poverty levels and economic challenges in the country.
He said: “Let me say here for the umpteenth time that if the next government removes fuel subsidy, that will be open invitation to poverty and social crisis in the nation because many citizens won’t be able to survive the negative effect.
“The multiplier effect will be devastating to the masses in the area of increase in prices of goods and services when a litre will be sold for ₦500 or more per litre.
“If they should go ahead with the removal, we will have no option than to demand immediate increase of our minimum wage from what we have now to at least ₦100,000 for us to cope with the situation.”
On how government could handle the situation better, the NLC chairman said, “The best way out is to go back to our refineries and upgrade them to function well or possibly build new ones—that is the best decision for us survive this problem in our hand.”
Speaking on the significance of this year’s workers’ celebration, he added that the event would be used to further demand the social and economic rights of workers towards ensuring justice in society.
On his part, TUC chairman Sola Adigun said organised labour unions in the country have given conditional approval for subsidy removal, which includes putting in place the nation’s modular refinery, adding that, “without internal production of oil , our economy will be going down”.