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Fuel subsidy: Police warn labour leaders over protests


Members of Nigeria Labour congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) protesting in Abuja recently. PHOTO:  LADIDI LUCY ELUKPO

Members of Nigeria Labour congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) protesting in Abuja recently. PHOTO: LADIDI LUCY ELUKPO

• Say You Mustn’t Force People To Join Strike Action
• Southwest NANS Backs Removal Of Fuel Subsidy
• Restrain Private Depots Over New Price, IPMAN Tells FG
The Nigeria Police has warned labour leaders to desist from forcing people to join the ongoing strike action against the Federal Government’s decision to remove subsidy on the price of petrol. Nigerians had largely ignored the strike, which began Wednesday.

The Ekiti State Police Command, yesterday, warned labour leaders against infringing on the right of residents to move freely, threatening to arrest any labour leader that coerces people to sit at home or prevent them from opening their business premises.

The command said the threat by the leadership of the Nigerian Labour
Congress (NLC) and Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) to disrupt business activities in Ado Ekiti could undermine security and give hoodlums opportunity to wreak havoc on people.

Speaking with reporters in Ado Ekiti, the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Etop James, said the command viewed with seriousness the threat by the labour leaders to enforce a sit-at-home order at all costs.

James, who spoke through the Public Relations Officer, Mr. Alberto Adeyemi, said security agencies will not tolerate any act of indiscipline or coercion of innocent Nigerians, stressing that people should be given the liberty to associate freely without molestation.

“We are sounding a warning that we won’t allow any acts of illegality.People should not be forced to stay at home when they have lawful businesses to perform. If we find anyone disrupting the peace of the state, such person will be dealt with according to the law,” he warned.

The labour leaders had on Friday visited some banks operating in Ado
Ekiti and forced them to close shop, while also warning traders and commercial drivers and motorcyclists to remain indoors yesterday.

Business was, however, in top gear in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, yesterday, and no labour leader visited any section of the town to make good the threat.

When contacted, the NLC Chairman in Ekiti, Comrade Ade Adesanmi, said they decided, “to suspend the total enforcement threat handed down on Saturday (yesterday) because the issue is politicised. Apart from that, the national headquarters in Abuja has called a meeting for Sunday (today) and I am on my way now. So, we are heeding the call of our leaders and the outcome of the meeting will dictate the next line of action.”

Also, the police in Ebonyi State, yesterday, said it would not condone any protest or demonstration by Labour on without prior approval by the Force.

It said any demonstration must be duly brought to the notice of the Commissioner of Police, Peace Ibekwe Abdallah, in order to avert unlawful gatherings likely to be abused by miscreants.

In a statement, signed by Public Relations Officer, ASP George Okafor, the command denied assaulting Nigeria Labour Congress members during last week’s protest against the fuel hike, insisting that the union failed to obtain permission before it embarked on the march.

Okafor said notice of the planned protest had not reached the police commissioner as at the time of the event, prompting interception by officers, in order to avert breach of the peace.

Meanwhile, the South West zone of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), yesterday, threw its weight behind the removal of fuel subsidy by the federal government, insisting the move is a sacrifice Nigerians have to make for the development of the nation.

The students’ umbrella body, led by its coordinator, Comrade Ogunsola Okikiola, at a press conference in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, said the “scam called fuel subsidy has only succeeded in slowing down the growth of the nation’s economy.”

All the executive members of the zone, which comprises, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ekiti States, attended the conference, where they appealed to Nigerians to support the policy, stressing: “It will do more good than harm.”

Okikiola, who commended government for taking the bold step, said the move would drastically reduce fuel scarcity in the country and eliminate the pains people face in getting the product.

“The federal government spends about N1.4tr annually on fuel subsidy. This huge amount of money, which represents about 18 per cent of the 2016 budget, will go a long way in providing critical social infrastructure, if invested in the economy. The fuel subsidy over the years has contributed in no small measure to corruption and perennial crisis in the downstream sector of the Nigerian oil and gas industry. We are convinced that with this move of the President Mohammadu

Buhari-led government, the monopolistic tendencies of those who benefit from the subsidy scam will be completely erased and the average Nigerian will be the ultimate beneficiary,” said the group.

In a related development, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has urged the federal government to effectively monitor private depots in the country, to ensure the new price is maintained.

While commending government over the new decision, IPMAN chairman for Adamawa and Taraba States, Alhaji Abubakar Butu, told reporters in Yola, yesterday, that without adequate supervision, the price could still go up.

He said: “The problem is that the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), which has the constitutional mandate to enforce laws in the sector is selective. Private depots sell products above the approved price, but DPR pretends not to know, and their staff are attached to all the private depots. But if we, the independent marketers, sell the products at a price where we can get our money back, they seal our stations. Where is justice?” he asked.

This comes as the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), at the weekend, stressed the need for government to establish independent petroleum marketers for aviation fuel, also known as JET A1.

In an exclusive chat with The Guardian, NUATE’s Acting General Secretary, Comrade Olayinka Abioye, expressed concern over the inconveniences caused by lack of JET A1.

According to him, “We have suggested to the government, if we have independent petroleum marketers in Nigeria, and we have oil producing companies, why can’t government align with one or two of them, to be involved specifically in the production and distribution of JET A1?”

And while the federal government continues to search for a common ground with labour over the fuel hike and consequent strike action, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker in the Lagos House of Assembly, Jude Idimogu, has called on government to increase the current N18,000 minimum wage to N36,000, as against the N56,000 demanded by labour.

Speaking with journalists in Lagos, Idimogu said: “As the people’s representative, I know things have been difficult for many Nigerians. The hike will make life more difficult for the poor masses, as there are no palliatives in place to cushion the effects. I don’t expect any minimum wage less than N36,000 for workers, to feed, and transport themselves to work places.”

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