LAGOS— ABOUT 500,000 workers may be thrown out of jobs within the next one week, if the scarcity of low pour fuel used by many private companies for their production persists locally, while the exportation of the product continues.
By Funmi Komolafe & Victor Ahiuma-Young
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Vows to fight new move to hike fuel price
LAGOS— ABOUT 500,000 workers may be thrown out of jobs within the next one week, if the scarcity of low pour fuel used by many private companies for their production persists locally, while the exportation of the product continues. President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who dropped the hint yesterday on a visit to Vanguard, warned that labour would put up a firm resistance should government increase fuel prices again, but that it would have no option but to fight again if the federal authorities failed to take the threat seriously.
He expressed surprise that government was talking about a fresh increase in the prices of petroleum products, saying: "The people in government don’t think about the Nigerian people’s reaction. The business community is still counting their losses, the informal sector is counting their losses. The government will not be able to sustain another increase. If there is a public opinion poll today, government's rating will be the worst in our recent history."
The NLC president said the increase in the prices of petroleum products was no solution to the scarcity of the products, stressing that the refineries must be made to work. Besides, he said, Nigerians must continue to put pressure on President Obasanjo to provide leadership to make things work in Nigeria in line with his promise on assuming office.
"Many of our private sector organisations are going to close shop at the end of this week. Many companies are going to shut down because they cannot have access to Low Pour Fuel Oil (LPFO)," he told Vanguard senior editors. He said LPFO, popularly called black oil, is used to "fire diesel and generate power in most organisations. The textile industries use it, cement companies and many manufacturing companies actually use it," adding: "Now, there is no black oil in the market. The claim is that Warri and Kaduna refineries are closed. Port-Harcourt refinery is in operation and it is exporting this product because some people want to make money while Nigerian industries are closing down because they cannot have access to this product. This is very serious."
Comrade Oshiomhole said manufacturers had been lobbying the PPMC to get the product without success, saying: "The cement companies are queuing, textile industries, chemical industries, plastic industries and all kinds of users are queuing for this product to buy, but it is not there." Meanwhile, he said, "Port-Harcourt refinery is exporting that product because some Nigerians must make money from it."
The NLC president said the scarcity of petroleum products had also taken a toll on manufacturers, and that the gains of the N6 had not been effected as prices of goods and services have remained high. He said by yesterday morning, "I was told that in the textile union, we have lost about 40,000 workers over the past two years."
Comrade Oshiomhole said many companies had also cut production owing to the scarcity of petroleum products, emphasising: "In the plastic sector, they have scaled down more than 50 per cent because of the plastics that are coming into the country."
On the statements credited to the Secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Mr. Oluwole Oluleye, and the Minister of Labour, Mr. Husaini Akwanga, that the price of petrol would soon be increased again, he said: "My worry is that those who are working for this government, the last thing they think about is what would be the people’s reaction to a particular policy."
The NLC president said: "Even if the government is so convinced that price must go up and I do not know why they hold that position, but assuming they honestly believe that, somebody must then be able to tell them that this is the wrong time. The business community is still counting their losses, informal sector, small scale operators are still counting their losses and newspaper analysts are still evaluating the effect of the last strike," adding: "We have to let the government know that they won’t be able to sustain another increase." He stressed that government "cannot get public support for additional tax burden on this issue. Well, if they go ahead, we have to fight."