Resist call for removal of fuel subsidy,technocrat tells labour

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By Dada Ahmed in Lokoja.

A technocrat, Mr Enimola Martins, says the labour movement in Nigeria must call for the reversal of all previous privatisations and resist the call for removal of fuel subsidy and deregulation of the oil and gas sector as being pursued by the NNPC limited.

Martins,who is the Director of Finance and Administration, Kogi State House of Assembly, Lokoja stated this on Thursday in the paper, entitled” Socio-economic Challenges in Nigeria and The Role of Trade Unions” he presented at the State Triennial Delegates Conference of National Union of Electricity Employees,NUEE in Lokoja.

He said the advice became necessary because ” all forms of privatisation, coded in different languages are some of the capitalist-induced policies that have impacted negatively on the lives of workers and the citizens.”

The paper presenter said: Subsidy is not the cause of the crisis in the Petroleum sector, subsidy in infact a consequence of corruption in two dimensions, namely inability to refine the crude oil domestically and the process of disbursing the subsidy.

Mr Enimola Martins reading his paper at the occasion.

“If the Nigerian Governnent could develop the political will to fight corruption comprehensively and without discrimination, Nigeria’s crude will be refined domestically and petroleum products sold to generate surplus as was the case with the establishment of Petroleum Trust Fund.

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Comrade Eleojo Opaluwa, the MC of the occasion.

“In fact, for most of the working class of Nigeria, the only benefit it gains from the oil resources is the fuel subsidy. Even then,the price of fuel is higher in Nigeria than all other country members of OPEC.

“Established that about 600 enterprises and 900 smaller ones were operating at the Federal and State/Local levels in 1980s respectively. Reversing the privatisation of those 1,500 enterprises is the change the labour movement has a historic responsibility to fight for.”

According to him, where the government lacks the political will to fight corruption effectively, the labour movement should resist any attempt to make the masses of Nigeria, including the working class organised in trade unions,to pay for the consequences of corruption with the so called subsidy removal.

He recalled that in the twilight of the regime of former President Olusegin Obasanjo, there was a rushed cheap sale of two out of the four state-owned refineries:the Portharcourt and Kaduna refineries as well as other national assets.

He added that the nation wide strike of 2007, involving the two oil workers’ unions:the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers(NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (OENGASSAN), compelled the then newly elected regime of President Musa Yar’Adua to reverse the sale.

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On non payment of salaries,the technocrat noted that while Nigeria had ratified several of the recommendations and conventions of International Labour Organization,ILO, labour policies had been more of interventionist than voluntary.

“There were numerous draconian and reckless labour laws introduced by different epohs of Nigerian Governnent to curb trade union rights and industrial democracy,” he acknowledged.

Martins, however, expressed delight that despite these handicaps,some labour policies and legislations in Nigeria complied with International standard, in terms of protecting the rights of the workers in the form of protection of wages,contract of employment and prevention of child labour.

The director reminded the labour that as partner in progress,it must genuinely influence its members to cooperate with the employers to increase productivity and increment on wages.

“Labour could also give useful suggestions on how to fight corruption ,improved government internally generated revenue and reduced ghost workers,” he added.

This development,Martins argued, would pave way for more resources from which to negotiate wage and other better conditions of employment such as improved health system, access to affordable educatuon, housing and water among others benefits.

Earlier, the outgoing State Chairman of NUEE, Comrade Segun Medupin, thanked NUEE members and all the people that had been part of the success story of his six-year tenure, through constructive criticism and others who impacted positively on the union in the council.

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He apologised to those who he said he might have been offended in the course of the offering services for the success of the council, adding that,it was not “intentional as there must be friction for movement to occur.”.

In the speech read on his behalf by Mr Francis Ibukun, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer,Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, AEDC,Mr Adeoye Fadeyibi, commended the cordially relationship between the management of the organization and NUEE.

However,Comrade Opaluwa Eleojo Simeon,organiser for NUEE for Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger States and FCT, urged AEDC to pay the two-year-old claims the organization owed its workforce.

He said the settlement of the claim would enable the workers prepare early enough, financially, for the celebration of Christmas and meet other financial commitments.

The Regional Manager,AEDC,in kogi, Engr. Lamidi Obadaki, also commended members of the union for their cooperation with his management,adding that the development helped the regional office to generate about N400 million recently, a quantum leap from the previous efforts to meet targeted revenue.

Our Correspondent reports that highpoint of the occasion is the electíon of a new executive council of NUEE, an exercise that was on as at the time of this report.

The Reporters gathered that NUEE,which was established in 1977, is among over 40 affiliated unions that form the Nigeria Labour Congress,NLC.

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