By Vera E. Abah
THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has given a quick riposte to the statement by Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN, who alleged that the Congress’s express support for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, is a contradiction of NLC’s longstanding opposition to the removal of subsidy on petroleum products.
Keyamo, who is also the spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council, had in a statement this weekend, tasked the NLC to come clean on its support for the candidacy of Mr Obi despite his open declaration to remove fuel subsidy, if elected.
Keyamo recalled organised labour’s promise at the national retreat of the Labour Party held in Abuja to mobilise its members across the 774 local government areas in the country to ensure victory for Mr Obi, in the 2023 presidential election, even when Obi had resolved to remove fuel subsidy.
Keyamo therefore queried the leadership of NLC to reconcile its opposition with the position of the present administration to end fuel subsidy with its open support for a presidential candidate who has vowed to also dismantle the subsidy regime.
In its response, Saturday afternoon in a press release signed by Comrade Ayuba Wabba, NLC President, and made available to National Record, the NLC said it not only still maintains its opposition to the removal of subsidy on petroleum subsidy but has also amplified it in its Charter of Demands that has been incorporated into the Manifesto of the Labour Party.
Wabba, in the press release, entitled, “The Position of Nigeria Labour Congress on Petrol Subsidies Has Not Changed… It Only Got Amplified!” noted that “Nigerian workers through a number of painstaking processes have been able to articulate a Nigerian Workers’ Charter of Demands which the NLC and TUC are using to engage the political process.”
Wabba stated that a major focus in the Workers Charter of Demands dwells on administration and management of petroleum resources.
“A major demand in the Nigerian Workers Charter of Demands is that our local public refineries must work. We have also demanded that we must stop 100% importation of refined petroleum products. The NLC and indeed the Labour movement in Nigeria has over many decades been vehemently consistent that the only way to address the issue of the so-called petrol subsidies is to get our refineries to work. The logic is very simple: it is atrocious to buy from abroad at very expensive prices a product that a country like ours can easily produce at home.
“At the heart of our demand on the management of Nigeria’s mineral resources especially our downstream petroleum sub-sector is the issue of Production Economy. We believe that the rescue of Nigeria from the current ruinous path of Consumption Economy to Production Economy is the only way to resolve Nigeria’s economic nightmares of massive depletion of scarce foreign exchange reserve; continuous devaluation of the Naira; significant jobs haemorrhage and destruction, deepening of poverty and downturn in the living standards of our people,” Wabba stated.
He also noted that in the effort to propagate the positions in Workers Charter of Demands, NLC and TUC were hosted at its retreat held last week in Abuja, when the Charter of Demands was adopted and mainstreamed into Labour Party’s manifesto.
“In a determined effort to popularise the positions in the Nigerian Workers Charter of Demands, the NLC and TUC at the behest of the Labour Party on September 12 – 13, 2022 hosted a National Retreat of the leadership cadres in our movement. At the retreat, the Labour Party and Organized Labour in Nigeria adopted and mainstreamed the Workers Charter of Demands into the Manifesto of the Labour Party. This is in line with our persuasion that issue-based campaign anchored on the manifesto of political parties should drive Nigeria’s political process,” the NLC President said.
He cautioned any political with any agenda of selling party the country’s refineries to bury the defend it before Nigerians in the course of electioneering. “If any political party goes around saying that they plan to sell our refineries, remove subsidies, and further oppress long-suffering Nigerians, they should be ready to defend such stance to Nigerians at the campaigns. The NLC, Organized Labour, and Labour Party position has not changed. It only got amplified!”
Wabba commended Mr Keyamo for raising the issue as that is in line with NLC’s earlier admonition on politicians to engage in the contest of ideas and issues during the campaign. “We believe that an issues-based campaign will help sieve the facts from fiction, address burning national issues, review the performance of those in government at all levels especially on the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals, improve Nigeria’s public accountability frameworks, prepare voters behaviour on Election Day away from the destructive lines of ethno-religious divide and defuse the looming political tension.”
In his statement, Keyamo stated, in part: “We note that the leadership of the organized labour under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Monday, September 13, 2022, at a national retreat of the Labour Party in Abuja, promised to mobilise its members across the 774 local government areas in Nigeria to ensure victory for Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, in next year’s presidential election.
“We also note that in several interviews he granted in the last few months and weeks, Mr. Peter Obi has vowed to totally remove subsidy on petrol if elected President. We also note NLC’s long-standing opposition to total removal of fuel subsidy. Other left-leaning supporters of the Labour Party were also present at the event to cheer Mr. Peter Obi.
“Consequently, the following questions are urgently begging for answers by the leadership of the NLC:
“Before adopting Mr. Peter Obi as its candidate, did the leadership of the NLC have a discussion with him on the issue of removal of fuel subsidy?
“If they did have that discussion, did Mr. Peter Obi agree to back down on the issue of subsidy removal? Was that a basis for supporting him? If he did not back down on the issue, did organised Labour agree with him?
“If no such discussion held, does it mean the leadership of the NLC now fully supports the removal of fuel subsidy? Or will that not be reckless of the NLC to adopt a candidate without thoroughly interrogating the candidate on his policies as they affect the Nigerian workers or the masses? The NLC must make a public statement and come clean on this.
“If the excuse is that Mr. Peter Obi has said that the money saved will be used in other critical areas of the economy, how is that different from what the Buhari’s Government is also saying?
“These questions have become necessary because Nigerians deserve to know whether organised Labour’s adopted party, which is the Labour Party, supports and promotes a policy that the leadership of Labour opposes in another breath when it is adopted by the government of the day. They cannot be blowing hot and cold.
“As our Council stands for issue-based campaigns, we call on all members of the 4th Estate of the Realm not to sweep this point under the carpet and to thoroughly interrogate the NLC and the Labour Party on the one hand; and the seemingly right-leaning supporters of the Labour Party and Mr. Peter Obi on the other, on this issue so that they will come clean before Nigerians.”