As Lawan urges NLC, TUC to shelve planned protests
By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Baba Adamu
The federal government yesterday indicated its intention to suspend the planned removal of fuel subsidy, over the threats by the Joint Labour Union and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to shutdown the country in protest to the policy.
This is even as the President of Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has urged the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress to abort the planned protests against the Federal government’s proposed removal of fuel subsidy, saying the move is “totally unnecessary”.
Lawan made the appeal on Monday when he met with the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva over the planned removal of subsidy on petroleum products by the Federal Government.
Those at the meeting include the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi and the Deputy Whip, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
Also present were the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authourity, Farouk Ahmed, Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari, and Commissioned Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission, Engr. Gbenga Komolafe.
Others are the Special Assistant to the President on Natural Resources, Habib Nuhu, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, Aliyu Shehu Shinkafi, and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nasir Sani-Gwarzo.
The Senate President, in his opening remarks at the meeting, faulted the timing for the planned removal of subsidy on petroleum products.
He stated that in as much as the administration and management of subsidy on petroleum products are flawed, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government believes that sufficient planning must be carried out before its eventual removal.
Lawan, therefore, called on Labour unions such as the Nigerian Labour Congress and Trade Union to shelve the planned protest rallies, adding that the Federal Government has no plan of removing the petroleum subsidy now.
He said, “The position of everyone in government today is that admittedly, subsidy administration and management are flawed because of so many reasons.
“Admittedly, the burden is huge and massive and there is need at one point to do away with the subsidy.
“Even though our economy is growing, we still have the challenge of getting things to be better for our people.
“A lot of us in this administration believe that the issue of removal of subsidy should be handled with utmost care, especially that sufficient planning needs to be done.
“Significant arrangements for absorbing the shocks that will come with the removal should be done, that the timing should be such that the impact and consequences will not add to hardship. We all believe in this and Mr. President leads us in this feeling.
“What we are saying is that this is not the time. All of us are of the same opinion and, therefore, there is nothing like confusion or lack of understanding within the government circle.
“We all agree that the subsidy is abused and, therefore, it is a challenge to us as an administration to deal with the abuse, to find appropriate means of stopping it.
“After this meeting, there will be other ones, all in search of ways and means of ensuring that the ordinary Nigerian does not suffer any hardship, that when the subsidy will be removed eventually, it would be at such a point that the hardship will be very minimal and taken care of by several programmes.
“It is not about NLC, we are talking about every Nigerian. We are concerned beyond the Nigerian Labour Congress.
“I am taking this opportunity to appeal to the TUC and NLC to shelve this plan to go on strike or demonstration, it is totally unnecessary.
“There is not going to be removal of subsidy, so there is no need for this. Please, let’s not create unnecessary tension where there should be none.
“I appeal to them using this medium, to please forget about this January 27, 2022 deadline because there is no need for any deadline.
“We are supposed to come together and work assiduously to ensure that our country is stable, and our people enjoy the benefits of government programmes and projects, and that whatever decision would be taken will be in the best interest of our people and protecting the most vulnerable amongst us.”