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Subsidy Withdrawal: We Won't Guarantee Industrial Peace -NLC

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ABUJA, Sept 06, (THEWILL) - The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) today sounded a note of warning that it would not guarantee industrial peace should the Federal Government go ahead to implement its planned subsidy withdrawal without recourse to a subsisting dialogue between Labour and government.

The Central Labour Organisation was reacting to media reports credited to the Finance Minister, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, on the issue of withdrawal of subsidies on petroleum products.

NLC Spokesman Onah Iduh in a statement made available to THEWILL in Abuja said the Minister was quoted by some national newspapers to have revealed that government plans to remove subsidies on domestic fuel prices beginning from December this year or latest by the end of 2011, as according to Aganga, the plan is as a result of government’s investment in mass transit system which he said will ease the impact of subsidy withdrawal on the masses.

But Labour in a swift reaction said the position of the Minister is completely against the subsisting dialogue between Labour and government which began a few weeks after Dr Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as President and Commander-in-Chief when he set up a committee to look at Labour’s critical areas of concern.

"To the best of our knowledge, nothing meaningful has come out of the discussion up till now. We see the minister’s comment therefore as pre-emptive of the dialogue and invariably a mark of government’s insincerity on the policies of subsidy and deregulation", NLC said.

"We wish to state that the NLC still remains opposed to the twin policies of subsidy withdrawal and deregulation principally because the arguments usually advanced by government do not take into consideration the broader social and economic ramifications on especially the masses who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of subsidy.

"We wish to make it abundantly clear that the implications of the removal of subsidy go far beyond the question of availability of mass transit system or whatever amount of money government would be saving. It is essentially the question of government living up to its basic responsibility of providing governance in the best interest of the masses. In the oil sector which is the hub of our economy, this will be symbolised in functional refineries, effectively coordinated distribution network and other variables all geared towards serving national interests", Labour said.

The NLC said it expects Government to demonstrate the will, commitment and courage to frontally confront the numerous challenges in the oil sector, the most profound of which is corruption, adding that it was for this reason that Congress has maintained that it will not accept increase in the prices of petroleum products in the name of subsidy withdrawal or deregulation.

NLC therefore called on President Goodluck Jonathan to ignore any advice to remove subsidy on petroleum products without exhaustive engagement with relevant stakeholders particularly Labour since it believes that this is not the time to put additional burden on already overburdened Nigerians.

"For this reason, Nigeria Labour Congress will not be able to guarantee industrial peace in the country if government goes ahead to unilaterally withdraw subsidies on fuel products as the Minister of Finance stated," the NLC warned.