Abdulwaheed Omar, the president of Nigeria Labour Congress, an umbrella union of organised labour in Nigeria has vowed to resist the planned attempts by the Federal Government of Nigeria to remove subsidy on petroleum products. In a recent press statement, he warned that Nigerians will resist the move and urged the government to cleanse the oil sector of endemic corruption. 
The full text of the statement is reproduced below:

Press Statement 

The statement by the President claiming that only the removal of fuel subsidy will allow for domestic refining of fuel is highly disturbing. More so coming at this time of the year, when many see the current fuel scarcity being experienced in most parts of the country as being artificially created. With the wave of revelations regarding monumental corruption in the Petroleum industry it will be unimaginable to contemplate any other thing than focusing on ridding the industry of the endemic corruption that has become so pervasive in the industry.

Nigerians would love to see President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan dissipate energy on fighting corruption in the industry as he promised Nigerians. All those so far indicted in corrupt practices in the Fuel Subsidy scam have not yet been prosecuted. More revelations on corruption keep coming out by the day.

The argument proffered that domestic refining of Petroleum products is only possible under private operators cannot be defended. Our refineries were built and operated successfully as fully public owned enterprises in the past and until the industry was massively inflicted with corruption and home for corrupt government officials and their cronies, the refineries functioned well.

Today, the problem with the petroleum industry is largely lack of decency and political will on the part of the government to deal with those who have already been identified as having corruptly enriched themselves with funds meant for the industry.

We believe Mr. President is not being honest with Nigerians about the real problems of the industry. The same President who set up several committees to identify the crisis in the industry and who have been given detailed reports by the committees cannot validly say he is still helpless. Some of the committees, including those set up by the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee led by Hon. Farouk Lawal identified not just the problems of the industry but specifically named individuals and companies who have diverted subsidies meant for the industry to private use. Majority of them are political associates of those in power.  Indeed,  the President has been seen severally hobnobbing in public with some of the key persons indicted by the reports.

In a decent society, all those who have been indicted by all the reports would have been facing accelerated prosecution or serving severe jail terms for committing economic crimes injurious to public interest.

As at this moment, N1.7 trillion meant to subsidize the industry has been diverted by identified private individuals and companies and the government is not in any hurry to prosecute the alleged thieves. We can’t therefore understand why the President is in so much haste to inflict deeper poverty on Nigerians.

When government kept silent over the prevailing scarcity of petroleum products in the country, we alerted Nigerians that it was clear the government was testing grounds for further increases in fuel prices and we wish to reiterate our resolute rejection of such attempts.

No responsible government will allow private interests to hold her hostage against the collective interests of the people. It is becoming apparent that those in power seem more inclined serving individual interests than protecting our collective treasures. And we will massively mobilize Nigerians against his new anti people plans.

While the Department of Petroleum Resources of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum has the responsibility to ensure consumers are not shortchanged by marketers, the DPR, security and other government agencies watch helplessly as marketers sell far above the official rates. They are even bold enough to display the unilaterally fixed new prices in their pump meters. These cannot be reigning under a serious government.

The crisis that will welcome any announcement of further withdrawal of subsidy on petroleum products will be so monumental and so far reaching than envisaged by anyone.   The January protests would seem a child’s play compared to what might follow any attempt to deregulate the downstream sector of the oil industry.

This government has more than enough reports and details to commence a honest process of punishing those in illegal possession of our collective wealth rather than inflict more pains on Nigerians, while industries and virtually all public infrastructures have collapsed.

Abdulwahed Omar

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