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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Nigerians begin to stockpile food ahead of labour strike

nlc150px-NLC_logoNigerians have started stockpiling food ahead of
the ultimatum issued by the Nigeria Labour
Congress and the coalition of the civil society
organisations that petrol price be reverted to
N86.50 or all workers would embark on a strike.

On Saturday, the organised labour again
repeated that the President Muhammadu
Buhari-led Federal Government had till Tuesday
night to reverse the increase in the price of fuel
from N145 to N86.50 or face a total shutdown
of the country.

The three-day ultimatum was first announced on
Friday.
Following this warning, a cross section of
Nigerians in different parts of the country told
SUNDAY PUNCH that they were getting
prepared for the strike by buying enough food
in their homes.
A businesswoman based in Osogbo, Osun State,
Mrs. Mayowa Bamisaiye, said she was ready for
the strike because she had expected it after the
Federal Government announced the new fuel
price.
She said, ‘‘I do not agree with the new increment
and I expected the labour unions to resist it. I
have bought some food and I will buy more that
will be enough to cater for my family during the
strike. I also intend to withdraw some money to
cater for some domestic needs as the strike
lasts.’’
Also, a human resources officer in a non-
governmental organisation in Ibadan, Oyo State,
Mr. Paul Sodeinde, said he was prepared for the
strike.
Sodeinde stated, ‘‘I have enough fuel for my
generator. There is food in the house and water.
I am ready to endure the strike for as long as it
lasts.’’
The story was the same as most of the people
that spoke to our correspondents in Lagos said
they had started making preparations for a long
stay at home.
A customer service officer, Bolade Osagie, said,
“We expect the NLC to go through the whole hog
like they did in 2012. In order to prepare for
next week, I have started to get as much
foodstuffs at home as possible. Even though I do
not expect this strike to drag on before the
Federal Government yields to the demands of
the labour unions, I won’t be so unwise as not to
get some food from the market. I will also try to
get some more fuel for the generator too.”
A civil engineer, Shade Oguntuase, said she was
going to do all her shopping on Sunday (today).
She said, “I’ll visit the market on Sunday to get
some foodstuffs with the NLC threatening to
shut down the country. I have kids at home to
feed. I don’t think I want to be caught in a tight
corner of not having enough food for the family,
should the strike go on for days.”
Similarly, a lecturer in the Fine and Applied Arts
Department, Federal College of Education
(Technical), Akoka, Lagos, Mr. Ebenezer Oje,
said, “I am going to ensure I stock my home
with enough food items and other necessary
goods for my family and me for the duration of
the strike. It is a necessary move because the
fuel price increase is not needed at this time
when there is no salary increase.”
An engineer, Mr. Oladele Tayo, also noted, “I
don’t know what will happen when the strike
commences; probably the prices of foodstuff
will also go up. So buying more foodstuffs this
weekend is crucial.”
A Lagos-based IT worker, Isaiah Adebisi, said he
had not considered buying household items in
bulk until he ran into a friend at a popular
shopping mall in Lagos.
According to Adebisi, the encounter made him
realise the reality of the impending strike when
his friend told him that there would be scarcity
of basic consumer products.
He said, “I had always felt that panic buying was
a bad idea. I didn’t think much of the strike at
first, especially because of my belief in this
government. But seeing the way things are
going, I am going to use this weekend to stock
up on many items.
“Hopefully, the NLC will reconsider the strike
before things get too bad. Until then, however,
better safe than sorry.”
An advertising agency employee, who also lives
in Lagos with two family members, Uju-Amaka
Ofili, said she would take the initiative and
restock her home with household items.
She said, “I can only imagine how bad things will
get if I don’t act fast. I think it would be wise to
buy as much foodstuffs in bulk as I can. To make
matters worse, things are really expensive in
the market.
“But the truth of the matter is that if I don’t buy
what I need soon, I may not like the outcome. I
am heading to the market immediately.”
Lately, there has been an increase in the prices
of foodstuffs nationwide.
A businesswoman at Alade Market, Lagos, Mrs.
Atinuke Joda, said she knew that labour was
going to fight the new petrol price.
“Immediately the price of fuel was increased, I
knew labour would resist. After church on
Sunday, I will buy enough foodstuffs,” she said.
In Kaduna, a nurse, Mrs. Grace Dikwa, said apart
from foodstuff, she would ensure she doesn’t
run out of cooking gas. “I have to buy cooking
gas this weekend. I will also buy enough
foodstuffs like tomatoes and others on Sunday
because I don’t know how long the strike will
last.”
An Abuja-based businessman, Mr. Ayo Dimeji,
said, “I always stock my kitchen with foodstuffs
and other necessary household items one or
two weeks ahead in case of an emergency, and
the proposed NLC strike is an emergency. I don’t
want to take chances.”
A civil servant in Port Harcourt, Mrs. Sandra
Dumebi, said she was glad the NLC gave
sufficient warning.
“I always do my shopping at weekends.
Thankfully, the NLC has warned us ahead of
time. So I will be buying more foodstuffs this
time around,” she said.
Similarly, a school administrator in Magboro,
Ogun State, Ms Evelyn Okorodudu, said, “I am
moving fast on Sunday to get a few things to add
to the ones I already have at home.
“How I wish the government would hear the
voices of the masses and revert the price of fuel
to what we had before. They should do whatever
is in their capacity to make the product
available. We are tired of this suffering.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government on
Saturday insisted that it would not compromise
on the new pump price of N145 per litre.
The Minister for Information, Culture and
Tourism, Lai Mohammed, said this during an
interview with our correspondent, while
reacting to the ultimatum issued by the NLC and
allied organisations that the price be reverted to
N86.50 or all workers would embark on strike.
He said, “It is not about compromise. It is about
saying what is practicable and obtainable. You
cannot compromise when you don’t have foreign
exchange. What I can say is that the price will
remain like this.”
The minister, however, promised that with
more marketers in Nigeria, there would be
competition and, ultimately, prices would fall.
Mohammed said the slump in the global price of
crude oil had affected all oil-producing nations
as even the United Arab Emirates had removed
subsidy completely, while the world’s largest oil
exporter, Saudi Arabia, had increased pump
price of fuel by 40 per cent.
He said it would therefore be unrealistic for
Nigeria to continue to sell petrol at N86.50.
The minister said, “The truth of the matter is
that as of today, it is not possible for either the
NNPC or independent marketers to bring in fuel
and sell at N86.50 per litre. The simple reason
is that the foreign exchange needed is not
available.
“Saudi Arabia has increased pump price by 40
per cent, while the UAE has removed oil
subsidy. All oil-producing states are facing the
same challenges.”
He also hit back at critics who called the All
Progressives Congress hypocrites for rejecting
former President Goodluck Jonathan’s attempt
to remove oil subsidy in 2012 but also doing the
same thing in 2016.’
Mohammed said, “In 2012, the CBN (Central
Bank of Nigeria) had a surplus of about $1.3bn a
month. Today, the CBN has just about $800m to
pay for trade and everything. If we were in this
situation in 2012, we would not have opposed a
new price regime. That is the reality.
“In 2012, the FAAC was dividing N800bn every
month. Today, FAAC is sharing less than N400bn
a month. So, the reality is not the same.
“We didn’t remove subsidy because it was not
even in the budget. Crude oil which accounted
for 80 per cent of our foreign exchange earning
has crashed from over $100 to about $40. In
fact, we have sold (foreign exchange) for $30
this year. It is not possible to tell a person to go
and source for dollars on the parallel market
and tell them to sell fuel at N86.50.”
The labour unions, in a joint communiqué on
Saturday, urged Nigerians to prepare for the
effects of a long-drawn battle with the
government over the contentious price hike.
The President of the NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba,
who read the communiqué of the labour centres
and their civil society allies, said they would
mobilise Nigerians to protest the increase in all
the cities of the federation starting from
midnight on Tuesday.
He stated also that the action would involve the
shutdown of all operations of banks, sea and
airports, government and private offices,
including markets.
Ayuba insisted that the decision of the
government to remove the fuel subsidy was an
act of betrayal to the suffering people of
Nigeria.
The communiqué also demanded a reversal of
the recent 45 per cent increase in electricity
tariff.
The civil society movement also demanded the
reconstitution of the board of the Petroleum
Products Pricing Regulatory Agency and the
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to
enable them to function alongside the
Department of Petroleum Resources “in order
to deepen the process of consultation, checks
and balances in the downstream sector of the
petroleum industry.”
The communiqué read in part, “During the
electioneering last year, the Presidential
Candidate of the APC, Muhammadu Buhari, had
promised that, if elected president, he would
not remove fuel subsidy if there was any at all;
“After his election, President Buhari had
maintained that there was no subsidy in the
petroleum product price regime and that even
if there was, he did not see how its removal
would be beneficial to the ordinary Nigerian,
noting that the slightest product price
adjustment often leads to inflationary spiral and
unimaginable suffering for the people.
“On January 18, 2016, the government further
allayed the fears of the Nigerian people by
reducing the pump price of PMS to N86.50,
explaining that the reduction was in furtherance
of the implementation of the revised
component of the Petroleum Products Pricing
for PMS and kerosene.
“The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources,
Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had been speaking from both
sides of his mouth. Whereas last year, he had
strongly canvassed the removal of ‘subsidy’ in
defiance of President Buhari, about a month
ago; he claimed the subsidy had been removed
through his ingenuity and that Nigeria was
saving $1bn from this process;
“Organised labour wonders what informed
government’s sudden and dangerous policy
summersault and its desperate attempt to
convince the public that labour was part of the
decision that led to this price increase.”
When our correspondent contacted the Special
Assistant, Media to the Minister of Labour and
Employment, Mr. Nwachukwu Ngige, he said he
could not reach his boss, who was in Benue State
for the burial of the mother of the Agriculture
Minister, Chief Audu Ogbe.
NNPC warns labour against hostility
The NNPC on Saturday, warned the NLC to desist
from any act of hostility as it planned to protest
against the increase in the pump price of petrol.
It also called on the labour movement to
emulate the two major unions in the oil and gas
sector, stressing that the NLC should desist from
its “archaic” tradition of treating every
government policy.
The NNPC Group General Manager, Group
Public Affairs Division, Garba-Deen Mohammed,
in a message sent to our correspondent in
Abuja, said, “We are calling on labour to be
patriotic and put the country and its citizens
before any other consideration. Labour must
move away from the archaic tradition of treating
government policy with hostility.
“This decision was carefully and painstakingly
considered; the immediate and long-term relief
for Nigerians was placed above everything else.
The NLC should emulate the patriotism of
PENGASSAN, NUPENG, the Association of Pilots
and Engineers, and support the Federal
Government.”
Similarly, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative
Association has warned workers in the private
sector not to participate in the planned
industrial action by the NLC and the TUC.

Source: THE PUNCH

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