By Collins Olayinka
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has lamented the rising cost of goods and services that witnessed steady upward movement in the outgoing year.
Speaking through its President, Ayuba Wabba, the NLC warned the Federal Government against going ahead with its planned removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly called ‘petrol,’ in 2022. Applauding Nigerian masses’ perseverance, the Congress noted that 2021 was generally a year of speculations and increases in the prices of basic utilities.
It said: “2021 would be remembered as the year Nigerians were confronted with both speculation and the reality of increase in prices of essential and basic utilities, commodities and services including staple food items, cooking gas, cement and other building materials. While we commend the government for ensuring a stable supply of petrol and a few other refined petroleum products, we are concerned that the proposed petrol price increase does not resonate with the spirit of Christmas.”
Congress noted the stability in the price of petrol throughout the year saying, “just as the government was able to fix the perennial scarcity of refined petroleum products, especially petrol during festive seasons such as Christmas, we are also hopeful that Nigeria’s political leadership would be able to find a lasting panacea to the cycle of increases in the prices of refined petroleum products. With a stable price of refined petroleum products, the prices of other commodities will be stable.”
Congress decried the rising spate of insecurity that pervades most parts of the country.
“The spate of unrests, banditry, terrorism and kidnap-for-ransom across the length and breadth of Nigeria is a source of sleepless nights for many Nigerians. There are genuine concerns of a looming hunger epidemic in 2022 as many farmers were unable to plant and those who planted are required to pay ‘harvest’ security fees to non-state actors who have now carved out autonomous power bases in different parts of Nigeria,” it lamented.
NLC called on the government to find solutions to the myriad of challenges facing the country. It insisted that Nigerians are tired of unproductive promises and talks offered by the Federal Government, demanding real solutions to life challenges confronting the Nigerian people. It added: “Enough of talk! Nigerian workers and people want real solutions to the shame of near one 100 per cent fuel importation and attendant perennial price hike for the largest oil producer in Africa. Nigerians want our domestic refineries to be fixed and new ones built. This will shift the narrative from petroleum products importation to domestic petroleum refining for local consumption, export for foreign exchange and job creation.
“Nigerians everywhere want to sleep with both eyes closed. We implore the government at all levels to take seriously the provisions of Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution which mandates that the security of lives and property must be the prime duty of government. Nigerians do not consider the persistent scourge of kidnap, rural banditry and terrorism as worthy hampers. We demand that the government should use both kinetic and non-kinetic methods to address issues of insecurity.”
It stressed that Nigerians would prefer to have as Christmas presents, increased commitment by the government at all levels to social development especially in terms of public education, public healthcare, social housing and expanded social protection cover.
The NLC took a mild swipe at President Muhammadu Buhari for his refusal to sign the electoral bill. “We are concerned that the electoral field to cultivate our hopes for a transformed society is still cluttered with weeds and debris from the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment. The ball is back to the National Assembly. We urge the National Assembly to take the gauntlet and do the needful,” it said. Congress urged employers of labour nationwide to fully implement the national minimum wage, minimum pension and ensure prompt payment of salaries.
The SSANU National President, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) Mohammed Ibrahim, urged Nigerian workers to observe all COVID-19 protocols as they celebrate the Yuletide. “As we celebrate Christmas with families and friends, I urge all citizens and residents to adhere strictly to the non-pharmaceutical prevention guidelines of regular hand-washing, wearing masks and social/physical distancing to mitigate the spread of this devastating virus.”
He observed that while national and state institutions are trying their best, Nigerians must take individual responsibility and resist the strong temptation of compliance-fatigue by following the recommended protocols put in place by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and beat the ravaging pandemic, especially the OMICRON variant. He added: “I have absolute confidence that you will always exhibit the spirit of resilience to do the needful and remain vigilant even as this festive season witnesses increased travels and celebrations. Staying alive to enjoy future festivals should be the watchword.”