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Privatise refineries and face mass revolt, Labour tells political class

*Demands immediate reversal of power sector privatization, others

Ahead of next week Presidential and National Assembly elections, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Tuesday in Abuja, warned the political class planning to sell the nation’s refineries to prepare for a battle with Organised Labour, saying Labour would fight any government that tried to sell the refineries to a stand still.

Recall that the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Abubukar Atiku, has made it clear that if elected President, privatisation of the public refineries would be his priority.

However the NLC contended that what the refineries needed was not privatization, but sincere turn around maintenance to make them function and deliver services to the nation.

This came as NLC called on the Federal Government to immediately reverse the power sector privatization, describing the power sector privatization as a total failure.

President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, who spoke while addressing the delegates and other guests at the ongoing 12th Quadrennial National Delegates of NLC, in Abuja, insisted that the privatization programme in the country had failed and must be jettisoned.

He said :”Distinguished delegates, our invited guests and well-meaning Nigerians, since the privatization of electricity distribution, Nigerians are yet to see the fulfilment of promises of efficient service delivery. Instead, the electricity situation has gone worse with chronic failures by Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs, to supply prepaid meters, exploitation of Nigerians through estimated billings and reluctance to attend to basic complaints. Even with N39 billion bailout funds from government, the supposed private entrepreneurs have failed to turn anything around except maybe their pockets, unfortunately, at the expense of Nigerians. This must stop. We call on government to reverse the power sector privatisation because it has failed.

“Privatization of public utilities has not generally proven to be the correct thing to do in most countries even developed ones. According to a study released by Public Services International. Why Public Private Partnerships don’t work; the many advantages of public alternative authored by David Hall privatizing public utilities has been a wreck in most countries. Example form Spain, France, India, South Korea, UK, Australia among others show how public/state guarantees and loans to private sector for the utilities sector have resulted in failures on delivery of services as well as repayment in most cases”.

On the the issue of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC and the four public refineries, the NLC President, noted that “the crisis of industrialization and manufacturing in Nigeria is best exemplified by the chaos in our downstream petroleum industry where we have been unable to manage our vast natural carbon resources for national development and the prosperity of our people. Our four national refineries are almost under lock and key as we depend on the importation of refined petroleum products for our energy needs.

“Promises by successive government to resuscitate our refineries have become a mirage. To rub salt to injury, our public officials have now found a new hobby – taking ‘selfies’ in an ongoing private refinery project being constructed by the Dangote Group. This is truly sad for Africa’s largest producer of crude oil and the sixth largest in the world.

“We will continue to push for the resuscitation of our four refineries and for the construction of additional public refineries. This will bring to an end the fraud associated with subsidy payment. We say no to the sale of the NNPC and the four public refineries. We are going to engaged any government that to sell the refineries and other commanding heights of the economy.

“The only sustainable solution to our energy crises lies in prioritizing the development of the value chain in our downstream petroleum sector. This is a major step towards jump starting our economy and unlocking trapped jobs. Our country would also be saving trillions of naira we currently spend on importing refined and poorly regulated petroleum products from overseas.”

Speaking on the Minimum Wage, Wabba said “For millions of Nigerian workers, an increase in the minimum wage is urgently needed; in order to ensure a living wage that covers the cost of basic needs for a family. Workers must be able to freely bargain collectively through their union for wages that reflect the tone value of the work they do and for decent working conditions.

“On January 29, 2019, the House of Representatives passed into law a new national minimum wage of N30,000. It is expected that upon the passage by the Senate, a conference of the two chambers of the National Assembly will harmonize the bill and send the National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Act to Mr. President for signing into law. We appreciate and commend the House of Representative for the expedited action taken on the new national minimum wage bill.”