Organised labour and two opposition parties on Wednesday warned President Goodluck Jonathan against another petrol price hike.
They said in their reactions to Jonathan’s statement on Tuesday that petrol price would go up, that he (the President) would be courting trouble if he did so.
The Federal Government had in January 2012 increased petrol price from N65 per litre to N141 per litre. But following protests that greeted the action, the goverment made a U-turn by reducing it to N97 per litre. Petrol, however, still sells above N110 per litre in some parts of the country, especially the South-East.
Jonathan, at the Nigeria Summit in Lagos on Tuesday, said his administration would still remove fuel subsidy after due consultations with Nigerians.
He had said, “We cannot continue to waste resources meant for a greater number of Nigerians to subsidise the affluent middle class, who are the main beneficiaries (of fuel subsidy).”
But the two major labour groups in the country – the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress – reminded the President that the opposition by majority of their members and other Nigerians to fuel subsidy removal had not changed.
A Deputy President of the NLC, Chief Promise Adewusi , spoke for the congress while the Secretary -General of the TUC, Mr. Musa Lawal, spoke for the trade union in separate telephone interviews with our correspondents.
The NLC called on Jonathan to drop the plan which it insisted would deepen the suffering of several members of organised labour and other Nigerians who are not part of “the affluent middle class .”
It said that even though it did not know the form the consultations the President spoke about would take, it had a position that fuel price increase was inimical to the well-being of Nigerians.
The congress said that its opposition to fuel subsidy removal could only change if Nigerians took a decision to embrace suffering.
The NLC said, “We have a subsisting position on the issue of the removal of the fuel subsidy. Our position is that the issue of fuel increase is something that Nigerians cannot live with; The President should drop it.
“We do not know the mode of the consultations that the Federal Government intends to take. However, unless Nigerians decide to swallow hardship, then it could happen. Our disagreement is not just to disagree but because of our members, and other Nigerians who we feel will suffer from an increase in fuel price.
“They want to consult with Nigerians; and you can see that they are going beyond labour. Let us wait; maybe there is going to be a referendum or a plebiscite so that it would not be as if you are fighting the removal when the people you are fighting for are supporting it.
“Let us wait for the modality for the consultations.
On its part, the TUC said the joint position of organised labour on subsidy removal had not changed.
It said, “The two labour centres have the same position on it and it has not been reviewed and it is still the same thing.”
One of the three major opposition parties , the All Nigerians Peoples Party, said Jonathan would see the wrath of Nigerians if he increased the price of petrol again.
The party said through its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Emma Eneukwu, that the President would know that Nigerians are not docile.
Though the ANPP said it was unthinkable for anyone to contemplate hiking fuel price now, it however remarked that there was nothing beyond the President.
It said, “We don’t think that the President will do that again going by what happened when he did that the other time. Maybe his time has come to see the wrath of Nigerians fully. He will see it if he does that.
“Nigerians are waiting for him and if he wants to see their red eyes, let him do it. He wants to contest in 2015 and he won’t stop making life difficult for the people he wants to govern. That is wickedness.”
The party said before such an action could be taken, the President should know that he needed to gauge the mood of the nation.
“Is it with this insecurity or high level of unemployment that calls for more punishment?” it asked.
The party advised Nigerians to be on the lookout for any move by the government “as it could go out to do that without their knowledge.”
Also, the Congress for Progressive Change berated Jonathan for making such a statement when, Nigerians were still mourning bomb blasts victims in Kano.
Describing the President as “uncaring,” the CPC said since he had once said he did not give a damn; Nigerians should expect anything from him.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, in an interview with one of our correspondents, added, “The President does not give a damn. Even if Nigerians masses that are already pauperised are mangled.
“Even if the country moves into anarchy, the President does not give a damn. Is it not totally out of place that you have a situation where there is no welfare Nigerians are getting from their own government?
“When Nigerians are still mourning over the bombing that took place in Kano, this government is thinking of how to further add to their sorrow.
“That is President Jonathan in his true element. A man that is anti-people and does not care about what happens to the people he claims elected him.
On its part, the Campaign for Democracy said the President was courting another “Occupy Nigeria protest.”
“What would be his undoing is the fire this time around . He is shielding subsidy thieves, pardoning criminals but bullying Nigerian people. Maybe he needs the final lesson from the suffering people of Nigeria,”the CD said through its President, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin.