The Nigerian Labor Congress and civil rights groups said Tuesday that the federal government’s claim that the price of oil in the country is among the lowest in Africa has no economic basis.
NLC President Ayuba Wabba said in an interview with Tropics NG that the government should have put forward its argument against the devaluation of the Naira and the minimum wage paid to workers.
In addition, some state sections of the NLC said that the increase in electricity and gasoline prices had made the minimum wage of N30,000 insignificant.
After the federal government increased the ex-deposit price of gasoline last week, distributors adjusted their pump prices in August from N148 to N150, so that they are now between N158 and N162.
On Monday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that despite the rise in the price of gasoline, the price of the commodity in Nigeria remains among the lowest in Africa.
However, Mr. Wabba, who dotted the I’s and crossed the line, pointed out that the government had failed to recognize that the Naira had been in freefall for many years, which, he added, had affected commodity prices.
He noted: “This comparison cannot even hold up because our currency is in free fall and has been devalued many times. The basis of the comparison is therefore flawed. If they (other countries) have stronger currencies, it means that our currency is weak.
“Not only petroleum products but all other commodities are expensive in Nigeria because of the free fall of the Naira. Can they make the comparison based on the stability of other countries’ currencies over the years and the instability of the Nigerian currency over the last five years? Then you can get the answer”.
Asked whether the minimum wage was proportional to the increase in the price of gasoline and electricity, Wabba said the government should have taken into account the impact of its decision on workers.
He said: “We pointed out that many Nigerians have been marginalized and that it is insensitive to raise the prices of both commodities – petroleum products and electricity – at the same time. You can already see the impact of the price of bread, which has risen from N250 to N300”.
In an interview with TROPICS NIGERIA, Emmanuel Bankole, the president of the NLC in Ogun State, also rejected the government’s argument.
Bankole stated that the agreement reached by the government was false and had been carried out in isolation.
He asked, “What is the minimum wage that workers in these countries receive? These are the elements to be taken into account. The facilities in these countries, can we compare ours with theirs? This comparison is false”.
For his part, the president of the NLC in the state of Enugu, Virginus Nwobodo, said that the comparison made by the government between fuel prices and electricity rates and those of other countries is unfounded. He said the increase in fuel prices had made the minimum wage insignificant.
Osun State NLC President Jacob Adekomi also said it was wrong to compare fuel prices in other countries with those in Nigeria without comparing workers’ wages.
The chairman of the NLC in Delta State, Mr. Goodluck Ofobruku, told one of our correspondents that the government’s argument made no sense.
He said: “The kind of government we have at the center is not interested in the welfare of Nigerians”.
The Executive Director of the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education, Dr. Zikirullahi Ibrahim, said in an interview with Tropics NG that the government’s argument is false.
The National Publicity Secretary of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, said in an interview with Tropics NG: “It is so sad that this government is so degenerate that it has put a spotlight on the useless comparison that military regimes have made in the past to deceive Nigerians. Have they forgotten that they promised to repair our refineries and produce fuel locally? They are shameless enough to tell us the prices in Niger and elsewhere”.
The executive director of YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo, said the argument showed that the government had failed.