It has emerged that six petroleum products marketing companies who were beneficiaries of the N1.5 trillion subsidy payments last year are bankrolling the planned Nigeria unions’s strike, a move which may undermine and discredit the credibility of the strikes.
The companies are now being probed by the security agencies for allegedly funding the proposed strike by labour unions with total sponsorship fee estimated to be about with N1 billion.
The marketers’ motive, according to a security source, was to continue the subsidy regime which gulped N1.5 trillion last year amid suspicion that their cabal was the major beneficiary.
Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have been asked to monitor “curious withdrawals” which may be intended to support the protests.
The marketers, according to the source, were working in concert with some union leaders to “destabilise the country”.
They were said to have budgeted over N1billion to frustrate the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
“There was a secret meeting between the marketers and some senators and members of the House of Representatives on how to compromise the National Assembly to reject the withdrawal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government,” the source said in a chat with journalists.
He added: “Security agencies have identified six of the marketers, who are the arrowheads of this covert plot to bring down the government. Some of them will soon be invited for questioning. And whoever is involved might be tried accordingly.
“These marketers are unhappy because the removal of subsidy will put an end to cooking of records to get refund from government and diversion of subsidised imported fuel to neighbouring African countries where they make triple profit.
“They are also angry that it will no longer be business as usual. They are some of the beneficiaries of fuel subsidy. Unfortunately, they have made labour leaders to believe that they are backing Nigerian workers for a just cause.”
Meanwhile, the CBN and EFCC have been placed on the alert to check “unusual” withdrawals by some marketers to fund protests.
The new date for the strike was arrived at, at the end of an emergency meeting of the National Executive Councils (NECs) of both labour unions Wednesday.
The communiqué directed state council chairmen to begin massive mobilisation of workers and the masses ahead of the strike, ordering that all offices, oil production centres, air and sea ports, fuel stations, market and banks, amongst others, should be shut down during the strike.
The communiqué, jointly signed by NLC President, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, and his TUC counterpart, Comrade Peter Esele, said the decision to commence the strike on Monday was taken because of the untold hardship workers and other Nigerians were experiencing as a result of the excessive increase in petrol prices which had resulted in sporadic protests by Nigerians.
“Due to untoward hardship workers and other Nigerians are experiencing based on excessive increase in petrol prices, there have been so many sporadic protests by Nigerians in at least 10 cities. These protests, which are peaceful, have witnessed the use of unprecedented force by the police leading to harassment, intimidation, arrests and murder of a protester.
“After exhaustive deliberations and consultations with all sections of the populace, the NLC, TUC and their pro-people allies demand that the Presidency immediately reverses fuel prices to N65. If government fails to do so, they direct that indefinite general strikes, mass rallies and street protests be held across the country with effect from Monday 9th January, 2012. We advise Nigerians to stockpile basic needs especially food and water,” the communiqué stated.
They maintained that there was a subsisting understanding between congress and the Federal Government in 2009 that the removal of subsidy would not commence until certain conditions which included the fixing of all existing refineries and building of new ones, and regular power supply, among others, had been met.
The congress argued that the prohibitive increase in price of PMS once again confirmed the position of labour that deregulation means incessant increase in price of petrol that would adversely impact on the cost of living, cost of production and the general well-being of increasingly impoverished Nigerians.
They called on Nigerians to participate actively in the mass action, while calling on security agencies to reject orders to intimidate and harass protesters, warning that any security agent that does so will be brought to justice.
Briefing journalists Wednesday on the outcome of the meeting in Lagos, Esele said labour would not enter into any form of negotiation with the Federal Government, stating that the committee set up by government was an afterthought.
Also speaking at the press conference, Lagos lawyer and activist, Mr. Femi Falana, said the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) would tomorrow hold a mass protest against the removal of fuel subsidy, revealing that the NLC and TUC had assembled a team of lawyers in case there is any eventuality.
In the same vein, the marketers suspected of sponsoring the strike may be arrested, according to security sources.
By Linda Eroke and Damilola Oyedele, Thisday