The Nigeria Labour Congress and civil rights groups on Tuesday said there was no economic basis in the claim by the Federal Government that the petrol price in the country was among the lowest in Africa.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, in an interview with reporters, said government should have situated its argument against the devaluation of the naira and the minimum wage being paid to workers.
Also, some state chapters of the NLC said the hike in electricity tariff and the petrol price had rendered the N30,000 minimum wage meaningless.
Following the increase of the ex-depot price of petrol by the Federal Government last week, marketers adjusted their pump prices to between N158 and N162 from N148 to N150 in August.
On Monday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said despite the increase in the price of petrol, the price of the commodity in Nigeria remained among the cheapest in Africa.
But puncturing the government’s claims, Wabba emphasised that the government failed to acknowledge the fact that the naira had been on free fall for many years and this, he added, had affected the prices of commodities.
He noted, “That comparison cannot even stand because our currency has been on free fall and it has been devaluated over and over again. So, the basis for comparison is faulty. If they (other countries) have stronger currencies, it means our currency is weak.
“Not only petroleum products but all other commodities are also expensive in Nigeria because of the free fall of the naira. Can they also make the comparison on the basis of the stability of the currencies of other countries over the years and the instability of the Nigerian currency over the last five years? You can then get the answer.”
When asked if the minimum wage was commensurate with the hike in the petrol price and electricity tariff, Wabba maintained that the government should have considered the impact of its decision on the workers.
He said, “The point we have made is that many Nigerians have been pushed to the edge and it is insensitive to increase the prices of the two commodities at the same time-petroleum products and the electricity. You can see the impact already in the prices of bread which have increased from N250 to N300.”
The NLC Chairman in Ogun State, Emmanuel Bankole, in an interview , also dismissed government’s argument.
Bankole said the comparison made by the government was fake and was done in isolation.
He asked, “What is the minimum wage the workers in those countries are receiving? Those are the things to consider. The facilities in those countries, can we compare ours with those ones? That comparison is fake.”
On his part, the Enugu State Chairman of the NLC, Virginus Nwobodo, described the government comparison of fuel price and electricity tariff with the ones in other countries as baseless. He said the fuel price hike had made minimum wage meaningless.
Also, the Osun State NLC Chairman, Jacob Adekomi, said comparing petrol prices in other countries with that of Nigeria without comparing wages of workers was wrong.
The Chairman of the NLC in Delta State, Mr Goodluck Ofobruku, told one of our correspondents that government’s argument made no sense.
He stated, “The type of government we have at the centre is not interested in the welfare of Nigerians.”
The Executive Director of the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education, Dr Zikirullahi Ibrahim, in an interview with reporters, said government argument was wrong.
The National Publicity Secretary of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, said; “It’s is so sad that this government has degenerated to the point of making the kind of useless comparison military regimes used to make in the past to deceive Nigerians. Have they forgotten they promised they would repair our refineries and produce fuel locally? They are so shameless to be telling us prices in Niger and other places.”
On his part, the Executive Director of YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo, said the argument showed that government had failed.