NLC backs NUPENG to embark on nationwide strike!

After leading a strike in January against the removal of the subsidy on petrol and being at the forefront for the probe of the wide-scale fraud and mismanagement of the subsidy scheme, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) shockingly reversed itself yesterday by supporting the threat by the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) to embark on a nationwide strike over the non-payment of subsidy claims to indicted oil marketers.

NUPENG had issued an ultimate to the Federal Government on Monday, threatening to go on strike by Friday if the government fails to pay outstanding subsidy claims to oil marketing and trading companies (OM&Ts).

The union’s refusal to lift petrol from depots has resulted in crippling fuel scarcity in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the last one week.

But NUPENG’s threat is believed to have been influenced by a core of oil marketers indicted by the Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede presidential committee and wants to tie the hands of government to avoid prosecution, as canvassed by civil society groups and labour during the fuel subsidy strike.

Labour’s new position is a blatant turnaround, said analysts last nights, who fear that a crippling nationwide strike could pave the way for the indicted oil marketers to escape prosecution.

However, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has distanced itself from the NUPENG ultimatum to embark on the strike, stating that NUPENG cannot speak on its behalf.

The NLC’s position is also coming against the backdrop of a letter written by the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, to President Goodluck Jonathan clarifying that 25 oil marketing firms were actually indicted by his committee that verified the payments and arrears of the 2011 subsidy claims and not 21 companies.

The NLC, which had clamoured for the probe of the subsidy scheme, expressed support for NUPENG's action, which presidency sources have described as an open endorsement of oil subsidy fraudsters.

The NLC said NUPENG is fighting a genuine course, adding that it would not interfere in its quest to protect the interest of workers in the oil and gas industry.

NLC Acting General Secretary, Comrade Chris Uyot, said the congress was in total support of NUPENG’s demand for transparency in the payment of subsidy claims to oil marketers.