By Sunday Ani, Lagos
The presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the February 25 presidential election, Prince Adewole Ebenezer Adebayo, has taken a swipe at the country’s labour unions over what he described as a hypocritical attitude towards the fuel subsidy debacle.
He said the unions were in support of all the three major political parties, especially the Labour Party (LP) which is supposed to be pro workers’ interest, and which promised to remove the fuel subsidy if voted into office. He wondered why the same unions, especially the Trade Union Congress (TUC), have now turned around to criticising President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s announcement of the subsidy removal.
Adebayo said it was too late in the day for the labour unions to be complaining about the fuel subsidy removal when they should have tackled the Buhari administration, which was the initiator of the removal process while in office.
He wondered why they were complaining now when, in actual fact, all of them, including the Labour Party, which is supposed to be the workers’ and unions’ party, supported the removal of fuel subsidies.
He said: “TUC and the Labour were not overseas when the Appropriation Act 2023 was passed. Where were they to engage on that issue? When the debate was still in the open as to whether we should form a government that would remove subsidies or not, they went with the people that said they would remove subsidies. For as long as we continue and allow people to take advantage of the leadership of Nigerian workers, we would not address this issue. There are two positions you can take on subsidy – to remove or not to remove. They were on the side of removal. They were also around when the immediate past government passed the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA). The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PEGASSAN), the industrial union, representing them, supported it. PEGASSAN met in Calabar and said the subsidy must go. In the course of electioneering, the Appropriation Act was passed. They didn’t fight or argue with the government, and the government passed the law. The reason we are discussing this now is because of what I consider a mistake from the president to make a policy statement on that sensitive issue in an unclear way in his inauguration address, which has now caused some panic before the policy would take effect,”
He said the results of the election showed that the people also wanted the removal of subsidy, because, “if you look at the votes, you would see that the voters voted overwhelmingly for the political parties that said they were going to remove fuel subsidy. They voted for APC, PDP, and LP in that order. “
He said he was not surprised at the pronouncement of Tinubu that the fuel subsidy ceases to exist, though he frowned at what he called poor policy communication of the president to the people, whom he said, are going to bear the brunt of the effect of the removal.
He insisted that it was only the SDP that made clear during the campaign that it would continue the subsidy arrangement by removing the corruption inherent in the process. He explained that despite the legal landmines around the PIA, he would have negotiated his way out to continue the fuel subsidy if his party had won the election.