The House of Representatives on Wednesday made a formal declaration of support for the decision of the Federal Government to remove the subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, better known as petrol.
A litre of petrol now sells for N145 instead of N86.50k.
However, the government claimed that what it did was price increase and not the removal of subsidy or deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.
On Wednesday, the House, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, backed the price hike.
The price hike had pitted the government against organised labour, as a faction of the Nigerian Labour Congress led by Mr. Ayuba Wabba, vehemently opposed it.
The group had called for an indefinite nationwide strike on Wednesday, though other labour groups, including the Trade Union Congress pulled out.
The House had intervened in a bid to resolve the dispute by summoning the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, to appear before it on Monday.
After Kachikwu’s appearance, where he said the government would not reverse the new price regime, the House also invited labour leaders to hear their own side of the story on Tuesday.
An ad hoc committee chaired by the Chief Whip of the House, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, was mandated to interface with labour leaders.
The committee presented an interim report to the House on Wednesday, which was adopted wholesale by lawmakers.
In adopting the report, the House said it was in support of the price hike.
It added that it “overwhelmingly expressed solidarity towards deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry in the greater interest of the Nigerian economy and posterity.”
While supporting the price regime, the House urged labour to continue to “show understanding of the situation, while engaging in dialogue in the interest of its teeming membership and Nigeria.”
The lawmakers advised the “executive arm to ensure full and speedy implementation of the Appropriations Act, 2016, as therein lies much of the palliatives that will help in calming the current situation.”
Members applauded the political will of the current administration to remove subsidy, noting that it would save the country trillions of naira hitherto spent in the name of subsidising PMS.
Earlier, Ado-Doguwa had informed the House that the committee had an engaging session with labour leaders.
He said, “During its interactive session with organised labour, the committee sought to extract a commitment from organised labour to put off the intended action, but the representatives of the labour unions stated that they would not be able to give any immediate final response until they secured the consent of their state chapters.
“They categorically reiterated the massive hardship inflicted on the Nigerian worker by the recent developments in the petroleum downstream sector, which included sky-rocketing prices in markets both within and outside the oil and gas sector. They insisted on an assurance of reliable palliative measures to assuage the sufferings of the Nigerian workers.
“The committee unequivocally stressed the support of the House in the present efforts of government in sanitising the petroleum sector, and noted that the palliatives already contained in the Appropriations Act 2016, would allay the fears of the general masses of our country, cushion the effect of the deregulation initiatives and create the necessary peaceful environment conducive for a more rapid growth and development.”
Meanwhile, the South-South Zone of the All Progressives Congress has declared support for the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry.
The APC chairmen from the six states of the zone said this after a meeting with the National Vice-Chairman in charge of the zone, Hilliard Eta, in Abuja, on Wednesday.
The chairmen said their declaration became necessary in the light of the mixed reactions which greeted last Monday’s removal of petrol subsidy by government and the threat by organised labour to go on strike.
Those who attended the meeting were Chief Davis Ikenya (Rivers), Chief Tiwei Orunimighe (Bayelsa), Jones Erue (Delta), Dr. Ahmadu Attai (Akwa Ibom), John Ochalaag, (Cross River), and Ansekum Ojezua, (Edo).
Eta, while commending the chairmen for their thoughtfulness, said for all true lovers of Nigeria and democracy, supporting the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration was the best thing to do.