Zimbabwe Protests After Fuel Price Hike

Police officers make way for an ambulance by removing stones from a barricade during a “stay-away” demonstration against the doubling of fuel prices on January 14, 2019 in Emakhandeni township, Bulawayo.  Zinyange AUNTONY / AFP

 

Angry protesters barricaded roads with burning tyres and rocks in Zimbabwe on Monday after the government more than doubled the price of fuel in a bid to improve supplies as the country battles its worst gasoline shortages in a decade.

Protesters turned back drivers and blocked buses from carrying passengers in Zimbabwe’s two main cities of Harare and Bulawayo as the main labour federation called for a three-day nationwide strike.

Soldiers were deployed at a shopping centre in Bulawayo’s township of Entumbane where protesters looted shops.

Demonstrators in the second city had attacked minibusses heading to the city center and used burning tyres and stones to block the main routes into town while some schools were turning away pupils fearing for their safety.

Shops closed in downtown Harare as riot police patrolled the streets and a military helicopter flew over the capital.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday night announced a more than a 100-percent rise in the price of petrol and diesel in a move he said would end fuel shortages.

“We have suffered enough,” author Philani Nyoni who was part of the protest in Bulawayo.

“The government is now aware that we are not happy with their stupid policies like the fuel price increase,” said Nyoni, calling on the president who is on a tour of Europe, to return home to “sort out things”.

‘We have suffered enough’ 

“We want Mnangagwa to know our displeasure in his failure,” said another Bulawayo protester, Mthandazo Moyo,  22.

“Mugabe was evil but he listened,” he added, referring to former autocratic and long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, who was ousted in November 2017.

Residents in Epworth, a poor suburb east of the capital Harare, on Monday, woke up to find boulders blocking roads and the protesters set ablaze a tent at a police post.

“It’s tense since early morning,” Nhamo Tembo, an Epworth resident said.

Zimbabwe’s economy has been in a slump for more than a decade, with cash shortages, high unemployment and recently a scarcity of staples such as bread and cooking oil.

In a televised address late Saturday, Mnangagwa said prices of petrol and diesel would more than double to tackle a shortfall caused by increased fuel usage and “rampant” illegal trading.

Petrol prices rose from $1.24 a liter to $3.31 (2.89 euros), with diesel up from $1.36 a liter to $3.11 starting Sunday – one of the highest pump prices in the world.

The main labour alliance, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has called for a three-day stay-at-home strike as it said the government had shown a clear lack of empathy for the already overburdened poor.

Government has accused the strike organisers of pushing a political “regime change” agenda and of “subversive political activities”.

“It has become obvious that there is deliberate plan to undermine and challenge the prevailing constitutional order,” said government spokesman Nick Mangwana in a statement late Sunday night.

He warned that government will “respond appropriately” against “all those who have been conspiring to subvert peace, law and order in the country”.

 ‘Subversive political activities’ 

He accused unnamed opposition parties of disguising themselves as civic groups and of sponsoring civil unrest.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa said: “We have a national crisis which is descending into a humanitarian crisis”.

Mnangagwa took over from Mugabe following military intervention before winning the disputed election in July.

He has announced a package of measures to help state workers after strikes by doctors and teachers over poor pay.

Doctors in state hospitals went on a 40-day strike beginning early December demanding salaries be paid in US dollars and improved work conditions.

Teachers unions called a strike last week for better pay but their calls went largely unheeded.

Mnangagwa announced “a package of measures to cushion government workers.”

He also warned the government would come down hard on “elements bent on taking advantage of the current fuel shortages to cause and sponsor unrest and instability in the country.”

When he took over from Mugabe, Mnangagwa pledged to revive the moribund economy and end the country’s international isolation.

AFP

Senate Steps Down Bill Proposing N5 Fuel Levy

senate, CCTThe Senate has stepped down the controversial National Roads Funds Bill 2017, which proposed a levy of N5 per litre of petrol purchased by motorists.

This followed widespread condemnation of the bill by organised labour, the National Association of Nigerian Students and Nigerians in general.

The sponsor of the bill Senator Kabiru Gaya at Thursday’s plenary session denied plans to introduce an additional N5 fuel levy, pointing out that the proposed N5 is to be deducted from the existing template of N145 per litre of fuel.

He explained that it would provide predictable funding for roads in Nigeria and create an environment for an effective Public-Private collaboration.

But the Senate stepped down the report to enable other relevant committees to go through its content.

Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu who presided over plenary however maintained that Senate had no plan to increase pump price.

The bill is one of 13 high priority economic recovery bills recommended by the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable to the lawmakers for passage.

It is aimed at supporting the funding and maintenance of roads in Nigeria.

Sources of revenue proposed by the bill include international vehicle transit charges, road funds surcharge of 0.5 percent taxed on the assessed value of any vehicle imported into the country; inter-state mass transit charge of 0.5 percent deductible from the fare paid by passengers to commercial mass transit operators on inter-state roads, among others.

Its proposal that a fuel levy of N5 per litre on petroleum products as well as toll gates charges, however, proved controversial.

PPPRA, Fuel Scarcity

Apart from organised labour and NANS, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties also criticised the plan and warned that any attempt to increase the price of fuel would be resisted.

READ ALSO: CNPP Warns Senate, FG Against Fuel Tax

On Tuesday, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency had urged Nigerians to ignore news of a N5 increase in the price of petrol, saying it had not approved any price increase.

“The PPPRA has observed the growing speculation on a purported imminent increase in the pump price of PMS by N5 per litre. The agency hereby wishes to dispel this rumour and assuage the concerns of Nigerians,” the agency, which is authorised to regulate the price of petroleum products in the country,  had said in a statement by its Executive Secretary, Abdulkadir Saidu.

“As the agency of government saddled with the responsibility of regulating petroleum products pricing, supply, and distribution, we want to assure the Nigerian public that the subsisting pump price cap for PMS remains N145 per litre across the country and as such, Nigerians should please ignore the speculation on the price increase.”

 

Ignore Reports Of Fuel Price Increase, PPPRA Tells Nigerians

The Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency has asked Nigerians to ignore news of a N5 increase in the price of petrol, saying it has not approved any price increase.

The agency, which is authorised to regulate the price of petroleum products in the country, said this in a statement in Abuja today.

Organised labour, the National Association of Nigerian Students and other groups have in recent days criticised the Senate and Federal Government over a plan to increase fuel price and vowed to resist any such attempt.

The criticism came after the Senate Committee on Works in its National Road Fund Establishment Bill, proposed a fuel levy charge that will make motorists to pay N5 tax on every litre of petrol bought at any filling station.

PPPRA, Fuel Scarcity

But the PPRA said it did not improve a hike in fuel price.

“The PPPRA has observed the growing speculation on a purported imminent increase in the pump price of PMS by N5 per litre. The agency hereby wishes to dispel this rumour and assuage the concerns of Nigerians,” the agency said in the statement by its Executive Secretary, Abdulkadir Saidu.

“As the agency of government saddled with the responsibility of regulating petroleum products pricing, supply, and distribution, we want to assure the Nigerian public that the subsisting pump price cap for PMS remains N145 per litre across the country and as such, Nigerians should please ignore the speculation on the price increase.”

CNPP Warns FG, Senate Against Planned Fuel Tax

PPPRA, Fuel ScarcityThe Conference of Nigeria Political Parties has joined organised labour in rejecting the planned increment of prices of petroleum products.

“We assure the Senate and the Federal Government that their proposed N5 per litre of fuel tax will be resisted,” the CNPP said in a statement by its Secretary General, Willy Ezugwu, on Sunday.

It accused the National Assembly of taking more anti-people decisions than resolutions that could better the lives of the already impoverished masses of Nigeria and warned the Presidency against inflicting more pain on the people.

The CNPP argued that the National Roads Fund Bill if passed, would impose the controversial tax on Nigerians.

It said, “Our findings have shown that the bill titled ‘National Roads Fund (Establishment, etc) Bill 2017’, proposing that N5 to be paid per litre of fuel imported into the country is a ploy by the Federal Government to impose more hardship on Nigerians at a time the burden of recession in the country is becoming unbearable.

“We thought that the Federal Government should be thinking of reducing the already biting hardship in the country after failing to fulfil the promised increment in minimum wage and non-payment of arrears of workers’ salaries and allowances in the past two years.

“It seems that the current government at the federal level and their National Assembly collaborators enjoy inflicting more and more pains on Nigerian masses.

“We wonder why the Senate Committee on Works in its final report on the bill would make such proposal. Are they saying that the only way this government can raise funds is by increasing the pump price of petroleum prices and punishing the masses?”

Organised labour and the National Association of Nigerian Students had earlier condemned the plan, warning that they would resist any attempt to further hike the price of petroleum products.

“Members of the National Assembly should firstly sample the views of their constituencies before deliberating on such a bill, which to us is not going to be allowed to be part of the additional suffering of the people of this country,” the Secretary General of NANS, Mr Kahiru Mohammed, had said.

Petrol Now Sells For N150 Per Litre In Benin City

Petrol Now Sells For N150 Per Litre In Benin CitySome independent petroleum marketers in Edo state are now selling petrol for 150 naira per litre instead of the regulated price of 145 naira.

Motorists, as well as petroleum marketers, who spoke to Channels Television in Benin City, the Edo state capital, lamented the increase in the price saying it has brought more hardship on the people.

Meanwhile, some fuel stations in the state did not have products for sale. Some who had the product were selling above the approved price of 145 Naira a litre.

A fuel marketer, Valentine Aisuen, said: “PMS is not readily available in most of the depots and apart from that, the price at which we are buying it is high because of the limited product that is available.

“We are buying at 145, we haulage for three naira and it gets here at 148 and we now sell for 150.”

The marketers who were seen selling at the recommended price said it would not be for long before they join the fray as they were not making profit from their sales.

“If you check our pump price now we still remain at 145 naira per litre, our meter reading is accurate.

“We are keeping that to make sure we remain with our customer but we are going to do it for the time being, pending when the union will come up with their report for us to shut down because the cost of buying now, I don’t think anybody is making profit if you cannot sell above 145 naira per litre.”

Unstable Power

Some motorists also lamented the hardship the increase in price has brought to the people.

A driver told Channels TV: “Passengers complain, drivers too are complaining because things are difficult. We heard they have increased it to 200 naira; this morning some people bought for 150, some others for 200.

“Selling above that 150 is really biting us and things are not moving well. Supposing things are moving on and the power is stable then we can cope. But the power is not stable and the energy we are getting which is the fuel is very high, so it’s biting everyone one of us; we are feeling it real bad.”

Attempts to ascertain the cause of the scarcity at the Benin depot of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was met with stiff resistance by the chief security officer who denied the news crew access to key officers of the depot.

“I am working under instruction, don’t provoke me this afternoon; I beg you in the name of God don’t provoke me,” he warned.

Although the head of the Department Of Petroleum Resources (DPR) was not on seat, another official who wished not to be named said that the scarcity was due to power outage at the Warri refinery which has now been addressed.

He promised that the situation would normalize soon.

NNPC Opens Bid For Crude Oil Sale And Purchase

Maikanti-BaruThe Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Dr Maikanti Baru, says only refiners, big traders and companies with substantial investment in the oil and gas sector, will scale through the bid for the 2016 to 2017 term contracts for Nigeria crude oil sale.

A total of 224 companies are bidding for the 12 month term contracts tender, for a number of slots the Group Managing Director says will be decided on actual production focus by February 2017.

Representatives from the 224 companies converged on the amphitheater of the NNPC for the opening of the bid.

Dr Baru, who opened the bid after a test of transparency, said that the volume of crude put out for the contract bid is nearly 700,000 barrels of crude per day.

He added that the actual number of companies to emerge from the bidding would be decided in the first quarter of 2017.

The NNPC GMD also stated that Nigeria’s crude is not struggling for market, contrary to speculation but continues to earn premium, with major markets in Europe and Asia, with the United States recently added to the list.

No Plan To Increase Fuel Price, Says NNPC

DPR, Niger State, PetrolThe Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Monday said there were no immediate plans to increase fuel prices.

The Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mr Maikanti Baru, asked reporters if they “have seen any memo to that effect” insisting that there is “nothing like that in the offing.”

Reports say fuel marketers are pressing the government to remove the current gasoline price cap of 145 naira ($0.4394) per litre, as they say they are struggling to buy the fuel, which priced in dollars, and sell it in Nigeria in naira at a profit.

A press release over the weekend from former NNPC leaders called the current price cap “not congruent” given the foreign exchange rate and low crude oil prices.

“We don’t want any cap because of the fluctuations of the dollar rate in the country,” Chinedu Ukadike, Chief of Staff to the National President of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), told Reuters.

Removal of the cap would also allow the forces of supply and demand to determine the price of petroleum products, he said.

The naira plunged in value, hitting an all-time low of 420 to the dollar on the unofficial market late last month.

The Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr Ibe Kachikwu told Reuters that talks with militant groups were still ongoing, and that the country’s crude production stood at 1.6 million bpd despite force majeure declarations in place on four crude oil streams.

 

NLC Strike Over Petrol Price Hike Enters Day Three

NLC, Strike, PetrolThe ongoing industrial action of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has lingered into the third day, as the labour union insists that the Federal Government must reverse the increase in the price of petrol.

In Osun State, the NLC members, the Joint Action Front and students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile –Ife continued the peaceful protest, urging residents to reject the 145 Naira petrol pump price.

Commercial and other related activities in the ancient town went on as the protesters blocked the popular Lageere Roundabout, causing traffic for few hours whilst the protest lasted.

The workers comprising basically of members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Non-Academic Staff Unions of Universities in OAU, moved from the campus to Mayfair roundabout, distributing flyers to motorists and people on the street.

NLC, Strike, Petrol

Leading the protest, the Chairman of ASUU in OAU, Dr. Caleb Aborisahde, told Channels Television that the Federal Government must rescind its decision, else the industrial disharmony would continue indefinitely.

He also urged the Federal Government to build local refineries to make the petroleum product readily available to Nigerians.

In Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State and some parts of the state in southwest Nigeria, the compliance level in the industrial action remained the same.

Human and vehicular activities were in top gear, as residents defied the stay at home order of the labour union.

While monitoring the exercise in Abeokuta, a member of the human rights groups, Yinka Folarin, blamed the Federal Government for allegedly orchestrating the division among the leadership of the organised labour unions.

Meanwhile, the old long queues at fuel stations across the metropolis before the introduction of the current 145 Naira per litre of Premium Motor Spirit popularly called petrol is fast disappearing as residents can now get the commodity at ease.

In Nigeria’s northern region, the NLC Chairman in Plateau State, Jibrin Bancir, and a member of the Civil Liberty Organisation, Steve Aluko, said that the union had continued to monitor proceedings at the state and the federal secretariats where the entrances were locked.NLC, Strike, Osun

However, secondary school students were going about their studies, as the Trade Union Congress were not part of the ongoing strike with only the primary schools under lock and key.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government had directed all ministers, permanent secretaries and heads of government agencies to invoke the provision of “no work no pay” on any staff who is absent from work.

While the Ayuba Waba led faction of the NLC insists on carrying on with the industrial action, the Joe Ajaero led faction had reached an agreement with the government to set up a committee to resolve agitations over the new pump price of petrol.

NLC Strike Deepens In Abuja As It Enters Day Two

Ayuba Waba, NLC, Strike, AbujaThe Ayuba Waba-led protest of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Abuja on Thursday gathered more momentum as it enters its second day.

This comes as the Federal Government issued circulars to ministries and parastatals, threatening to enforce the ‘no work no pay’ rule on any government worker who participates in the industrial action.

The protesting labour leaders insisted that they would not be deterred by such directives from the government, as the union and its allies marched through the highways in the Federal Capital Territory.

Waba, who is the President of NLC, urged members of the union and other stakeholders to be willing to make sacrifices for the struggle.

However, some workers complied with the Federal Government’s ‘no work to pay’ warning, as workers at the federal secretariat and the National Hospital resumed work.

The Vice President of NLC, Peter Adeyemi, and a member of a civil society organisation, Jaye Gaskia, said that the number of those who believe in their course would not stop them from achieving success.

It is not yet clear how far the protesting workers are ready to press home their demands.

Negotiation meetings between the workers union and the Federal Government on Tuesday had ended in a deadlock, as the leadership of the NLC under Waba walked out of the meeting.

However, government reached an agreement with another faction of the NLC led by Joe Ajaero, to set up a committee to resolve agitations over the new pump price of petrol.

NLC Strike: Our Group Is Not Being Used – Ajaero

AJaero, NLC StrikeThe factional leader of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Joe Ajaero, has dismissed the allegation that his faction of the union is being used to divide the NLC in order for government to have its way on the new petrol pump price.

Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Thursday, Mr Ajaero critized the manner in which the Waba-led faction of the NLC has gone about the dialogue with the federal government over the issue.

He condemned the Waba group for making decisions affecting affiliate unions without consulting the leadership of those unions.

He added that the petroleum workers belong to his group of the NLC and were key players in the issue being debated, and would not have their interests misrepresented.

He admitted that the increase in petrol price was high at 145 Naira but there were different schools of thought, which includes the demand for palliatives, while some felt the President by his credibility deserved some trust.

 

Divided House

Mr Ajaero affirmed that the two factions of the NLC have been in existence since the 2015 election of the Nigeria Labour Congress. Although there have been efforts to reconcile them but these have not been successful.

He said that the decision of the government to negotiate with both factions of the union must have been because the issues at stake required that all stakeholders be involved.

He explained further, “The federal government realised that the issue at stake was petroleum and NUPENG made it clear that the other group cannot represent their interest, this is the NLC they belong to and they sent the invitation across.

“We got there in the spirit of joint leadership and the other group said they were not going to talk. I think we were the ones who carried ourselves to the federal government to show our division.

“Ordinarily if we had a unified position and carried it to the federal government, they would stand by it.”

Strike Will Expand As It Progresses, NLC Confident

NLC, Strike, Amechi AsugwuniThe leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) are confident that their nationwide indefinite strike to protest fuel price hike announced by the Federal Government would achieve its purpose.

“The strike commenced this morning as I speak to you and as we progress on the indefinite strike, it will expand itself,” Vice President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Amechi Asugwuni, said on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily.

Talks between the federal government and the Ayuba Wabba-led Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had ended in a deadlock on Tuesday evening.

The NLC delegation to the meeting, led by its President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, walked out of the negotiation following the inability of the two parties to reach an agreement and thereafter told journalists that the strike would hold on Wednesday as planned.

This was after the National Industrial Court had restrained the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) from going on its planned strike, pending the hearing and determination of a suit brought before it by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami.

Mr Asugwuni, however, said that the NLC was unaware of any court order stopping it from embarking on strike.

He maintained that as far as they were concerned, the NLC had no case with the Federal Government at the Industrial Court and there has been no summon to the contrary.

Mr Asugwuni said that if there was anything of such, it would be communicated with due process followed and not based on newspaper headlines or an interview granted the media.

“If at all the AGF got the injunction as claimed, the truth of the matter is that it is total disrespect for dialogue.

“That is to tell you that even while they were with labour on the table, they had already started the court processes against our interest. So they were not sincere from the beginning,” he said.

He insisted that labour’s insistent on proceeding with the strike was in the interest of the people.

NLC Is One

Mr Asugwuni also argued that the Wabba-led faction of the NLC remains the legitimate NLC that should be recognised by the government and citizens.

“NLC is one in Nigeria. So when I see people talk about faction, they are trying to play down on Nigeria’s constitution.

“Looking at the Federal Government through the comrade governor, Adams Oshiomhole, giving recognition to an impersonator also looks criminal. As far as we are concerned, it must be discouraged.

He also questioned the credibility of the position held by the Ajaero-led faction of the NLC.

“I watched Ajaero talk and you can see his posture. It was a stage-managed interview trying to divide the opinion of people but they can’t stand.

“Nigerian Labour Congress is one and we have one office, one President who is Comrade Ayuba Wabba, and who is right there in his office.

“The just concluded May Day, the federal government was represented and they were there. So how can they turn back now? Because you want to divide the house, you start recognizing people you already know are neither here nor there.”

Kaduna Workers Defy NLC Strike Over Fuel Price Hike

Kaduna Workers, NLC Strike, Fuel PriceCivil servants in Kaduna State on Wednesday defied the order of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to stay at home in protest against the fuel price hike announced by the federal government.

The labour unions had issued a directive asking workers in both public and private sectors to shun their offices starting from Wednesday, May 18, 2016 in solidarity to the planned nationwide strike by the organized labour.

But rather than adhering to the directive, the workers resumed for duties in their various offices.

At the state secretariat complex along Independence Way, workers were seen in their offices as early as 7:30 in the morning.

Also, banks, schools, markets and other private establishments in the state capital opened  for normal business.

Those who spoke to our correspondent said that the strike is uncalled for. They called on the leadership of the NLC and TUC to amicably resolve all pending issues with Federal Government without embarking on a strike.

At the NLC state secretariat at Lafia road, only a handful of members were seen within the premises in their uniforms. The state chairman, Adamu Ango, was not available for comment, and none of the available was willing to speak to us.