It may not be a bad idea to buy all the petrol you need for your car, as Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) kicks off its indefinite strike action over a new national minimum wage.
Okay, here’s the sad news: barring a last minute change of plans or a new round of negotiations, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and all its affiliate unions will ground the nation’s economy beginning from Tuesday, November 6, 2018, over a new national minimum wage.
That means banks will be shuttered, schools will be closed, market gates will be slammed in your face and the chaps who ensure that you purchase petrol or diesel to power your cars or generators won’t be dispensing that service for the period of the strike.
That will hurt, wouldn’t it?
Yes, petrol will be in short supply while the strike is on
NLC is made up of several other unions like Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG), Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Airport associations and Petroleum Tanker Drivers Association of Nigeria, among others.
Usually, when NLC calls for a strike, public and private sector workers comply fully or run skeletal services while the industrial action lasts.
NUPENG and PENGASSAN are responsible for how you get petrol from the gas station to power cars and homes. Should they down tools partially or fully, there could be shortage or scarcity of petrol, diesel and even kerosene.
The tanker drivers, the chaps who operate tank farms, the guys working throughout the petrol value chain and who supply the airlines with aviation fuel, will join the NLC strike on Tuesday if it goes on as planned.
You may not be able to fly if the strike goes on
Already, the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) and the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), have notified the public that they would participate actively in the minimum wage strike.
What is the NNPC saying about petrol availability while the strike is on?
The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) released a statement to say you shouldn’t engage in panic buying of petroleum products because of the strike.
“The corporation had 39 days petroleum products sufficiency and about 25 days products availability on land”, the statement which was signed by NNPC spokesperson, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu read.
NNPC adds that: “Motorists and other consumers of petroleum products are assured of adequate stock to meet their energy needs”.
The NNPC says it decided to provide information on the petroleum products stock level in order to dispel suggestions that the threat of strike by the NLC would result in a round of products shortages across the country.
Ughamadu advised motorists not to engage in panic buying as the corporation would do all it could to ensure the strike did not impact negatively on fuel distribution nationwide.
Should you be worried when the NNPC says you shouldn’t?
The thing about the NNPC is that it can’t satisfy all of Nigeria’s petrol consumption needs no matter how hard it tries.
At the best of times, the NNPC can only supply about a quarter of Nigeria’s energy needs. The state run oil company heavily depends on private sector oil marketers to import and dispense the petrol the nation consumes.
The last time oil marketers embarked on a strike, the NNPC kept assuring the public that there was no need to panic buy and that there was enough petrol in the reserves to last the country several days.
But guess what? Petrol queues got longer and chaotic until the strike was called off and private sector players returned to the fray.
If recent history is any guide, when the NNPC says don’t worry, don’t panic, you are better off doing the opposite.
Recall also that there's always a petrol crisis around Christmas time in Nigeria. Go figure.
What’s the latest on the dispute between federal government and organised labour over minimum wage?
It’s been three months since the tripartite committee on the minimum wage commenced meetings and talks aimed at averting the November 6 strike.
The tripartite committee is made up of organised labour, the private sector and government.
The federal government says it can only pay N24,000 as minimum wage. State governors are saying they can only afford N22,500. Labour is saying it’s N30,000 or nothing.
The minimum wage is currently pegged at N18,000 and labour thinks a review is long overdue.
On Friday, November 2, 2018, the federal government rushed to the industrial court to obtain an order meant to stop labour from proceeding with the strike.
But labour says the court order cannot stop it from proceeding with the strike.
For the timeline of the latest dispute between federal government and labour over a new minimum wage, kindly open this link.
For what minimum wage really means in the Nigerian context, you can read this.