Olisa Metuh, a former National Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party, has urged the south-east chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress to withdraw from the proposed strike action in response to President Bola Tinubu’s announcement that fuel subsidies would be removed.
Metuh asked the body in a statement on Sunday to look beyond the immediate difficulties and consider the larger benefit of ending the corrupt subsidy regime that has benefited the rich at the expense of the poor and ordinary Nigerians.
He claimed that the fuel subsidy has never benefited the South East because fuel prices in the region have always been exorbitant.
He also urged the South East to rather focus on its immediate challenges to activate “our God-given ingenuity to work.”
He said, “Without necessarily agreeing with the seeming sudden nature of the subsidy removal, I urge the South East Chapter of NLC to see beyond the immediate difficulties and consider the larger benefit of ending the corrupt subsidy regime which has benefited the rich against the poor and ordinary Nigerians.
“It is important that the people of the South East, including Comrades in the NLC, realize what is imperative to us and put it beyond any other considerations.
“You will recall that in 2001, then as the Chairman of the South East Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Committee (SERRAC), I worked with the leadership of the South East NLC in resisting the attempt to work against the increase of fuel price to N40 then.
“That effort was predicated on the fact that fuel subsidy has never benefited the South East as fuel price has always been exorbitant in the South East; always higher that what is obtainable in other parts of the country.
“Recall also that in January, 2012, as the National Vice-Chairman of the then ruling party, I worked with the South East chapter of the NLC to reject the nationwide strike that paralysed the entire country on the premise that the strike was of no benefit to the South East as a region. Fuel subsidy has never been of benefit to the masses of the South East, it has only been beneficial to the rich and the economic saboteurs in the land.
“It is on that premise that I come to you once again to resist the attempt to be blindly lured to shut down our region for a fight that will not benefit the ordinary people of the South East. The South East should rather focus on our immediate challenges to activate our God-given ingenuity to work.”
Metuh further called on members of the region to use the energies of their Labour fronts to get the current administration to address issue of insecurity, economic retrogression in the South East as well as unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu from incarceration.
He said these were imperatives that were disregarded, ignored and even encouraged by the last administration.
He said, “As the people are being asked to make sacrifices and without prejudice to the petitions in the Presidential Election Petition Court, I call on President Tinubu to show leadership by immediately taking steps to ameliorate the suffering of Nigerians by cutting down on the size of government, end profligacy associated with governments and channel the resources to projects, amenities and facilities that directly impact on the wellbeing of the people.
“We cannot remove subsidy on fuel and still continue to subsidize the lavish lifestyle of political office holders, spend government money to maintain the luxury presidential fleet, service posh government houses, buy expensive vehicles, secure luxury apartments and finance wasteful trips for government functionaries to the detriment of the wellbeing of the people.
“The end to subsidy on petrol must mark the end to luxury government guest houses, long convoys, hiring of private jets by governors and public officers, foreign medical trips and jumbo allowances for political office holders.”
He said President Bola Tinubu must be ready to cut the budget of the Presidential Villa by removing luxury items.
“He must reduce the number of Presidential aides and appoint ministers, special advisers and other aides who are ready to forgo luxury cars, expensive accommodations and fat allowances but, instead, be ready to live with the people and make do with public amenities and facilities with other Nigerians.
“I urge the South East Chapter of the NLC to review their stand to shut down our region for a protest that benefits the oppressors and not the oppressed. The life wire of the South East is our entrepreneurial spirit that thrives on daily commercial life and which, we must not repress by shutting down our own homeland that has been greatly impoverished by sponsored security challenges,” he added.