Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, has accused his fellow governors of abandoning his administration in its face-off with the Nigeria Labour Congress.
El-Rufai said this during a virtual meeting of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum on Wednesday.
Also at the meeting, a committee set up by the NGF recommended a petrol price of between N408.5 per litre and N380 per litre. It called for immediate removal of fuel subsidy.
Before the committee submitted its report, El-Rufai had berated the forum.
He also accused an unnamed governor of providing mobilisation funds for the NLC to destabilise Kaduna State.
Workers in the state workers had on Monday begun a five-day strike over El-Rufai administration’s retrenchment of 45,000 workers and the alleged anti-labour policies.
There was confusion in the state on Tuesday as thugs attacked workers at a rally organised by the NLC prompting the congress to issue a statement, where it threatened to declare a nationwide strike.
El-Rufai had earlier on Tuesday declared the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, wanted for allegedly sabotaging the economy of the state.
Baring his mind at the NGF meeting on Wednesday, El-Rufai said he did not get the required support from his colleagues.
He stated, “I am a governor. I am one of you. The least I expect from the Nigeria Governors Forum is unequivocal and unqualified support. I didn’t see that in that statement.
“I am being very blunt. I could pretend and be political and just smile and say it was alright but it is not. But I am used to fighting my own battles.”
The NGF, in a statement by its Chairman, Dr Kayode Fayemi, on Monday had urged the NLC to exercise restraint in its engagement with the Kaduna State Government.
It stated, “The NGF calls for cautious introspection on the part of Labour as no meaningful progress of any kind has ever been achieved in an atmosphere of conflict and chaos.”
Besides criticising the NGF, the Kaduna State governor described labour unions as the greatest threat to Nigeria. He stated that governors must come together to tackle their menace to prevent the country from degenerating further.
The governor further said, “We will fight this. We are breaking them and they will leave town ashamed. I will not give them one inch because this is not about unionism.
“If it is about rights of workers, Kaduna is not the only state that has retrenched workers. Kaduna is not a state owing salaries. Kaduna is not a state failing to pay minimum wage. Kaduna is not a state owing years of pension arrears. Why didn’t they go there? Kaduna was targeted for political reasons; and they are being financed by certain political interests. But we will fight them, we will defeat them but as the Governor of Bayelsa said, and since he has brought that subject, I have a responsibility to put it through, unless we collectively address this monster, it will consume all of us.
“After this, they (NLC) will never come back to Kaduna. They will never come back, you will see. They will go to other states. It is up to the forum to decide on what to do, but we are here, we are ready, we will end this by the grace of God.
“I would like to inform the forum that one of our colleagues, a state governor actually gave the NLC money to come to Kaduna to do this because people think everything is politics. This is not politics. This is a monster that will consume all of us. It will not consume Kaduna I’m confident of that.”
When reminded that the NGF issued a statement from the office of the chairman on the subject, El-Rufai replied, “That press release with the greatest respect was unhelpful. It was unhelpful. It said nothing. It was trying to play both sides.”
El-Rufai spoke after the Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, expressed displeasure over the lack of support for El-Rufai.
He explained that what the Kaduna State governor was dealing with would soon catch up with other states if the situation was not properly managed.
He said, “We are not running a unitary system (of government), we are a federation. We were elected to govern different states. We owe our people accountability not the NLC, we should take a common stand.”
Earlier, while presenting the report of the NGF committee on subsidy on petrol, El-Rufai, who is the chairman of the committee, explained that the current subsidy regime was unsustainable because smugglers and illegal markets in neigbouring African countries were the beneficiaries.
The committee recommended that the removal of subsidies should be immediate to save the nation’s economy.
He noted that Nigeria, like other Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries member countries, agreed to a cut production to keep the prices high but that Nigeria could not fully benefit from the regime because of subsidies.
The Kaduna governor said, “Between N70bn and N210bn is estimated to be spent every month to keep gasoline price at N162 per litre, this is below the cost price and the remittance to the federation account will shrink to less than N50bn per month or even zero if threats persist.
“We are already at zero. I understand for tomorrow, so this scenario has occurred.
“Why are we keeping the price at N162? We are keeping the price because the Federal Government and trade unions met and agreed to the suspension of some industrial action months back.
Even though we all supported deregulation of petroleum products prices last year, this agreement was suspended by the Federal Government because of a threat of industrial action by unions. This is the root of the problem and now we are back to losing between N70bn to N210bn per month.”
He further explained that in the 2021 budget the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had committed to remitting a minimum of N120bn per month to the federation account, but it had been unable to do so.
While presenting the recommendation of the committee about the price of petrol, he further explained that only about 12 states consumed two-thirds of the petrol, which was heavily subsidised.
The committee recommended N408.5 litre as the appropriate price in the circumstance but that with concessions to labour unions, N380 per litre could be the minimum.
El-Rufai stated, “The committee recommends PMS pump price increment from the current N162per litre to N408.5 per litre (negotiations with organized labour unions). N380per litre (settlement with organized labour).”
This, he said, was necessary to free funds for critical projects and payment of other obligations.
Other governors who contributed to the debate included Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State who said the 93 million litres which the NNPC claimed was consumed in Nigeria daily was unacceptable.
While addressing the media after the event, Fayemi, who spoke on some of the issues discussed, appealed to labour to give peace a chance in Kaduna by returning to the negotiation table.
In response to a question on the ongoing strike by the judiciary and parliament workers, Fayemi said most of the issues had been agreed on.
He explained that the forum was not in direct negotiations with the striking union but with the representatives of the National Judicial Council and the speakers’ parliament.
Fayemi said, “It is in the interest of Nigeria that they return to work for justice to be dispensed to many Nigerians awaiting trial or justice.“