Subsidy protests: Pilots advise Jonathan to avoid anarchy

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Okechukwu Nnodim

Commercial pilots in the country have called on President Goodluck Jonathan to listen to the yearnings of the masses by reverting to the pre-subsidy removal pump price of petrol in order to avoid chaos.

The pilots said the intention of the Federal Government on the removal of subsidy might be laudable, but its abrupt announcement and implementation on the New Year Day was uncalled for.

The pilots, who spoke under the aegis of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, called on the President and his ministers to realise that the agitation for the reversal from N141 to N65 per litre was beyond the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria and other affiliate labour unions.

The association said in a statement on Tuesday, “It is the people themselves who have already taken to the streets, everyday since Tuesday, January 3, 2012. No matter how well-meaning the Federal Government is on the fuel subsidy removal, the Nigerian people are clearly against the policy.

“Therefore, the challenge before us as a nation is not whether NLC and TUC will cancel or not cancel the general strike, the reality is that people are already on the streets and the agitation is growing by the day.

It added, “The clock is ticking and we, therefore, as patriotic Nigerians, urgently appeal to Mr. President to listen to the voice of the people on this matter before the situation degenerates uncontrollably.

“We know this is a very difficult decision for the President to take, but as a genuine representative of the people, we encourage him to address the nation and announce, in very clear language, a reversal of this policy and an immediate return of the pump price of petrol to N65 per litre.”

The statement, which was signed by the President, NAAPE, Mr. Isaac Balami, noted that labour leaders were only carrying out their lawful duties to the Nigerian public.

It noted that the association had no option but to shut the nation’s airspace to flight operations based on the yearnings of the members of the public.

The group said, “In this scenario, what do you expect of the labour union leaders who have sworn solemn oaths to always champion the cause of the working class to do? Can such labour leaders, in their true consciences, refuse to join the people on a legitimate and spontaneous nationwide protest such as this?

“As a responsible labour union that is committed to the general good of our countrymen and women, NAAPE is fully on the side of the people on this critical issue. But shutting down the nation’s airspace as from Sunday, January 8, 2012 was not a decision anyone will ordinarily smile about.”

“The country’s civilian pilots and aircraft engineers cannot just embark on such a drastic action for flimsy reasons. But, like other labour unions, our hands are already tied because the people, without our consent, have embarked on such a large scale protest, the worst of its kind since we returned from military dictatorship in 1999,” it added.


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