(Editor’s Note: As Nigeria continues to reel, both economically and personally, during the protests and strikes taking over the country, one Nigerian senator makes public his remarks on the situation. Senator Bukola Saraki of Nigeria is the former governor of Kwara State, serving for eight years, and formerly was the head of the Nigeria Governors Forum. He is currently representing the Kwara Central Senatorial Zone.)
The mood of the country requires that we find a solution to the fuel subsidy dispute which has pitched the federal government against the [Nigeria Labour Congress], civil society, and the citizens. It is my candid opinion that all parties involved are driven by patriotism. There is a mutual agreement that there is something wrong with the fuel subsidy scheme.
As you are probably aware, a few months ago, I raised a motion on the floor of the Senate concerning the potential dangers of the management of the fuel subsidy scheme and the effects it could have on the economy and development of our dear nation.
I had no doubts in my mind that the subsidy scheme was not working as envisaged and obviously was not serving the interest of the masses for whom it was put in place. I knew we had to investigate why we spend so much on the scheme, in order to determine if it was being abused and identify the culprits responsible for this and allow the law to take its full course, based on what is happening today, peace and stability of our country is what is paramount considering the loss of life.
My humble advice to the federal Government of Nigeria and all parties involved at this critical moment is for everyone to return to the position before the dispute, which is a standard practice for all industrial dispute resolution all over the world. This is necessary in order to enable resolution to the matter. I believe that the Senates current role as an arbitrator between the federal government and organized labour is the right one, which is to find a meeting point for a peaceful resolution to this strike. As representatives of the people, we are elected to serve; we must hearken to the anguish, feel the pain of the people and also provide support for the federal government. So government should shift ground, and labour the same, this will create room for dialogue. To revert to previous position by all parties is not a sign of weakness but an act of sacrifice in the interest of all, anything to prevent further loss of life. There are times in history of our nation where empathy super-cedes economics; this is one of those moments.
Also we must swiftly face other national issues, which are threatening our unity by engaging across party lines. Terrorism is still a big issue we have to tackle, which like fuel subsidy requires dialogue.