N500bn subsidy palliative not enough as NLC reveals amount FG must pay Nigerian Workers
The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress have said the N500bn palliative proposed by President Bola Tinubu cannot assuage the hardships that the fuel subsidy removal has caused Nigerians.
It will be recalled that President Tinubu had in a letter sent to the National Assembly on Wednesday, sought for an approval for N500bn palliatives for Nigerians to cushion the effects of the petrol subsidy removal.
According to The PUNCH, in the letter, the President proposed an amendment to the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act.
“I write to the House of Reps to approve the amendment of the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act in accordance with the attached.
“The request has become necessarily important to, among other things, the source for funds necessary to provide palliatives to mitigate the effect of the removal of fuel subsidy on Nigerians.
“Thus, the sum of N500bn only has been extracted from the 2022 Supplementary Act of N819,536,937,815 for the provision of palliative to cushion the effect of petrol subsidy removal,” the president said in the letter.
But the unions, in their reactions, described as proposed paliative as gross inadequacy, demanding a 300 per cent salary increase to enable workers to cope with the challenges imposed by the deteriorating economic situation that came with the removal of the controversial fuel subsidy.
The NLC noted that the money would not be enough to cater for 125 million Nigerians who are believed to be living in poverty.
The National Treasurer of the NLC, Hakeem Ambali, who spoke in an interview with The PUNCH in Abuja, questioned the extent to which the palliative would cover.
When asked if the amount would be sufficient, he said, “Definitely not. We have over 125m Nigerians that are technically poor. To what extent can this cushion the effects of this economic hardship?”
Speaking on ways by which the President can mitigate the effect of subsidy removal, the NLC official asked for “Minimum wage review of 300 per cent to all workers; granting licences to individuals for modular refineries to refine petrol locally; granting economic stimulus loan to SMEs at 15 per cent rate.’’
He added, ‘’The government should provide social benefits for aged and unemployed youths; agric loans to farmers and youths through the Agric Bank and community banks at single digit rate; provide alternative energy supply such as massive investment in solar power and Compressed Natural Gas to motorists.
“Fix the refineries; reverse the privatization of electricity back to the state due to poor performance; Execute metro rail line projects in all state capitals and reduction of school fees for students of tertiary institutions.”
Also speaking, the Director-General of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Olusola Obadimu, told The PUNCH that he welcomed the idea of palliatives for the poor, but he questioned how the N500bn for the palliative measures would be spent.
According to him, the chamber will refrain from making further comments on the matter until clarification is given on how the fund would be utilised.
He said, “The idea, in principle, is good. Of course, people expect some relief. It is in the statement that we issued. We said it clearly that palliatives would be a good idea. We argued for it. But talking about a specific figure is something we can’t do when we don’t know the scope. The concept is fine, but we need more information about the scope.”
On his part, the Deputy-President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gabriel Idahosa, while commending the move, said the fund would be insufficient to cushion the impact of the subsidy removal and the devaluation of the naira.
He further stated that the media and other interest groups must sustain the advocacy to ensure that the palliative measures are extended to the public and private sectors.
Idahosa said, “Whatever the president implements will not be sufficient to wipe out the impact of the two policies — subsidy removal and floating of the currency. So, it is going to be a partial effort to reduce, not eliminate the effect of those policies.
“There is a basis to complain if the details come out and only the public (sector) gets to benefit from it, then everybody in the private sector has a reason to complain. We have to wait and see how the first set of palliatives will be designed, then we can complain legitimately if the private sector is not involved.”
The President of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Mr Laoye Jaiyeola, said his group supported the palliative measure but stressed that it should be extended to those who really needed it.
He stated, “The clarity is that all of us are saying we must have palliative for the people affected. So if you are asking for palliative and the president cannot spend one naira without approval; so, where can he get it if he doesn’t borrow it?
‘’Everyone said there must be palliative for the subsidy removal and the palliative means that government must address the shock of the people. You know you cannot spend without approval and you also know that we are in deficit before; so, which other way can he get money if not borrow? So, he is following what the procedure says is legal.
“We support palliatives but it should go to the ultimate consumer and not those who sit in one place and are spending money. Identify the people that were affected the most and give them the palliative.”