…says govt failed to outline measures to cushion effects of hikes
Organised labour Tuesday tackled the Federal Government over the recent increase in the prices of petroleum products and electricity tariff saying, it has erased the gains recorded with the signing of the national minimum wage signed into law by President Muhammau Buhari.
Labour made this known at a dialogue on the state of the economy held with the Federal Government as directed by President Buhari.
Led by President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and on the team included; TUC President Quadri Olaleye, Secretary General of the TUC, Musa Ozigi-Lawal, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), President, Festus Osifo and the President of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Association of Nigeria, (NUPENG),
Williams Akporeha among others.
The government team was led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige and also had Minister of State for Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN); Minister of Power, Mamman; Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN); Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva and others in attendance.
NLC President, Comrade Ayubba Wabba, faulted the Federal Government for unilaterally fixing prices of electricity and petrol without consultations with Nigerians, majority of whom he said were struggling to survive because of the high cost of living occasioned by government’s recent policies which included increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT).
In his words: “The question now is what do you have on the table to actually cushion the effect on workers and their families because they have been pushed to the wall. They are already enraged. Do you have anything for us so that we can say yes despite this challenges this is what I have for Nigerian workers that they can be able to have something that can cushion this effect for them?
“Already, the value of the minimum wage has been eroded. The purchasing power parity when you compare with all West African countries we are already on the ground. That is the reality. If Ghana compares their minimum wage with our own you will see their minimum wage.”
Wabba, who accused the Federal Government of transferring the “inefficiency in the subsidy regime” to the consumers which they have to pay through hike in price, urged the government to fix the nation’s refineries and stop lining the pockets of fuel through a fraudulent subsidy regime.
“I agree with Mr. President that subsidy is a fraud but do we address it or transfer it to the customers? That is where the issue is. We don’t need to transfer it to the customers.”
TUC President, Quadri Olaleye asked government to reverse its recent increases and policies which have been biting Nigerians hard, adding that government failed to specify how the effects of recent hikes in electricity and petroleum products would be alleviated.
Minister of Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva disclosed the Federal Government was yet to begin the full deregulation of the downstream sector because of the desire of President Buhari not to inflict more pains on the masses, adding that the reigning cost of petrol was N163 but sold for N161 per litre, indicating that full deregulation was indeed yet to take off in the country.
On his part, Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige stressed the urgent need stakeholders collaboration to fashion out how the country would survive the economic challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are faced with the new normal to survive as human species and we can only hope to build back better society that would sustain us and aid us in our quest for recovery both physically and structurally.
“To achieve success in this quest we would need all hands on deck. Hence the need for transparency in action, effective and efficient communication between the government and the people, particularly labour which is regraded as a vital arm in the means of production.”