The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) have kicked against the plan of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government to release an N5bn palliative package to each of the 36 state governors in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to curb the effect of the fuel subsidy removal.
The organised labour said that the governors could not be trusted with such a project, adding that the governors would favour politicians rather than the poor Nigerians that needed the N180bn largess disbursed to the state government to the Nigerian citizens.
On Thursday, August 17, 2023, the federal government announced the N5bn palliative to each of the 36 states in Nigeria and 180 trucks of rice as part of its move to cushion the effect of removing the fuel subsidy.
The fuel subsidy removal has led to immediate and multiple increases in the pump prices of petrol in the country, subsequently leading to the rise in the prices of goods and services in the country and badly affecting its socio-economy.
The organised labour has also staged nationwide protests over the development and insisted that a functioning refinery is the pre-condition for removing the fuel subsidy.
But announcing the release of the palliative at the end of the 135th National Economic Council meeting presided over by Vice President Kashim Shettima in Abuja, the Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, disclosed that the N5bn was to enable the state governments to procure 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize and fertilizers to cushion the effect of food shortage across the country.
He added that considering the urgency in meeting the need to mitigate the skyrocketing food prices across the country, the Federal Government had last week released five trucks of rice to each state of the federation.
Meanwhile, reacting to the government’s interventions, the Assistant National Secretary-General of the NLC, Mr Chris Onyeka, wondered why the FG was releasing money to governors, many of whom he said had refused to pay the minimum wage.
He dismissed the palliative fund as paltry, noting that it would not get to the intended beneficiaries.
“The money will not get to the people, let them share the money as they want but what the NLC agreed with them were certain milestones. The NLC will close its eyes to what the Federal Government is trying to give to the governors.
“To us as far as we are concerned, NLC will still stick to the milestones that we have agreed on, we will insist that those things are discussed and implemented to the letter.’’
“When the Federal Government wants to subvert the instrument of dialogue, it intentionally creates problems. The Federal Government had already started engaging using this instrument when they engaged the NLC; for them now to go and sit down at the level of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and to go and pretend to give them money is a subversion of social dialogue, subversion of peace, and a subversion of democracy because it is not democratic.”
Speaking in the same vein, the TUC Deputy National President, Tommy Etim stressed that governors could not be trusted with the implementation of the palliative funds.
“It is one thing to make pronouncements, implementation is another thing. I am sure you remember what happened to the COVID-19 palliatives in 2020 when foodstuffs were stored in warehouses and kept from hungry citizens. Same thing with the issue of the Paris Club relief fund that some governors went to hide in the bank so that they could get some from it while citizens were starving.
“We need a body that will follow up on the implementation because left to the state governors, the palliatives may not get to places where it should get. We need a body that will make them accountable. We need the citizens to be aware. The body should let everyone know when each state gets its own relief (package). Everyone should know the details that are received by each state, how the packages were distributed,’’ he suggested.
Also, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, said the Federal Government was about sharing N2,000 and a cup of rice to poor people across the country.
He also stated that the governors could not be trusted, as most of them were not paying minimum wage, adding that no committee was established to ensure the successful implementation of the initiative.
Ajaero said, “N5bn multiplied by 36 states is going to give you N180bn. So if you divide that with the official figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, which says that 133 million Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor, and calculate it, you will get about N2,000 each for those who are poor.
“That is the official statistics of the government, but you and I know that the actual figure is more than that. So is that what to celebrate? And then, five trucks or there about, of rice to a state. The poor people of these states cannot get one cup of rice. It will not go round.
“Even if you pick them from the poverty bracket, it will be difficult for them to get one cup of rice. Is that the best we can do? Is that the best approach to governance? So do we look at our people as people we should give one cup of rice and N2,000? Is that palliative?”
He said the government should be serious with governance that served the interest of the people.
“Who are governors you are giving it to? Is the governors who have not paid minimum wage? Is there any committee to ensure the effective disbursement of that which is very insufficient?