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Subsidy Removal: Labour, Nigeria Government Talks Break Down, NLC Strategizes on Way Forward

According to a top labour leader, the Congress may push for total reversal to the pre-Tinubu administration’s pump price of petrol.

The dialogue between the federal government and organised labour over ways to cushion the impact of economic hardship imposed on workers by the removal of fuel subsidy appears to have hit a dead end.

THISDAY gathered that the labour leaders were not happy that the federal government failed to come up with any tangible proposal on palliatives despite the expiration of the August 19 deadline.

A reliable source within the leadership of the labour movement told THISDAY yesterday, that federal government seemed to have abandoned its negotiation with labour over palliatives.

It said following the inability of the federal government to sustain meaningful dialogue with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the two labour centres have decided to meet with their organs on the way forward.

To this end, the NLC has convened its National Executive Council Meeting Thursday evening, to decide on measures to take to compel government to review the fuel price.

A top labour leader confided in THISDAY that the Congress may push for total reversal to the pre-Tinubu administration’s pump price of petrol.

Before going for the NEC meeting on Thursday, the NLC held a symposium in Abuja, on the crisis of survival under the current economic situation in Nigeria.

Civil rights activist and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana, who was one of the guest speakers at the symposium, warned against dangers of foisting on the masses policies that only enriches the few wealthy Nigerians to detriment of the poor, saying such policies can provoke mutiny.

Speaking on the state of affairs in Nigeria especially the disparity between the resources appropriated by members of the National Assembly and the portion proposed as palliatives for impoverished masses, Falana said: “Distinguished Senators should not provoke Nigerians to mutiny. With some of the things going on there, we are in trouble.

N70 billion was packaged for 469 people in the National Assembly and we raised alarm, they said it was for giving facelift to the National Assembly building and N40 billion was equally proposed to buy choice cars for the leadership of the National Assembly.”

Falana further said the latest provocative news from the National Assembly was that another N54 billion was allocated to 360 members of the House of Representatives’ as constituency project under the austere conditions in the country.

He said Nigerians were being provoked anytime the humongous figures were announced.

“Nigerians are being provoked, enemies of democracy are being provoked and the military were honest to say that they were under pressure to dismantle this rickety political system but somebody told them to go and deny it and they denied it.”

Falana further said: “Any government that cannot secure national resources has no business being in office.”

According to him, it was those in government that were behind most of the looting taking place, adding that unbridled looting of public resources had led to reckless borrowing by the government.
Falana said Nigeria’s oil production capacity has not dropped but was only being scooped by corrupt government officials through their agents

“Any government that did what the Tinubu administration did to hike the price of fuel with such a tumultuous amount does not deserve to be called a government,” he said.

He said under the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari, federal government took some policy decisions that favoured the rich and their business interests.

While speaking on recent military takeover in some African countries, Falana said: Democracy is under threat in Africa. There are no apologies about it. I can’t predict with some mathematical precision that the next country very close to our country will experience a military coup if care is not taken.”

He said both the president of Cameroon and the ousted president of Gabon were suffering serious health challenges, but yet refused to quit the stage for younger elements.

According to Falana most of the sit-tight leaders in Africa have bastardised democracy and greatly impoverished their people.

“Yet none of the African leaders have ever told these old men to resign so that a more functional person can take over the affairs of their country,” he stressed.

With specific reference to the ousted President Ali Bongo of Gabon, Falana said the man and his father both led the oil-rich country for over four decades.

Falana summed up his postulation to say that the immediate causes of coups in Africa were the sit-tight syndrome, manipulation of the constitution, establishment of military bases in Africa by foreign powers.

He said the military were often forced to protest where their foreign soldiers were being paid huge salaries while the local ones received peanuts. Added to these, Falana said was “rudderless exploitation of our resource endowment by foreign powers and looting of the treasury in connivance with local corrupt leaders.”

Speaking at the event, NLC President Joe Ajaero described the threat by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory FCT, Mr. Nyesom Wike, to embark on demolition of illegal structures in the city as rather too harsh, considering that those that would be worst hit are mainly the poor and down masses.

“The new attack by Wike to drive the poor out of Abuja, it’s a war where they tell you that you build in a place that is not part of the master plan, the master plan is only known to them.

“The NLC is saying that those structures are not illegal, those structures should be made legal unless there is alternative to them.

“There is no area they map out, either quarter plot or half plot for the poor to build in Abuja and when the poor manage to get small shelter, it’s been demolished on daily basis. It is a war against the poor.

“The number of people that Adolf Hitler killed under a gas chambers will be a child play for people that will die because of shock over demolition”, Ajaero said.

An Economist and former General Secretary of the NLC, Mr. Peter Ozo-Eson, faulted the recent statistics by the NBS on unemployment, saying it lacked depth and did not reflect the reality on ground.
He said that any barometer used in measuring unemployment statistics in Nigeria should be elastic.

He said it was not only the industrial sector that had collapsed but also the agricultural sector has collapsed as well.

Also, a Public analyst, Dr. Sam Amadi, said there was nothing significantly bad with subsidy but that what was flawed about it was that it was inefficiently distributed by government.

Another guest speaker, Dr. Mojeed Dahiru, said no amount of palliative could be substitute to subsidy, adding that even America still offers subsidy in certain sectors.

“Energy security means availability and affordability of energy to the people of Nigerians. It was wrong for the presidential candidates of the political parties in the 2023 elections to have ran with the campaigns for the removal of oil subsidy, even in developed economy there is a payment of subsidy to ensure availability and affordability of energy security,” he said.

Onyebuchi Ezigbo