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Trade Union Congress Urges Nigerian Government To Reduce Petrol Price To Arrest Economic Hardship

It demanded that a process be set in motion for negotiation of new national minimum wage which should be implemented.

The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has asked the federal government to ensure that the current inflation rate which is at 28.20 per cent be drastically reduced to the Sub-Saharan African regional average of 9.4 percent.

In a statement heralding the New Year, the TUC stated that contrary to expectations of Nigerians, they were yet to witness the renewed hope promised by the present administration.

The TUC also demanded that the pump price of petrol be drastically reduced to repair the damage it had done to the economy.

Also, the Congress said it has resolved to demand that the Tinubu’s administration implements agreements between labour and government, including the payment of the monthly N35,000 Wage Award to public servants in local governments, states and federal services without further delay.

It demanded that a process be set in motion for negotiation of new national minimum wage which should be implemented, and if further delayed in the year, arrears be paid.

The demands by the TUC came just as it accused the government of violating agreements it reached with labour in 2023, including the payment of the monthly N35,000 Wage Award to public servants.

In addition, the union picked holes in the 2024 national budget, saying it could neither stimulate economic growth nor alleviate the abject poverty of suffering Nigerians.

In the statement signed by TUC president Comrade Festus Osifo and Secretary General, Nuhu Toro, the labour centre stated: “Given the foregoing, the TUC has resolved to demand of the Tinubu administration that in 2024 that: All agreements between labour and government, including the payment of the monthly N35,000 Wage Award to Public Servants in the Local Government, State and Federal services, must be implemented until a new National Minimum Wage is implemented, a new National Minimum Wage must be negotiated, implemented, and if further delayed in the year, arrears be paid, inflation, which is running at 28.20 percent, must be drastically reduced to the Sub-Saharan African regional average of 9.4 per cent

“That the very high price of PMS, which is now at a poverty-inducing price of N617 at the NNPC fuel stations (much higher elsewhere) should be drastically reduced to repair the damage done to the economy. This will be achieved by ensuring local production of refine products.

“The security of Nigerians should be the yard stick with which to determine whether military and other security chiefs and their supervising Ministers should remain in office or be replaced.”

The TUC regretted that despite efforts it made to engender trust and ensure that social dialogue with the federal government prevailed in 2023, the administration has serially violated the agreements it had with the organized labour.

It lamented that life has become extremely difficult and unbearable for Nigerians as a direct consequence of policies and measures that led to the depreciation of the naira and the economy spinning and spiraling out of control in the year under review.

“The TUC had in 2023 strived to ensure that social dialogue with the Federal government prevailed even when there were sceptics who believed the Tinubu administration cannot be trusted to implement simple, basic agreements.

“To allay these fears, organized labour insisted that the October 2, 2023 agreement between them and the administration be notarized by the court.

“Item 15 specifically states that: “This memorandum shall be filed with the relevant court of competent jurisdiction within one week as consent judgment by the federal government. However, government has serially violated the agreement,” it said.

The TUC noted that while the agreements stated clearly that a minimum wage committee shall be inaugurated within one month from the date of the agreement, no such committee had been set up by government, three months after.

Furthermore, it stated that this has been a similar experience with the government in at least two previous agreements reached from June 2023.

With regards to the state of affairs in the country, the TUC stressed that the economy has been on its knees, gasping for breath.

It expressed worry that dire situation has not stopped or deterred unpatriotic privileged few from “feasting on our common patrimony.”

It accused some government officials of making merchandise of the scarce forex at a time the manufacturing sector cannot access forex to import raw materials for production.

“This ugly development has led to the closure of many factories and business outfits, and as a result, millions of Nigerians were thrown out of jobs, with the attendant social, economic and security implications.

“At the same time, the political class have carried on with no care in the world. Some of them even engage in wanton ostentation that is provocative and unacceptable.

“With over 33.3 per cent unemployment rate, massive and pervasive poverty and misery ravaging the nooks and crannies of the land, coupled with the criminal indifferent attitude of the political class, it is obvious that Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun power.

“Again, the federal government presented a budget of N27.5 trillion for the 2024 Appropriation year. That is the highest we have had, though paradoxically low in terms of value, considering the prevailing economic realities and exchange rate.

“On the whole, the poor and wobbly state of the economy has ironically and unfortunately only dampened, rather than renewed, our hope. For instance, in the budget recurrent expenditure stands at N9.92 trillion, while the capital expenditure is N8.7 trillion and debt servicing is N8.25 trillion.

“This can neither stimulate economic growth nor alleviate the abject poverty of suffering Nigerians. Indeed, a careful and critical dissection of the budget would easily reveal that it was primarily and essentially designed to take care of the ruling class,” it said.

The TUC described the experience in out-gone year as highly excruciating with a litany of lost opportunities and dashed hopes.

“Congress hereby salute the resilience of the oppressed and suffering Nigerian Workers in particular, and the masses of Nigerian people in general, for refusing to bow, or be cowed or crushed.

“We have soldiered-on despite diminishing value of our wages, low purchasing power amidst high cost of living, and   the humongous challenges confronting us as a people.”

Onyebuchi Ezigbo

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