* Payment to 40m poor Nigerians not captured in 2022 budget, Senate reveals
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has rejected the proposed N5,000 for 40 million poor Nigerians when the subsidy on Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS) is removed.
The President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said in Abuja that there are no talks ongoing between labour and the Federal government, as negotiation was adjourned sine die several months ago.
The NLC accused the government of adopting monologue in arriving at its conclusion on subsidy removal, stressing that it will continually reject a deregulation that is anchored on importation of petroleum products.
It also said constant devaluation of the naira wouldn’t guarantee a realistic pump price of petrol.
“This situation will definitely be compounded by the astronomical devaluation of the naira, which currently goes for N560 to 1US$ in the parallel market. Thus, any attempt to compare the price of petrol in Nigeria to other countries would be set on a faulty premise as it would be akin to comparing apples to mangoes,” it stated.
It submitted that the contemplation by government to increase the price of petrol by more than 200 per cent is a perfect recipe for an aggravated pile of hyper-inflation and astronomical increase in the price of goods and services, saying this will open a wide door to unintended social consequences such as degeneration of the current insecurity crises and possibly citizens’ revolt.
The congress described as ‘nonsensical’ the argument that the complete surrender of the price of petrol to market forces would normalise the curve of demand and supply as it is being wrongly attributed to the current market realities with cooking gas, diesel and kerosene is very obtuse.
It, therefore, warned that the bait by government to pay 40 million Nigerians N5,000 as palliative to cushion the effect of the astronomical increase in the price of petrol, is comical. It urged the government to establish empirical data on the quantity of refined petroleum products consumed daily by Nigerians.
Meanwhile, the Senate has warned that there is no provision for the payment of N5,000 to 40 million Nigerians monthly as transportation stipends in the proposed 2022 budget.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Adeola Olamilekan Solomon, made this known to reporters at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.
He, however, acknowledged that there is a provision for subsidy in the budget submitted by the executive. He contended that the proposed expenditure, which will cost the government over N2.4 trillion will require the nod of the National Assembly.
According to him: “I don’t want to go into details. If there is something like that, a document needs to come to the National Assembly and how do they want to identify the beneficiaries?
“For us, we still believe the proposed subsidy grant is news because the budget we are considering contains just petrol subsidy and we can only speak on the document currently before us.”
But the Federal government reiterated, yesterday, that its transport subsidy payment of N5,000 to the vulnerable would be transferred digitally for a minimum period of six months and a maximum of 12 months. This, the government noted, would happen after the removal of fuel subsidy in June 2022 to give people time to adjust.
The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
She said as at the last Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting, fuel subsidy costs the country nearly N250 billion per month and N3 trillion yearly as the NNPC remits near-zero naira.
According to her, this has made the removal expedient. The support fund upon approval from FAAC for 20 to 40 million Nigerians will not be done in cash. She further encouraged states to financially contribute to the N5,000 relief fund to improve the productive abilities of Nigerians.
THE organised labour movement has, however, vowed to oppose deregulation policy that is anchored on importation, a former President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Peter Esele, said.
Esele said imported petroleum products and gas would never be affordable to Nigerians who are mostly poor and live below two dollars a day.
“To the best of my knowledge, both NUPENG and PENGASSAN have never opposed subsidy removal. What the labour unions are opposed to is a deregulation policy that is anchored on importation. If previous administrations have been sincere, we have been on this subsidy removal since 1999 and no singular refinery has been able to work out of the three refineries we have. Why is that difficult to achieve?
“The situation is dicey right now. The government does not have the money to continue to fund subsidies, the people are too poor to afford PMS at the international price. That is the dilemma that is facing us as a country.”
While there was no definite resolution after a series of meetings between 2020 and early 2021, both parties – organised labour and the Federal Government – said the status quo should be maintained even in the face of the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
HUMAN Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has kicked against planned hike in the cost of fuel and withdrawal of subsidy by the Federal Government.
HURIWA noted that the decision of President Buhari to hearken to the recommendation for introduction of stiff economic adjustment programmes of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which will lead to astronomic hike in costs of pump price of fuel to over N350 per litre, means Nigeria is effectively re-colonised and re-purchased by foreign capitalist forces.
In a statement issued, yesterday, in Abuja, by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and Miss Zainab Yusuf, the Media Affairs National Director, the rights group said empirical evidence shows that Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world in 2018 with over 90 million extremely poor people even amid the so-called disbursement of conditional cash transfer to poor peasants by government.
This, they said, was a demonstration of the obvious fact that the promise of payment of replacement of fuel subsidy with N5,000 to poor Nigerians will obviously be mismanaged, and is a perfect opportunity and alibi for rogues in government to become richer off the back of poor masses, even as economic adversities bites harder.
“We urge Nigerians to speak out and reject this attempt at spreading toxic economic hardships as is being packaged by President Buhari with the support of IMF to pull out fuel subsidy. This government is the most recklessly corrupt, lawless and thieving administration since Nigeria’s amalgamation in 1914.
“This government led Nigeria to the inglorious status as the poverty capital of the world. This government led Nigeria into two crushing economic depressions and under this government, the unemployment statistics have continued to skyrocket, hospitals, roads, schools have all but collapsed and organised social crimes, terrorism and anarchy have assumed gargantuan proportions.
“The attempt to hike the purchasing price of fuel will lead to the devaluation of Naira because it will lead to a spiral general price adjustments of goods and services and the consequential economic burdens to be transferred to the over 100 million absolutely poor citizens will lead to a bonanza of terrorism, organised crimes and mass murders in Nigeria once it is effected.”