The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress have rejected President Bola Tinubu’s proposed N500 billion palliative, arguing that it is woefully insufficient to alleviate the hardships workers face following the fuel subsidy removal. Instead, they are demanding a 300% salary increase to help workers cope with the challenges resulting from the worsening economic situation triggered by the subsidy removal.
On a Wednesday, President Tinubu sent a letter to the House of Representatives, seeking their approval for N500 billion to mitigate the impact of removing petrol subsidies. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, read the letter during the plenary session.
The President had announced the removal of petrol subsidies in his inaugural address on May 29, 2023. This decision was made in response to concerns that the subsidy system disproportionately benefited the wealthy rather than average Nigerians, among other reasons.
In the letter, the President proposed an amendment to the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act.
It read, “I write to the House of Reps to approve the amendment of the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act in accordance with the attached.
“The request has become necessarily important to, among other things, the source for funds necessary to provide palliatives to mitigate the effect of the removal of fuel subsidy on Nigerians.
“Thus, the sum of N500bn only has been extracted from the 2022 Supplementary Act of N819,536,937,815 for the provision of palliative to cushion the effect of petrol subsidy removal.”
The President said he hoped the lawmakers would consider his request “expeditiously.”
A plenary session is scheduled to take place in the House today to discuss the President’s request.
In December of last year, the National Assembly approved a supplementary budget of N819 billion for the fiscal year 2022 and also extended the implementation of the 2022 budget until March 31, 2023.
In May, the National Assembly passed an amendment to the 2022 supplementary budget, further extending the implementation of the capital components until December 2023.
However, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) expressed dissatisfaction with the amount mentioned in the President’s letter, stating that it would not be sufficient to support the 125 million Nigerians who are believed to be living in poverty.
Hakeem Ambali, the National Treasurer of the NLC, raised concerns about the coverage and effectiveness of the proposed palliative in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja.
When asked if the amount would be sufficient, he said, “Definitely not. We have over 125M Nigerians that are technically poor. To what extent can this cushion the effects of this economic hardship?”
Speaking on ways by which the President can mitigate the effect of subsidy removal, the NLC official asked for “Minimum wage review of 300 per cent to all workers; granting licences to individuals for modular refineries to refine petrol locally; granting economic stimulus loan to SMEs at 15 per cent rate.”
He added, “The government should provide social benefits for aged and unemployed youths; agric loans to farmers and youths through the Agric Bank and community banks at single digit rate; provide alternative energy supply such as massive investment in solar power and Compressed Natural Gas to motorists.
“Fix the refineries; reverse the privatization of electricity back to the state due to poor performance; Execute metro rail line projects in all state capitals and reduction of school fees for students of tertiary institutions.”