Warning in strong terms on the need to cut down cost of governance, workable and implementable palliatives by both the federal and state governments, the Trade Union Congress has given the Bola Tinubu administration the next two weeks to reach agreement on negotiations or face workers’ protest.
Nigerians are currently waiting for the outcome of the organised labour and federal government’s dialogue on policy measures to cushion the economic challenges brought about by the removal subsidy on petroleum products.
Specifically, the union said if after August 19, nothing tangible was concluded, it would be compelled to take further action to protect workers and the masses of the country from being subjected to unending hardship. TUC is insisting on a quantifiable cut in cost of governance as well as harmonised palliatives by the two levels of government that is verifiable and will be implemented with agreed time frame. Addressing journalists in Abuja, yesterday, TUC President, Festus Osifoh, said that the union was not happy that the negotiations have proceeded with the anticipated speed. According to Osifoh, organised labour had summed up their demand under three key areas, which included deployment of alternative to the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) such as CNG, providing palliatives and reduction in cost of governance. So far, Osifoh said technical committees have been set to look into various aspects of the demands by Labour. However, the TUC president regretted that at the last meeting of the negotiating team last Thursday, not much had been achieved “As at today we have formed technical committees on cash transfers, on intervention fund, on reduction of cost of governance, on energy and power (developing CNG as alternative to PMS) and fixing of refineries. “We also have technical committees on education and health and Mass Transit,” he explained. But Osifoh said while some of the technical committees have been sitting others were yet to meet. “Our position is that government should fast-track to ensure that action and processes are concluded to ensure that the sufferings of Nigerians are ameliorated,” he said. According Osifoh, the federal government had said the negotiating team has maximum of two months to conclude all discussions so that implementation would commence and that it would not like a situation where the committee would sit for years. “Government gave a timeline of eight weeks, beginning from June 19, and if you do your calculation, eight weeks is going to be end by August 19. “So far we have stayed more than one month and we felt that we are not going at the speed we anticipated and we want the government to fast tract action to ensure that between now and next two weeks all the committees must have submitted their report so that the Presidential Steering Committee can conclude its work immediately because we cannot continue to blow big, big grammar while Nigerians are suffering and people are trekking long distances to work,” he said. The TUC president said the elected leaders would need to show example in view of the harsh economic conditions the country is facing presently. He added that such example would be better seen in the way of reduction in cost governance and by having the members of the Executive and Legislature pruning the huge budget expended on their welfare. Osifoh, cited the case of the proposed N40 billion and N70 billion meant for the purchase of vehicles for National Assembly members and their welfare package. He said workers would like to see President Bola Tinubu give a directive that none of his ministers appoint more than two aides. “This is one of those things we felt that as trade Union Congress of Nigeria we must bring to the limelight and do everything possible to ensure government listens to us and that government fast tracks. TUC is ready to meet even at midnight and weekends. “We are ready to work because the plight of Nigerian workers is our great concern because anything that will effect Nigerian workers is what we will fight to correct. Beyond the workers, it is also about the wellbeing of the masses because we have a.lot of Nigerians that are today unemployed, “So what we are canvassing across these technical committees is that anything that you put in place should have in the basket the issue alternative and cheaper energy like the CNG, palliatives that will better the lives of the people and the issue of reduction of cost governance,” he added. Osifoh said cutting the cost of governance was of paramount importance because government cannot continue to ask the workers and the battered masses to continuously tight their belt. “We have exceeded the belt holes while those in government have continuously increased their largesse. They must lead by example, the executive, legislative and judiciary arms government must lead from the front and Nigerians will follow them from behind. “But a situation they are pushing a lot Nigerians into poverty line while they are living in opulence, we will not allow that to happen If the National Assembly cannot give clear-cut justification of what they doing, we will lead the entire Nigerian masses to besiege the chambers because for us we think that injury to one is an injury to all,” he said. ALSO READ:Subsidy Removal: Abiodun Approves N10,000 For Workers, Pensioners Osifoh also said what Nigerians desired right now was for the government at the national and state levels to implement policies that would lead to reduction in cost of living rather action would inflate it. With regard to upward review of school fees by institutions, the TUC president said such action was like adding more pain to the sufferings of Nigerians. He advised that rather than sudden increase in fees to unbearable levels, government should adopt a policy of gradual review of school fees and to see that such increase does not render whatever palliative provided to people useless. As a way to address the growing inflation and rising food prices, Osifoh advised that federal government should consider scrapping new excise duties imposed of goods. He said: “One of the greatest problem to our economy is the exchange rate and most of the goods consumed in the country today are imported. “We called the federal.givrrnment to come up with good policy framework that will support the country’s exchange rate to bounce back”.