Ayuba Wabba, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has warned the Nigerian government against heeding the advice of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on removal of fuel subsidy.
The labour leader gave the warning during the NLC Delegates Conference in Abuja, on Thursday.
He said: “We wish to caution the government against contemplating any further increase in the price of refined petroleum products, especially the premium motor spirit (PMS).
"We understand that the IMF has advised the Federal Government to remove the so-called ‘petrol subsidy’ which is a euphemism for increase in the pump price of petrol. This advice is ill-will and completely insensitive to the suffering of most Nigerians.”
He also warned the government against raising the Value Added Tax (VAT). According to him, an increased VAT and subsidy removal would erode the gains of the new minimum wage.
Wabba urged workers not to see the pay rise as a gift, and implored employers to immediately begin implementation.
According to him, the argument of whether or not states can implement the pay has been laid to rest. He urged the states to cut down on the cost of governance to conserve resources for the implementation.
He said: “We are all witnesses to the waves of bloodbath and brigandage surfing across our country. There is hardly any day that passes without one incident of armed robbery, kidnap for ransom, militancy or terrorism attack making headlines.
“We call on government at both federal and state levels to urgently rejig our security architecture, structure, and management.
“Clearly, the current approach has failed. We also call for a robust and sustainable response to renewed security challenges in our country even if that means an increase in the budget for internal security so long it is judiciously and transparently used.
“The political arena offers one of the most effective spaces for tackling almost all the challenges that we have already highlighted to bring about socio-economic transformation. Unfortunately, the conduct of the last general election left a sour taste in the mouth. Incidents of hate speech, vote buying, ballot box snatching, abuse of provisions for manual accreditation, logistics tardiness, isolated cases of violence, and a spate of inconclusive elections trailed the 2019 general polls.
“These electoral infractions did not only erode some of the grounds won as a result of the push by the NLC and its allies during the 2007-2011 campaign for electoral reform in Nigeria, it also presented new threats to efforts to consolidate and deepen our democracy.
“The chaos in our electoral space is only symptomatic of the crises of governance bedevilling our country. We cannot lament forever. The onus is on us as the working class to recover the political initiative through the reactivation and repositioning of the Labour Party.
“We took very concrete resolutions at different levels of leadership and ultimately at our last National Delegates’ Conference to recover the Labour Party as the political vehicle for the actualisation of the socio-economic transformation that we desire for our country. I urge you to use the occasion of this conference to mobilise workers in the state to build robust political structures at the state and local government levels.”
Congratulating governors-elect and lawmakers-elect, Wabba reminded them that holding public office is akin to holding public trust, saying: “We all must strive to use our different public positions to make our country a better place. This we can do by addressing issues of governance, especially the widening inequality and poverty prevalent in our society.
“The clarion call to service makes no better appeal than now when our nation is confronted with a myriad of social, economic and political challenges.
“You will agree with me that these challenges show up more monstrously in states. Some of our state governments still owe arrears of salaries, pension and gratuity.
“This ugly situation has persisted despite the Federal Government’s bailout and budget support initiatives which at the last count is close to N2trillion.
“I expect that this state delegates’ conference will elect labour leaders who will take on headlong this evil trend and punitive injustice against workers.
“We have demonstrated tenacity in the pursuit of a new national minimum wage for workers. We have held several rallies, protest marches at both federal and state levels and even embarked on a few strikes to press home our demand for a new national minimum wage.
“A few weeks ago, the two chambers of the National Assembly passed the National Minimum Wage (2019) Amendment Bill. The bill was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 18, 2019. There cannot be a more perfect May Day gift for Nigerian workers.
“The upward review of the national minimum wage is not so much a gift as it is the right of workers. This right was delayed for too long. As Mr. President ordered during the signing into law of the National Minimum Wage (2019) Amendment Bill, we call on all employers to commence payment immediately.
“I urge the incoming leadership of our state councils to make the immediate payment of the new national minimum wage of N30,000 and review of monthly pension by state governments your top priority.”
On VAT, the labour leader said: “We completely reject proposals to increase VAT as a means of funding the 2019 budget.
“We warn that any increase in VAT or Pay As You Earn (PAYE) would not only rob workers of the minimal relief from the increase in the national minimum wage but would also leave our economy in dire straits.”
Wabba lamented the continous privatisation of major assets in the country, stating that “the commanding heights of our economy are being parcelled away to private interests with little or no commitment to nation-building and social progress.
“The consequence is that the gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider by the day, resulting in widespread tension and upsurge in violent crimes. Even the rich cannot sleep at night because the poor are awake to hunger. Indeed, an unjust economic system is a threat to everyone including the oppressors.
“Unfortunately, the social infrastructure that lays the foundation for shared prosperity is being undermined on daily basis by those who we elected to public offices. The state of our public schools and hospitals leaves much to be desired. It is a tragedy that the public schools that produced today’s elites have been abandoned.
“Our elite now take pride in showcasing the foreign schools their children attend, while not giving a hoot that the children of the poor are being left behind.
“Our public hospitals that used to be referral centres on the continent are now shadows of their former glories, forcing our citizens to take to very costly medical adventures to hospitals around the world. Indeed, the deconstruction of our public institutions has come full circle.”