Subsidy Removal: Conclude negotiations in 2 weeks - TUC tells FG - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Monday, July 24, 2023

Subsidy Removal: Conclude negotiations in 2 weeks - TUC tells FG

--demands reduction of cost of governance, harmonized palliatives by states

The Trade Union Congress, TUC, has given the federal government a two week ultimatum to reach agreement on negotiations or face workers' protest.

TUC threatened that if after August 19, nothing tangible was concluded, it will be compelled to take further action to protect workers and the masses of the country from being subjected to unending hardship.

Briefing journalists in Abuja, the TUC President, Comrade Festus Osifor admonished both the federal government and the states to come up with harmonized palliatives that is verifiable and will be implemented with agreed time frame.

He said that the union was not happy that the negotiations have not proceeded with the anticipated speed, adding that the organised labour has summed up their demand under three key areas, including; deployment of alternative to the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) such as CNG, providing palliatives and reduction in cost of governance.

He said that technical committees have been set up to look into various aspects of the demands by Labour, regretting that at the last meeting of the negotiating team last Thursday, not much has been achieved 

According to him, "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 said while some of the technical committees have been sitting others were yet to meet.

He said, "Our position is that government should fast track action and processes are concluded to ensure that the sufferings of Nigerians are ameliorated."

The TUC President noted that the federal government had said that the negotiating team has maximum of two months to conclude all discussions so that implementation can commence and that it would not like a situation where the committee will sit for years.  

He said, "Government gave a timeline of eight weeks, begining from June 19, and if you do your calculation, eight weeks will 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 it's work immediately because we cannot continue to blow big, big grammar while Nigerians are suffering and people are trekking long distances to work."

The TUC president said the elected leaders will 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 that workers will like to see President Bola Tinubu give a directive that non 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"  

Osifoh said that cutting the cost of governance is 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.

Osifoh also said that what Nigerians desire right now is for the government at the national and state levels to implement policies that can lead to reduction in cost of living rather action would inflate it.

On the upward review of school fees by institutions, the TUC president said such action is like adding more pain to the sufferings of Nigerians.

He advised that rather than sudden jack up of 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".

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