Protest Subsidy Pains: Labour’s Insistence & Tinubu’s N500bn Palliative

President Bola Tinubu, in a nationwide broadcast, announced the Federal Government’s grand scheme of N500bn palliatives designed to assuage the impacts of subsidy removal, targeting manufacturers, small businesses, and farmers. The palliative roll out also includes a promised salary hikes and the acquisition of 3,000 mass transit buses to ease the hardship amidst rising costs of living.

The organized Labour, despite the rollout of subsidy removal palliatives by the Federal Government, has said it will hold its planned nationwide protest on Wednesday.

Speaking after the inconclusive meeting between organized Labour and Federal Government, The Nigeria Labour Congress President, Joe Ajaero, resolutely declared that the rally shall proceed as planned, undeterred and unyielding. Ajaero who spoke with journalist after the meeting, said, “We just adjourned to go and listen to Mr. President’s speech and to continue with our conversation tomorrow (Tuesday). Our peaceful rally will go on as scheduled…this rally has been fixed.”

Ajaero allayed the fears that the peaceful protest could be taken over by hoodlums, saying that such had never happened in any of its workers’ protest.

However, he said security agencies were responsible for safeguarding workers in such exercises.

Reacting to Tinubu’s economic reforms especially on the exchange rate and others, Ajaero said “By the time you have a single market (exchange rate) and you are not having anything that has a comparative advantage, your energy is import driven, then how are you going to control it?

Speaking further, he questioned the government’s intent and ability to control the market dynamics, “How are you going to control somebody that exchanged dollar at about N900? Are you going to tell him to sell below the price? “How are you going to tell even the Discos not to increase their tariff with the high cost of production today? Even corn in the villages that was sold at N18,000 in February; now it’s about 56,000. How are you going to control it?”

The President’s Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila, informed journalists that the discussion, at the closed door meeting cantered around the subsidy removal, after which meeting was later adjourned. He said, “We have been locked behind for a couple of hours, we had a good meeting, issues were thrashed out on the situation in Nigeria today in terms of issues centered around government intervention on the situation in the country”.

He further stated that “We agreed to adjourn till tomorrow as you know Mr. President is making a national broadcast today. Based on what we anticipate that Mr. President will be telling Nigerians, we decided to adjourn the meeting till 12pm tomorrow (Tuesday) before Labour can decide whether or not they want to continue with the protest on Wednesday.”

According to the Chief of Staff, the Presidents’ speech is expected to address all the issues as “he will roll out his interventions and needless to say we believe any reasonable person will tell you that at that point there will be no need for any protest.”

Reacting to questions on why the government did not roll out palliatives before ending the subsidy regime, he argued that the previous government did not budget for subsidy and that President Tinubu was rolling out palliatives to cushion its effect on the people.

However, the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, has pleaded with the organized Labour to give the administration some time to fix the economy.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu said, “The meeting was an opportunity for us to appeal to the Labour leaders by extension Nigerians that we are facing difficulties and challenges that are not our making.

“We inherited a very bad situation. Most of the problems people are talking about are not a creation of this government.

“This government is barely two months old and since we have been facing these difficulties and challenges, we have a listening and engaging President, a president who will want to have a conversation and react.”

Present at Monday’s meeting were Ajaero, his counterpart from the TUC, Festus Osifo; the General Secretary of NLC, Emma Ugbaja; the TUC Secretary, Nuhu Toro and other members of the organised labour delegation including Prof. Sam Amadi.

On the FG’s side were the President’s Chief of Staff, Gbajabiamila; Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Kachollom Daju; the Group Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari; and the Special Adviser to the President on Energy, Olu Verheijen, among others.

Also, the NLC National Assistant Secretary, Chris Onyeka, said, “Our protest is irreversible, and it is a mass protest. Remember that we did not issue the notice based on the other increases. Ours is based on the N617 price increase in Premium Motor Spirit. The Federal Government has to deal with that first.”

Download President Tinubu Address to Nigerians [Full Text]

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