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(BUSINESS) You’re selfish, cruel, NLC lambasts governors

...Recommends 50% salary increase for workers

…Opposes removal of subsidy


Emeka Okoroanyanwu

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has lampooned Nigerian governors for recommending to the Federal government among other things, the sacking of civil servants of 50 years and above, removal of fuel subsidy, and reducing of National Assembly constituency projects.

The NLC said the governor’s proposal “smacks of extreme cruelty and selfishness and insensitive cruelty.”

The Governors Forum had amongst other things, proposed as a way of revamping the nation’s economy, that the Federal Government should eliminate subsidy on premium motor spirit (PMS) estimated at six to seven trillion naira, retire civil servants from age 50 and above, implement the reviewed Oronsaye Report, put an end to financing government's budgetary expenditures and convert its NI00 trillion debt into a 100-year bond.

The governors also called for eliminating NNPC's federation-funded projects, capping Social Investment Programme (SIP) and National Poverty Reduction with growth strategy budgets at N200 billion, eliminating extra-constitutional deductions from the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) and reducing National Assembly constituency projects among other proposals.

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Piqued by the governor’s proposal, the NLC in a letter to President Muhammad Buhari through his Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, said for the governors to come up with such recommendations, shows that they are selfish, insensitive and cruel.

The NLC in the letter signed by its president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said while it does agree that the economy was in need of revitalisation, it is dismayed by some of the prescriptions of the governors as they “smack of extreme selfishness and insensate cruelty.”

On the issue of removal of fuel subsidy, the NLC said it finds it unrealistic, insensitive and hypocritical, saying it is on record that governors have always been against the culture of saving for the rainy day.

It said the governors in spite of the culture of recklessness predating the present administration, few of them have anything to show for all the moneys they have collected. The NLC added; “If there is little or nothing to show for the principal sums or revenues collected over the years,

what assurance do we have that the additional sum on top of the principal popularly called subsidy, most of which is shrouded in mystery and crime anyway, can be put to effective use.”

Coupled with this, the NLC said, it finds it distasteful that petrol subsidies in Nigeria create distortions in the economy but they do the opposite in the United States of America or Western Europe.

According to the NLC, the removal of the little benefit the average person in Nigeria enjoys could lead to unintended consequences which the country would be better off without.

Proffering solution to the issue of subsidy, NLC said the solution to subsidy and the ballooning deficits lies in domestic refining, effective management of the country’s refineries, and creating of an enabling environment for effective and efficient public sector leadership in the building and management of local refineries.

The apex union said that the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended, is very clear in the provisions of Chapter Two that the commanding heights of the economy should be in public hands, while the resources of the economy should be held in public hands and that the resources of the country should be managed in such a way as to assure maximum benefits to the people of Nigeria.

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It said that the only way the provisions of the constitution can be effectively implemented is by ensuring public sector leadership in the oil and gas sector, in the refining of petroleum products, and in the management of the benefits accruing from it.

NLC lamented that Nigeria loses $1.2 billion to oil thieves every month, saying it is unable to meet its production quota to OPEC in addition to the colossal damage to the environment, yet, the greatest damage was to Nigeria‘s economy, saying that one does not need a degree in Economics to understand the full extent of the tragedy unfolding before everybody in the country.

According to the NLC, the best way to ensure the growth of the economy is for government to be decisive in curbing and punishing corruption, wastage, mismanagement, and maladministration in the petroleum sector.

The NLC condemned the canvassing for the premature termination of the appointments of public servants from age 50 and above by the governors, saying this is in clear violation of their contracts of employment which is a subsisting law.

According to Labour, “this is repugnant, shameful and utterly irresponsible. Aside from running contrary to your mission and principle of creating I00 million jobs, as a policy, it is clear invitation to anarchy and damnation while those promoting the idea should be treated as enemies of the government,” the NLC said.

The apex Labour body said the implementation of the proposal will lead to the sacking of almost a quarter of the public sector workforce, the decapitation of that workforce through the retrenchment of its most experienced layer, and the intensification of poverty and misery among citizens.

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The NLC told Buhari in the letter that one of the hallmarks of popular democracy like is practiced in Nigeria is justice to all in equal measure regardless of ethnicity, religion, sex or class and that in pursuant to this, if state governors strongly believe that age 50 is the problem, Labour demands that all governors, public office holders and politicians above 50, as a mark of good faith, should immediately step aside as leading by example would spur public servants to take a cue.

Beyond this however, the NLC said implementation of the policy in the public sector will give a cue to the private sector to follow suit, with all its attendant devastating consequences.

The Union said it is heartless that the recommendation that the planned 22 per cent salary increase for workers be put on hold given the massive devaluation of the Naira leading to the

pegging of the Naira at N75 to the dollar at the parallel market, inflation rate at 18%, increased energy and sundry tariffs, combustive commodity prices and prohibitive cost of living which have wiped out every vestige of the increase.

The implication of this, the Union said, is all too clear to see already, with the rapidly rising crime wave, and the intensifying epidemic of insecurity.

The NLC said: “While we commend you (the President), for your thoughtfulness for a wage increase, truth of the matter is that given the misfortune that has befallen the Nigerian populace, especially workers with fixed incomes, there is an urgent need for a massive

intervention much deeper than the 22 percent. We would recommend a 50 per cent salary review across the board given the realities on ground.”

The Union said the recommendations for the introduction of state sales taxes of 10 per cent flat rate, increment of VAT levels to 10 per cent with a timeline to further raise it to 15 to 20 per cent and introduction of a flat rate of 3 per cent Federal Personal Income Tax on all Nigerians earning more than N30.000 and compulsory payment of FPIT by persons earning less than N3O,OOO per month, whether employed or not, including farmers and traders, seeks to make the poor pay more taxes, while the rich pay little or nothing in clear violation of the well-known norm of the rich paying taxes to cover up for the poor, saying it is a global norm and practice.

NLC said, “In light of this, we find it repugnant that any reasonable person acting reasonably would still seek to impose more taxes, and consequently more hardships on this segment of society.

“The rich should be the ones to be compelled to pay more taxes as obtained in other civilised societies and not what the governors are canvassing for. Accordingly, we call for a raise in taxes across the board for the rich, including increased taxes on luxury goods and lifestyles.”

NLC said it would never be in support of waste in any form and personnel costs, in its view ought not constitute a waste given the fact that the greatest assets of any nation are its personnel for whom nothing is too big to be given.

It noted, however, that the fastest way of reviving the economy is through building the capacity of its personnel because of its multiplier effect, noting that President Obama of the United States put this strategy to good use while President Obasanjo also did the same when he reviewed upward the wages of workers across board in the early 2000s.

In our view, the governors said; “if any costs need taming, it’s the profligate life style of governors, the excesses and ostentatious lifestyle of political office holders and the corruption they promote.

“Governors are clawing and clutching at everything in sight in order to save their stain because the moment of truth (the moment of refund) is here,” the Union said.

The NLC drew the attention of President Buhari to the bailout given to the governors and budget support funds to enable them clear backlogs of salaries and pensions for which the workers remain grateful.

“You equally halted repayments during covid-19 pandemic. There could be no better demonstration of understanding and empathy by a leader but the governors abused it all as few of them applied these funds to the purposes for which the funds were given,” the Union said.

It noted that not more than 2096 of the funds were properly channeled, noting that in the past ICPC did a good job of tracking down how the funds were used which was partly responsible for the financial straits the country has found itself in.

Accordingly, the NLC urged the President to direct the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Finance Crimes Commission (EFCC) to track afresh and make public how the governors diverted and misused the funds with a view to fully recovering them.

On the Social Investment Programme (SIP) and National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy (NPRGS) budgets, the NLC said its main concerns are that the critical segments of the society across the entire country and not some areas should benefit and there should be a verifiable process of authenticating and evaluating it.

The apex union said it stood with the governors in asking that no extra-constitutional deductions from the

Federation Account Allocation Committee should be made again as it is not lawful except if there was sufficient reason to do otherwise.

On the implementation of the Orosanya Report, the NLC said any action or process or policy that would lead to the loss of jobs or incomes by workers will not only be inhumane and unconscionable, but shall be resisted by the union.

The practice across the globe, it said, especially in the aftermath of Covid-19 pandemic, is preservation of jobs, the expansion of social protection and social security programs, saying that most nations of the world are creating jobs for their citizens because mass loss of jobs comes with a big price. The Union, therefore, advised against the recommendation of the committee.

NLC said, instead of embracing jobs termination which will compound the existing crises in the country, the

president should adopt the positives of retaining the best hands in the country as a way of motivating the public service.

“The well though-out policy of eight years tenure for directors and permanent secretaries contained in the Stephen Orosanye report which was already being implemented by previous administrations should be re- instated by your government,” the Union advised.

On the issue of privatisation, the NLC said it finds ludicrous the recommendation by the

governors for the expedited privatisation of non-performing assets because the country’s privatisation story has been a sad and painful one that has no need of retelling, saying it has

been replete with asset-stripping, incapacity, financial, operational and management, and total failure at a time most Nigerians are calling for a reversal, especially in the power sector, saying it is ill-advised to privatise more entities.

On foreign trips by government functionaries, the Union said ordinarily, such trips serve their useful purposes but regretted that they have been abused by MDAs, especially budgetary-independent agencies such as the CBN, FIRS, NPA, NIMASA, NCC, NITDA and other blue-

chips, saying while it does not canvass for a total ban on foreign trips, it calls for some control, asking that the number be pegged per year until the economy has a turn-around.

On the plan to tax data usage and phone calls, the Union said further taxing of phone calls and short messages should be tied to a specific purpose, and that given the broad base of its potential revenue earning capacity, it recommends that the tax be a minimal flat rate that could be easily absorbed by the users of the services.

The NLC said the centralising of the collection of all oil and non-oil taxes in one agency such as the FIRS while the Customs and NPA issue demands is a welcome recommendation for ease of collection and tracking, however, given the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), more work needs to be done in that area.

The NLC called for integrated revenue assurance solution in the operations of oil companies as this would ensure accountability of crude and revenue.

It said, “As costly as off-shore crude oil and gas exploration continue to be, they are

manifestly safer compared to fore-shore productions subject to the full automation of their operations. We accordingly call for integrated revenue assurance solution in their operations as this will ensure accountability of crude and revenue.

“We do concede that a quick and enforceable resolution of the conflicts around ownership of gas in various entities is key to freeing up investment space for foreign direct investment and local businesses in the country.

Sadly, prolonged inter-agency fighting has become a familiar feature of your government. You would need to put your foot down pending the paper work,” the Union noted.

On issues of vandalism of critical oil infrastructure off and fore-shore, the NLC said it is real and have cost the nation a huge fortune, noting that security personnel deployed to the seas are

of little help because it is a cabal that takes care of willing accomplices.

According to the Union, the nation is bleeding and has been brought down to its knees because of the nefarious activities of the cabal, noting that it would take the president’s will and single-mindedness of purpose to solve the problem.

The Union asked the president to deploy all legal resources to ensure that the Dangote

Refinery is completed on time to reduce the massive future outflows of foreign exchange.

The NLC says it endorses the proposals for the recapitalisation of Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria and Development Bank of Nigeria, so that they could perform their statutory functions.

The Union calls for investigation of the allegations raised against the CBN by independent bodies such as the EFCC or any other appropriate body, and told Buhari that the reasons the economy is performing below expectation is because TSA and IPPIS have been compromised, negating the patriotic intentions behind it, noting, however, that it will not take rocket science to track and identify those responsible for the dishonourable conduct that has plunged the country into a dark abyss, calling for severe sanctions that will send a clear message to all that the practice of popular democracy is not synonymous with violation of extant laws.

Closely-linl‹ed to the problem in the oil sector, the NLC said, is the cost of governance which comes in the twin form of unacceptable indulgences and celebration of greed to the detriment of the greater majority. This, it said, leads to the promotion of negative values with collateral consequences.

The NLC reminded the president Nigeria has enough resources to go round everyone one but for the expensive life style, the insatiable greed and the mischief of a select few, Nigerians are suffering in the mist of plenty.

In the light of this, the Union urged Buhari to go forth and recover all the money cornered by the governors and any other public office holder, to the last kobo irrespective of party affiliation, creed or sex, saying the Nigerians gave him the mandate to preside over the affairs of the country was because they believed in him and that he could fix the country.

“Today, do not yield to any blackmail even as the choice for you to make is a tough one, however, given your antecedent, it should not be too difficult as it is a choice between good and evil,” it said.