New Telegraph

NLC President Hits FG On Economic Policies, Says They’re Self-Serving

The President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joe Ajero on Thursday hit hard on various economic policies of the Federal Government, describing them as inflicting punishment on the masses and rewarding government officials.

Specifically, Ajero, who spoke in Abuja as a member of panellists at the 21st Daily Trust dialogue & presentation of the African of the Year award, took the government to cleaners on the removal of the fuel subsidy and floating of forex regime, two hard-hit economic policies he said the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu instantly loosened up on Nigerian masses first day of his administration.

The Daily Trust dialogue is a yearly lecture. This year is themed: “Tinubu’s economic reforms: gainers and losers”. Other members of the panel are Dr Victoria Akai, immediate past Director General, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( ACCI) and Mr Wale Edun, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, who didn’t show up and neither was he represented. Dr. Shamsuddem Usman, Former Minister of National Planning was the Dialogue’ Chairman.

The NLC president went down memory lane, bringing up the various economic policies of the government, like the privatisation program, which he said was a self-serving policy designed to cater for the interests of government officials.

” I was a bit worried when I did not see the Minister of Finance here. After Dr. Victoria spoke I felt she had taken the government’s position.
You don’t talk about government policy when they have not stated their policy.

“I feel worried about whether we have any policy on the ground. what I see is a palliative economy and the subsidy policy we talk about today worries me. Some of the policies to me, are emergency policies. When we want to talk critically about all these economic policies, it should be about how they affect the common man. By the time the topic of this conference was given, we knew the gainers and losers, that is why I am here as the representative of the losers”.

For me, reforms are any kind of change that can cause positive changes to existing policies and be re-jigged for better performers. In any case, reforms are expected to produce better results if not, it becomes deformation. We have seen a lot of Tinbubu’s economic policies, mainly taking instructions from the World Bank and IMF”, Ajero said.

He berated the government for crippling all her assets via the privatisation program noting that 99 percent of sold assets have vanished.

“99 per cent of companies privatized in Nigeria have disappeared and yet we are sustaining it. Five companies in the power sector built for over $9 billion are now selling for $1 billion.

“Even in this year’s budget, the government budgeted over $1.8m as a subsidy for the power sector. Meanwhile, the sector was privatized at $400bn and is being subsidized with $1.8m in a year.

“This shows it’s a personal business. Something you sold for $2m and you are giving the person $10m, that is a prodigal economy. It is not difficult to find out who are the losers and gainers.

‘This is a situation where we have a public disaster as a private gain. With the subsidy removal, it is the masses that are losers, not marketers. Whichever way you look at it, it is the masses that are the losers”, he insists.

Continuing, Ajero compared Muhammadu Buhari’s administration with Tinubu’s, with reference to the speed of time anti-masses policies were effected.

” Looking at key policies- hike in petroleum prices and devaluation of naira. It took Buhari eight years to move from N260 to a dollar to N700 to a dollar but in just six months, under Tinubu, it moved from N700 to N1350 to $1. For me, it is not too early to mention the indices so far.

“The losers are those who bought petroleum products from N185 to N700, those who were taking N1,000 to work and today they are paying N4,000 without commensurate increase in salary. Gainers are those who promised to pay wage increases and refused to implement them”.

” When you claim to be saving more money, what do you save more money for if not for the government being there for the public good as stated in chapter two of the constitution?

“The saving of the public money should be for the good of the public. What the Tinubu government is trying to do, is to repeat what the previous government had done before- privatising public assets”.

“We have to look at what others have done; whether they are paying off or not. Since 2005, over 30 power companies were licensed, yet none had built one power plant or generated”, the NLC president lamented.

He was dismayed that from the Gowon era, the government started increasing fuel prices for the same reasons.

” They are not ingenious at all. For me, subsidy in Nigeria is a cat that has nine lives and the meaning of subsidy in Nigeria is a price increase. The implication of subsidy removal is inflationary pressure, increased transportation, high cost of living, increase in maintaining businesses, depreciation of naira and high unemployment”, he said.

According to him, it is difficult to talk about economic growth when all these factors are staring us in the face and asking how the government measures economic growth. Ajero in addition, asked what the government was doing with all the gains it has been making from subsidy removal.
Minister of Information, Alh. Mohammed Idris countered NLC’s presidential position.

On subsidy removal, the Information Minister said the government had set up a committee to see the production and supply of CNG busses to cushion the effects of subsidy removal.

On the N35,000 wage to cushion fuel subsidy hardship, he said the president was committed to ensuring that every kobo allocated for a wage is paid.
“The government was gracious to increase it within a few hours it was agreed to N 35,000″.

” As a way of cushioning the effects of fuel subsidy removal, the government agreed with labour to have the wage award for six months before looking into the new minimum wage. Very soon, the government will invite labour to discuss it. At every point, it has always invited the Labour in all discussions and the state government”, the Information Minister said.

Earlier in a remark to the tone of dialogue, the session Chairman Dr. Shamusedeen Usman said the thrust of the Dialogue theme is a delicate one, given that government policies were bound to be viewed by the majority as punishing.

He commended President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for initiating a performance benchmark for measuring the performance of government officials.

He urged the president to be strict on performance benchmark implementation and leave no room for failure.

The Special Adviser to the President of Economic Affairs, Top Fasua said the idea behind President Tinubus’s reforms wasn’t about gainers and gainers and not gainers and losers.

“We are quickly taking these reforms seriously. Despite the downturn of the economy, there is still hope for the majority of Nigerians. Nigerians should see Nigeria as their country and should not allow anybody to deceive them into going to other countries where they are offered menial jobs”.

On privatization, he acknowledged that not all privatized enterprises worked, however, he said the key thing to note was that the era of government-owned business was over.

“The economic policies we are operating under Tinubu’s administration are going to take the best from capitalism, socialism and from everywhere for our people. We are going to privatise what the government can privatise and run what the government can run.

“There is a lot of space for the government to operate and for the private sector to operate. And there is still a lot of space for government employment, we have the lowest percentage of people employed by government in the world. We should stop thinking that the government is a bunch of wasters”, he said.

For the 21st Daily Trust African of the Year award, Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman of South Africa is the recipient. The award was received on his behalf by South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Thami Mseleku.

Read Previous

Caution Ataoja Against Communal Crisis In Osun, Aragbiji Tells Tinubu, Adeleke

Read Next

Kizz Daniel, Davido Release ‘Twe Twe’ Remix