As President Bola Ahmed Tinubu returns to Nigeria, almost after two weeks away from the country, he will be greeted by harsh socio-economic conditions that have deteriorated within the period.
Tinubu had departed Nigeria on September 17 for New York, United States, for this year’s UNGA where he acknowledged the pains Nigerians were going through as a result of the removal of fuel subsidy by his administration.
The president had shortly after taking the reins of power on May 29 declared an end to the subsidy regime, a policy pronouncement has brought about acute hardship with prices of food, fuel and other essential commodities soaring, leading to industrial unrest.
Consequently, as Tinubu returns to Nigeria, he would be welcomed by the planned strike by organised labour which would kick off on Tuesday, October 3.
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) announced the decision to embark on industrial action on Tuesday.
The two unions had declared an indefinite strike to protest the alleged failure of the federal government to provide post-subsidy palliatives for workers.
The unions jointly said: “It’s going to be a total shutdown … until the government meets the demand of Nigerian workers, and, in fact, Nigerian masses.
“The federal government has refused to meaningfully engage and reach agreements with organised labour on critical issues of the consequences of the unfortunate hike in price of petrol which has unleashed massive suffering on Nigeria workers and masses.”
To indicate that everyone is waiting for the president to come back and address the issues, especially the planned strike by the organised labour, the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity has scheduled a meeting between the federal government and the unions on Tuesday, the eve of the strike.
The spokesperson for the labour ministry, Olajide Oshundun, reportedly said the meeting scheduled for Tuesday would revolve around the pronouncements to be made by President Tinubu in his October 1 Independence Day broadcast.
This is just as Oshundun quoted the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, as appealing to labour to shelve the strike.
Lalong, in a statement by his ministry’s spokesperson on Tuesday, said the government was determined to address the issues.
Similarly, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, appealed to the organised labour to shelve plans to embark on nationwide strike in consideration of the various actions being taken by the federal government to alleviate the current hardship faced by Nigerians.
Abbas said, “As the peoples’ representatives, we feel and equally share in the pains of our people at these very difficult times.
“However, I would like to appeal to the Nigerian Labour Congress to consider the various actions being taken by the federal government to alleviate the current hardship faced by Nigerians. As promised earlier, this House remains committed to getting a survival wage to all Nigerian workers.”
Just as the labour unions alluded, the high cost of food, transport and power – as most businesses and households rely on petrol generators for electricity – continues unabated and all these are waiting for Tinubu’s attention when he returns.
At present, inflation stands at 25.80 percent while fuel costs have tripled since Tinubu came to power in May with one litre of petrol going for N617, with recent insinuations of a looming scarcity.
According to LEADERSHIP market survey, the average price of a 50kg bag of local rice, a common staple food in Nigeria, is N45,000 while a tuber of yam costs about N2000 in local markets in the nation’s capital Abuja, despite this period being the season for new yams.
To worsen the situation, the palliatives rolled out by the federal government to be implemented by states are neither here nor there.
According to a recent LEADERSHIP report, uncertainty has pervaded the 36 states of the federation and the FCT over the distribution of the N180 billion federal government palliatives meant to cushion the effects of the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
This newspaper learnt that a number of state governments had set up committees to decide how to share the limited food stuffs to a large and expecting population.
However, the committees were said to be slow in getting the palliatives across to the people, while states like Bauchi, Ekiti, Zamfara, Adamawa, Ebonyi, Imo and Bayelsa are yet to distribute a single grain of food items to the people.
Labour Party Backs Strike, Lauds Workers Over Patience
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Labour Party (LP) has backed the planned strike by Nigerian workers slated for Tuesday, stating that they have shown enough patience and understanding.
The party said it was in support of any legitimate means deployed by Nigerian workers to press for better living conditions.
In a statement issued by the national publicity secretary of the party, Obiora Iffoh, LP said it fully supports the resolution of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to embark on an industrial action slated to commence on Tuesday, October 3.
“We have followed with keen interest, in the last four months, various meetings between Organised Labour and various government bodies, including the president of the Senate, the presidency, and the ministers of Labour as well as all the efforts made by the Labour leadership to get the government to understand the magnitude of sufferings government policies have thrown Nigerian workers and the entire populace into since the enthronement of this administration.”
Food Prices Soar, Hardship Continues As Palliatives Delay
Across the states of the federation, prices of food items have continued to increase across markets and shops, LEADERSHIP investigation has revealed.
Most of the markets and shops visited by our correspondents showed that there was no reprieve for the residents as food prices have continued to escalate.
Some residents of Enugu, the Coal City state capital, who deplored the situation, called on the relevant agencies to regulate prices.
One of the residents, Mrs Nweke Agbo, appealed to market unions to intervene, saying people would no longer have the means to buy the items.
“The development is getting out of hand; I know that traders also buy their goods at high prices but the truth is that most of them want to make unnecessary gains without considering the plight of others,” she stated.
For instance, a bag of local rice which was sold at N33,000 last month is now sold at N38,000. A bag of beans which sold for N50,000 last month is now N57,000. Also, a carton of five-litres of groundnut oil has risen from N28,000 to N32,000.
Similarly, the prices of perishable food items have also increased sharply. There is no official position on the trend as of the time of filing the report yesterday.
Also yesterday, national president of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Comrade Ambali Olatunji, lamented the hardship faced by Nigerian workers and others as a result of the removal of fuel subsidy.
The union therefore called for better welfare packages for its members and other Nigerians.
Olatunji also urged the federal and state governments to grant financial autonomy for the local government system in Nigeria and thanked the Edo State government led by Governor Godwin Obaseki for creating an enabling environment for the state workers to operate.
NULGE made the call yesterday in Benin, the state capital, at the union’s 2nd National Youth Conference.
He said, “Nigerians are passing through harrowing experience; we must continue to be prayerful and continue to manage our health because now high BP is very common. People are frustrated; we should not lose hope.”