By Joan Nwagwu
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has criticised the Nigerian Governors Forum recommendations to the Federal Government on how to save the country from economic collapse.
The NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba said this in a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari and made available to newsmen on Friday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that it was alleged that the governors had proposed the elimination of PMS subsidy/under-recovery estimated at N6-7 trillion.
They had also proposed early retirement of civil servants from age 50 and above and the implementation of the reviewed Oronsaye Report which suggests ending financing of government’s budgetary expenditures.
The governors also proposed putting a final stop to fuel subsidy, eliminating NNPC’s federation-funded projects, capping Social Investment Programme (SIP) and National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy budgets at N200 billion among others
Wabba had described the governors’ recommendations to the Federal Government as insensitive, selfish and hypocritical.
“Your Excellency, while we do agree that the economy is in need of revitalisation, we are dismayed by some of the prescriptions of the governors as they smack of extreme selfishness and insensate cruelty.
According to him, the governors have canvassed for the premature termination of the appointments of public servants from age 50 and above in clear violation of their contracts of employment which is a subsisting law.
“We find this repugnant, shameful and utterly irresponsible. Aside from running contrary to your mission and principle of creating 100 million jobs.
”Aside from poverty intervention schemes,this policy is clear invitation to anarchy and damnation.
“Pursuant to this, if State Governors strongly believe that age 50 is the problem, we demand that all governors, public office holders and politicians above 50, as a mark of good faith, should immediately step aside.
”Leading by example would spur public servants to take a cue.
“Beyond this however, implementation of this policy in the public sector will give a cue to the private sector to follow suit, with all its attendant devastating consequences,’’he said.
Wabba also said that Nigerian governors were famous for ”lavish spending and wastage” and there was no assurance that money saved from stopped oil subsidy would be channeled to good use.
He also said on the issue of removal of fuel subsidy that the congress found it ” unrealistic, insensitive and hypocritical.”
”We find it distasteful that petrol subsidies in Nigeria create distortions in the economy but they do the opposite in US or Western Europe.
“Truth is that removal of the little benefit the average person in Nigeria enjoys could lead to unintended consequences which we would be better off without.’’.
He, therefore, said that the solution to subsidy and the increasing deficits laid in domestic refining, effective management of Nigerian refineries.
Wabba added,” this also to create an enabling environment for effective and efficient public sector leadership in the building and management of local refineries.”
Wabba further described as ”heartless,” the recommendation that the planned 22 per cent salary increase for workers be put on hold due to the massive devaluation of the Naira.
“At over N600 to a dollar, the minimum of N30, 000 amounts to no more than $42.8 for a family of four for 30 days.
“The implication of this is all too clear to see already, with the rapidly rising crime wave, and the intensifying epidemic of insecurity.
“While we commend you 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 per cent.
”We would recommend a 50 per cent salary review across the board given the realities on ground,’’he said.
On the recommendations for the introduction of state sales taxes at 10 per cent, Wabba said that this seeks to make the poor pay more taxes while the rich pay little or nothing.
He added that this was clear violation of the well-known norm of the rich paying taxes to cover up for the poor, adding,” It is a global norm and practice.”
Wabba therefore called for a raise in taxes across the board for the rich, including increased taxes on luxury goods and lifestyles.
“Your Excellency, instead of embracing jobs termination which will compound the existing crises in our country, we should adopt the positives of retaining our best hands as a way of motivating the public service.
“We find ludicrous the recommendation for the expedited privatisation of non-performing assets because our privatisation story has been a sad and painful one that and hath no need of re-telling here.
“ 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, it is ill-advised to privatise more entities, ’’he said.
The NLC boss also said that one of the reasons why the economy was performing below expectation was ”due to the fact that TSA and IPPIS have been compromised negatively.
”Accordingly, we call 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 or promotion of corruption.
“Closely-linked to this, 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 leads to the promotion of negative values with collateral consequences.
”We need not remind you that we have enough resources to go round everyone one of us but for the expensive life style, the insatiable greed and the mischief of a select few.”
”In the light of this, we urge you 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,’’he said. (NAN)