Our review of today’s broadcast by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu leaves us with the impression that the promises and assurances made by President Tinubu is not the silver bullet that Nigerians expected. The speech indeed appears to be out of touch with reality and anomalous with the hardship and suffering that most Nigerians are going through now.
First, the opening statement by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu conveyed a commitment to a better and productive economy. We expected that the next line of statement would be how the present government plans to resuscitate our public refineries which have been lying comatose for so many years and is the major pain point in the whole subsidy narrative. Unfortunately, the entire speech by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was completely silent on the issue of the repair of our national refineries.
Second, consistent with our perception of the misalignment of Mr. President’s promises and offerings to the reality faced by millions of workers and ordinary Nigerians was the failure of President Tinubu to unmask those behind the looting of Nigeria’s commonwealth under the guise of petrol subsidy. It is unacceptable for the President and Commander-in-Chief to lament like ordinary Nigerians about a group that Mr. President routinely referred to in his speech as the “elites of the elites” who have stolen so much from Nigeria that they have become so powerful as to constitute a threat to democratic governance. What Nigerians expected from Mr. President is a firm commitment to bring these economic saboteurs to justice and recover what they have stolen.
Third, Mr. President’s statement on working with Organised Labour to review the national minimum wage is out of sync with what has played out since President Tinubu removed the so-called petrol subsidy. In all the meetings scheduled by the government, Organised Labour has been forced to negotiate with empty chairs on the Federal Government’s side as the Federal Government has not matched its public promises with firm commitment to negotiate in good faith with labour. As a matter of fact, the sub-committee on wage award has not been inaugurated and has not met.
Furthermore, Organised Labour is disturbed that while President Tinubu in his speech lavishly praised the Private Sector for quickly dispensing wage award to their employees, the Federal Government has failed to do the same for public workers in its employment. This is a clear case of failing woefully to live up to the standards it has set for others to meet. It is open knowledge that the review of the national minimum wage is a matter of the law which is expected to happen in 2024. How would Nigerian workers cope with the current reality of hyper inflation and suffering unleashed by the hasty removal of the so-called petrol subsidy till 2024 when the national minimum wage would be reviewed? This is incredible!
Fourth, the claims of interventions by the Federal Government through palliatives, loans and conditional grants to poor Nigerians, big manufacturing concerns and small businesses and provision of CNG buses remain what they are – promises! Nigerians are used to such promises which have never produced any verifiable and meaningful changes in the lives of citizens.
Fifth, for many Nigerians, it is incomprehensible that the principal actors in the current government including Mr. President himself were clear in 2012 on the need to tackle the fundamental issues that brought about petrol subsidy. Those issues included the failure of previous governments to repair our national refineries and bring those behind the monumental subsidy sleaze to book. Today, these issues were swept under the carpet in President Tinubu’s speech. Nigerians wonder “what has changed?”
Finally, we wish to assure Nigerians that the Nigeria Labour Congress remains committed to matching discussions with government with the current realities of sufferings that Nigerians are going through. Until we see real commitment by government to do the needful to improve the lot of Nigerians and ameliorate the sufferings workers and ordinary Nigerians are going through, we remain committed to continue with our struggle.
Comrade Joe Ajaero
31ST JULY 2023