As Nigerians grapple with the aftershocks of the fuel subsidy removal, President Bola Tinubu has directed the National Economic Council to come up with inputs on palliatives and the minimum wage review as part of measures to cushion the pain of subsidy removal.
This was as the Trade Union Congress said it was expecting the Federal Government to provide feedback on its demand for N200,000 minimum wage by June 19.
But speaking during a meeting with members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, led by its Chairman, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State in Abuja on Wednesday, Tinubu directed NEC led by Vice President Kashim Shettima to mobilise various interventions to cushion the hardship faced by the most vulnerable Nigerians.
Besides the Vice-President, the NEC comprises 36 state governors, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and other co-opted government officials.
The President described the level of impoverishment in the country as “unacceptable,” urging state governors to collaborate with the Federal Government to tackle poverty nationwide.
He advised the political leaders to downplay their differences and jointly focus on alleviating the sufferings and pains of the people, a statement signed by the State House Director of Information, Abiodun Oladunjoye, noted.
Tinubu laments poverty
“We can see the effects of poverty on the faces of our people. Poverty is not hereditary, it is from society. Our position is to eliminate poverty. Set aside partisan politics, we are here to deliberate about Nigeria and nation-building.
“We have managed ourselves very well to have a democracy. We have campaigned and arrived at our present destination. We must work for our people.
“How do we address the unacceptable level of poverty? How much are we investing in education, which is the only tool against poverty? I am ready to collaborate with you,” Tinubu reportedly told the governors, while assuring them that he would maintain an open-door policy.
The Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, who briefed State House correspondents after the meeting revealed that palliatives and an upward review of Nigeria’s minimum wage, which stood at N30,000 per month, topped the discussions.
Abiodun said, “Some of us are looking at the enhancement of minimum wage; Mr President has announced today that NEC should immediately begin to sit, led by His Excellency, the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, and the committee of NEC, alongside the economic team and the marketers should sit down and come up with a wholesome approach that will be beneficial to the common man and the generality of Nigerians.”
However, the governor disclosed that any outcome from these interventions would be temporary as the ultimate intervention would be a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
He argued, “In completeness, whatever it is we do today, be it minimum wage increase, be it transport allowance, be it the provision of any form of intervention, are only stopgaps.
“What we need to begin to look at is an energy transition for the whole country, where we have to appreciate the fact that we can no longer power our vehicles with either diesel or petrol at the current prices.”
He said the government was turning its attention to what was obtainable in other countries such as Egypt whose government had converted its mass transit vehicles to run on Compressed Natural Gas.
“In some other countries, their vehicles are running on either CNG or electricity. These will be what will be sustainable that will allow us to transport people, goods, and services at prices that are reasonable.
“That is the kind of thing that we are looking at, the kind of discussions that we’re having with Mr President, and the kind of approach that this administration is looking at in terms of sustainability,” Abiodun explained.
At the Governors’ Forum meeting, all the members were present except the governors of Kaduna, Katsina, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ekiti, Sokoto, Ondo, Borno, Yobe, Gombe, and Katsina states.
However, the governors of Edo and Niger states were represented by their deputies.
TUC gives deadline
Speaking on the timeframe handed down to the Federal Government on its proposed minimum wage, the Trade Union Congress said it was expecting the government to come up with a proposal by June 19.
The Secretary General of the TUC, Nuhu Toro, who spoke with one of our correspondents on Wednesday, noted, ‘’The new minimum wage of N200,000 which we proposed is part of the demands we gave to the government as regards the removal of the subsidy and we were the ones who gave them a time frame. The time frame we gave them was the 19th of this month. We believe that they should be able to come to us with something substantial by then.’’
Meanwhile, the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria which met with the President at the State House has promised to provide 100 units of CNG/diesel-powered, 50-seater buses to ease mobility amongst the most vulnerable citizens.
Speaking on the group’s behalf, the Managing Director of North-West Petroleum & Gas Company Limited, Mrs Winifred Akpani, revealed that the new locally-manufactured buses cost N100m each.
Akpani said “So we came today to express our support and to see how we can cooperate with the government because ultimately, you can’t kill the people you’re trying to save. There are aches, there are pains. What can we all do?
“We have collectively agreed that we’re going to work at providing real mass transit buses that work, the ones that run on compressed natural gas and diesel interchangeably, and hopefully we’re going to start with about 50 to 100. And that is in the very, very short term.
“These are locally produced, so you see that we’re also providing jobs; a lot more jobs because we’re using local assembly plants, we are not importing this. That is less pressure on our foreign exchange, and that’s more jobs for Nigerians. And Mr President was very happy with that.”
She explained that the 50-seater buses are to be procured at the “cost of about N100m each. So we are donating 100 buses; that’s N10bn just from the marketers.”
Akpani also revealed that the gesture will counter the perceived impression that marketers are opposed to deregulation.
In Ogun State, the government has begun a process to review the minimum wage for its workers in view of the fuel subsidy removal.
A top official of the state government, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents in Abeokuta on Wednesday.
The official said the state government had started the process to come up with a new minimum wage package to cushion the impacts of the fuel subsidy.
He said, “The government is coming up with something on the minimum wage . I don’t know the exact figure, but, I am aware of the steps.”
Also, the Kwara State Government has said that it would ensure that the welfare of workers in the state was top on its priority list.
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Rafiu Ajakaye said that the state Governor, Mallam AbdulRaman AbdulRazaq said on Monday in a meeting with the Labour unions in the state that his administration was committed to the welfare of workers.
He said that the government would meet with union leaders to agree on an acceptable formula for palliative for the workers.