A non-governmental organization, the Centre for Social Justice, has called on the Federal Government to do all in its capacity, to make sure that the proposed indefinite industrial action by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress is averted in the public interest.
CSJ made the call while reacting to the proposed total indefinite shutdown by organised labour, in a statement signed by its Lead Director, Eze Onyekpere on Wednesday, September 27, 2023.
The group maintained that the strike scheduled for October 2 by the labour unions, could have been averted, if the FG had engaged the Labour leaders through more considerate and humane arrangements in the post petrol subsidy removal and floating of the naira negotiations, noted that: “It is still not too late for the Federal Government to act in the public interest.”
However, CSJ acknowledged the importance of President Bola Tinubu’s policy reforms, most especially, the removal of fuel subsidies and the floatation of the naira, but Onyekpere insisted that: “President Bola Ahmed Tinubu missed an opportunity to gain widespread support for his two main policy reforms – the fuel subsidy removal and the floatation of the naira – by not adequately addressing the hardships that followed these policy pronouncements.
“The expectation was that President Tinubu would announce corresponding relief programmes alongside these policies, and these programmes should have been implemented either simultaneously or immediately after making the policy and reform declarations. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.
“For instance, the proposed salary increase for workers, which has been pending for three months now, remains unresolved in a country where the minimum wage is N30,000 ($30) per month. This starkly contrasts with fellow African nations like Algeria, South Africa, and Morocco, where minimum wages are $170, $242 and $360 respectively.”
The group further pointed out that the NLC has expressed concerns that the government-appointed committee responsible for negotiating cushioning measures for workers, has either intentionally delayed or neglected to commence negotiations, a situation deeply troubling to CSJ.
It further argued that the deployment of the Minister of Labour, as the chief negotiator with organised labour is lost sight of, considering the financial nature of the negotiations, adding that high-level discussions involving significant political and financial decisions should be chaired by the president, vice-president or possibly in their absence, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, insisting that the team must include the Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Labour, etc.
The organization further maintained that in such situations, the Minister of Finance is in the best position to present the government’s financial status to labour representatives and to recommend decisions including wage increases based on affordability.
The CSJ however blamed the government for the current situation, noting that the decision to announce the removal of fuel subsidies without proper consideration of the effects, reflects an unacceptable level of arrogance towards the Nigerian people, while acknowledging that the policy reforms were intended to address issues like fuel subsidy corruption, petroleum smuggling, foreign exchange market manipulation and fiscal constraints, but maintained that such reforms cannot exist in isolation.
“They should be accompanied by strategic interventions across various economic sectors to alleviate hardship, boost productivity and curb fiscal leaks,” it said.
Similarly, the organization argued that the Federal Government should have taken proactive in fighting rampant oil theft and prosecute those responsible for subsidy fraud, as revealed in recent reports by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and previous reports of the Auditor General of the Federation.
CSJ however appealed to the Federal Government to engage in meaningful dialogue with the NLC/TUC, to resolve the proposed industrial action and implement measures to mitigate the effect of the recent policy reforms on the Nigerian populace.
“CSJ remains unwavering in its commitment to advocating for social justice and equitable policies that prioritize the well-being of all Nigerians,” the organization said.