The NLC reacts to remarks by key government officials in the last one week

Article By Iferi Etuk

The Nigerian Labour Congress on Monday vowed to resist any reduction of workers pay, which it said appears to be contemplated by the government lamenting dwindling revenues.

The group said remarks by key government officials the last one week, in which they pointed at the possibility of a bleak future if international oil prices were to crash, suggest government may be planning austerity measures that may include a reduction of the minimum wage and the scrapping of fuel subsidy.

The Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had said last week that excess crude fund had been depleted to $3.6 billion, and that Nigerians should brace for hard times especially if the prices of crude oil were to take a dip.

At the weekend in New York, the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Lamido Sanusi, said a reduction in the price of crude oil “would lead to a massive depreciation of the currency, a collapse in the reserves and a huge growth in deficits”.

If that were to happen, he said, many states would be unable to pay salaries.

The NLC said in a statement on Monday that the depletion of the nation’s funds is by the government and not the people, and that the primary problem is the massive corruption in government.

“For instance, while the presidency proclaimed that the country spent N1.3 trillion on fuel subsidy in 2011, the Central Bank Governor, under oath in the House of Representatives, gave the subsidy paid for the same period as being over N1.7 trillion while the actual figures  spent were over N2.3 Trillion,” the statement said.

“Also, the presidency said that the country’s daily petrol consumption is 34 million litres. The PPPRA said it was paying subsidy for over 59 million litres daily while independent sources during the House probe revealed that the country’s consumption is far below the Presidency’s claims.

Besides, the Ministers of Finance and Petroleum admitted under oath that contrary to the
constitutional stipulation that all monies accruing to the country should be paid into the Federation account, the NNPC was helping itself to the funds before paying the balance to the federation.”

The statement, signed by the union’s acting president, Joe Ajaero, said the NLC will resist attempts to transfer the reduction on Nigerans by way of a pay cut.

“Nigerians have been made to suffer for too long due to the profligacy of our rulers, and the congress will not accept additional suffering being heaped on them,” said Ajaero.

“The Congress also advises the President Goodluck Jonathan administration to stop toying with the lives of Nigerians by seeking to further increase the price of fuel as evident by its endless and wasteful campaigns to remove so called fuel subsidy. The Presidency should reduce the high cost of governance as it promised; ensure more devolution of power including resources to the states.”

The NLC urged the federal and state governments not to “take steps that can worsen the political and security situation in the country.”

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