A NATION IN ACUTE DIRE STRAITS
THE NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS CONVEYS STRONG CONCERNS ON THE LINGERING PETROL SCARCITY CUM PRICE INCREASE, HIKE IN ELECTRICITY TARIFF, THE CBN NEW CURRENCY POLICY AND DIFFICULTIES IN COLLECTING PERMANENT VOTES CARDS
A Resolution of the NLC National Administrative Council (NAC)
It is with huge concern and palpable alarm that the National Administrative Council (NAC) of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at its meeting which took place on Wednesday, 25th January 2023 noted the increasing incidences of citizens difficulties and insufferable stress in accessing basic services and utilities. From long petrol queues, to clandestine increases in the pump price of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also commonly known as petrol, to an illegal hike in electricity tariff, to a debilitating inability to access the newly re-designed local currency, and the deliberate roadblocks mounted against citizens who desire to collect their Permanent Voters Card (PVC). These are all signs of a nation in acute dire straits.
It is sad, unfortunate and totally unacceptable that the current episode of the scarcity of refined petroleum products particularly petrol which started more than a year ago has continued to linger. The resurgence of fuel scarcity across the country leading to price hikes ranging from N200 to N450 per litre is of significant concern to us and ordinary Nigerians. It is appalling and shameful.
Businesses are suffering and only few privileged Nigerians can afford this outrageous price hike which government keeps denying. Workers are the worst hit as this unacceptable price hike is the latest assault on their static wages, from inflation spiral at over 17% (NBS), exchange rate of N800 to the USD, hikes in utility charges, transportation, rents, health, school fees and sundry issues.
Marketers in collusion with the powers that be fix prices of products at will with little or no regard for consumers or collateral damage to the nation. In spite of the Committee set up by government to clear this mess, nobody appears to be in charge.
In December 2022, Nigerians noticed that there was a clandestine hike in electricity tariff. This is regardless of the fact that public electricity supply has been most erratic for the past one year, in addition to the persisting scourge of estimated billings borne largely by workers and the ordinary citizens of our country.
It is even most distressing that amidst the excruciating poverty and hardship occasioned by the high cost of energy and scarcity of the same, Nigerians especially workers can hardly withdraw their little savings in the bank owing to the chaos caused by the unavailability of the newly designed currency by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). This is double jeopardy. Nigerians have never had it so bad.
As if the multiple crises we face is not deep enough, there are widespread reports that registered voters are unable to access and collect their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) from the different designated locations earmarked by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Already, some Nigerians believe they were disenfranchised by the bedlam that trailed the last few days of the recent voter registration exercise. Not a few Nigerians would agree that INEC is playing a script if Nigerians who registered to vote are for any reason being obstructed from collecting their PVCs. Consistent with the appeal and advocacy of Nigeria Labour Congress for a peaceful pre and post-election processes, we urge INEC to rise up to the challenge and ensure that no Nigerian is obstructed or frustrated from collecting their PVCs and voting on Election Day.
On our part as a pan Nigerian, progressive, pro-masses, and pro-poor organisation, we would not fold our hands and watch Nigerians being taken advantage of in any manner. We call on those whose work it is to provide Nigerians access to affordable public services, amenities and utilities to undertake their responsibilities with utmost diligence and patriotism. Nigerian workers and citizens are not slaves. They deserve tolerable and indeed decent living conditions in order for them to continue to make contributions to the arduous task of nation building. In light of this, we would want this statement to be a message to all those involved in these mischiefs and evil that we are mobilising our members across the country for a major protest.
In the interim, we wish to call on government to effect a major wage review given the considerably weakened value of the Naira against all the currencies of the world making the cost of living unreasonably difficult for workers and ordinary Nigerians. We find it necessary to explain here that there is a world of difference between the national minimum wage review and general wage review.
Furthermore, it is quite important to remind the Federal Government that the last public sector wage review was done in 2011 and has since expired. The need for another review cannot be overstated given the excruciating economic realities in Nigeria today.
Finally, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari as a man of goodwill to direct the payment of all withheld salaries of university workers. The affected university workers are finding it difficult to cope with the prevailing economic challenges in the country.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni
26th January 2023