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Labour faults FG for releasing ₦180bn palliative package to State Governments



The Federal Government’s resolve to release a ₦180bn palliative package to state governments to cushion the effect of subsidy removal is not sitting well with organised labour as the unions alleged that the state governors would frustrate the programme.


The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress strongly believe the poor would not benefit from the ₦5bn largesse given to each state if the FG gives the funds to state governors.


On Thursday, August 17, 2023, the FG announced that each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) would receive ₦5 billion palliatives and 180 trucks of rice to help them cushion the impact of the fuel subsidy removal.


The removal of fuel subsidy in May has worsened the economic situation of Nigerians as prices of petroleum and food items increase astronomically.


However, in a bid to address the situation, the FG announced the release of the palliatives at the end of its 135th National Economic Council meeting in Abuja on Thursday.


Speaking after the meeting, the Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum said the fund would enable state governments to procure 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize and fertilizers to address food shortage and the rising food prices in the country.


He said, “NEC met today and expressed serious concerns as regards increasing cost of food items, increasing cost of transportation amongst others as a result of subsidy removal. In order to cushion the effect of subsidy removal, the federal government released five trucks of rice to each state last week.


“Furthermore, in order to cushion the effect of food shortages across the country, the Federal Government has approved the sum of N5bn to be given to each state for the procurement of 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize, and fertilizers.”


Reacting to the development, Chris Onyeka, the Assistant National Secretary-General of the Nigeria Labour Congress wondered why the Federal Government decided to release the funds to state governors, some of whom he argued had not been paying the minimum wage.


OlThe Punch reports Onyeka as saying the palliative would not get to the intended beneficiaries.


“The money will not get to the people, let them share the money as they want but what the NLC agreed with them were certain milestones. The NLC will close its eyes to what the Federal Government is trying to give to the governors.


“To us as far as we are concerned, NLC will still stick to the milestones that we have agreed on, we will insist that those things are discussed and implemented to the letter,’’ he said.


In the same vein the the NLC President, Joe Ajaero faulted the FG’s palliative idea, saying the poor won’t get more than ₦2000 and a cup of rice.


“₦5bn multiplied by 36 states is going to give you ₦180bn. So if you divide that with the official figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, which says that 133 million Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor, and calculate it, you will get about ₦2,000 each for those who are poor.


“That is the official statistics of the government, but you and I know that the actual figure is more than that. So is that what to celebrate? And then, five trucks or there about, of rice to a state. The poor people of these states cannot get one cup of rice. It will not go round,” he argued.


Also reacting to the move by the Federal Government, the Deputy National President of the Trade Union Council, Tommy Etim said the governors could not be trusted with the palliative funds.


“I am sure you remember what happened to the COVID-19 palliatives in 2020 when foodstuffs were stored in warehouses and kept from hungry citizens. Same thing with the issue of the Paris Club relief fund that some governors went to hide in the bank so that they could get some from it while citizens were starving,” he said.


He, however, advised the Federal Government to come up with a body that would monitor the implementation of the palliative programme at state levels.


He insisted that if the programme is left for state governors to implement, the palliative may not get to the places it should get.

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