Subsidy removal not intended to punish Nigerians, says Ngige
Plans by the Federal Government to stop petrol subsidy payment and introduce N5,000 monthly transport grants is not intended to impose more hardship on Nigerians, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, assured yesterday.
He said nothing has been decided as talks with Labour continues.
According to him, such policies will not be implemented without Nigerians, through Labour, being carried along.
He said the government has lined up palliatives to cushion the effect of the planned subsidy removal.
These, he said, include the roll-out of gas-powered vehicles for mass transit, soft loans to farmers, conditional cash transfers to workers, among others.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer Mele Kyari said on Tuesday that petrol will sell between N320 and N340 per litre from February.
He said Nigeria would be out of the subsidy regime in the first quarter of 2022, but that the Federal Government plans to give N5,000 each to 40 million citizens to cushion the effects.
On Wednesday, Organised Labour rejected the planned removal of petrol subsidy, saying the thoughts are “cloudy and appear to be a ‘penny wise-pound foolish’ gamble.”
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) warned that any attempt to unilaterally end the subsidy regime without meeting its demands would be met with stiff resistance.
Ngige said: “The government will not go ahead and do as it pleases; the government has never been doing so.
“Government will always engage labour in the scheme of social dialogue which is one of the cardinal principles of decent work of the International Labour Organisation.”
According to Ngige, the tripartite committee – consisting of labour, Federal Government and employers have only done phase one of its work.
He said the larger house is awaiting the report of the NNPC in the second phase on what needs to be done for the subsidy to be removed.
Ngige said: “We don’t intend to jettison social dialogue. However, the committee we put in place, even the one led by NNPC on fuel subsidy and the palliative that is going to follow it, we have only done phase one of the work.
“The second phase of the work is for them (NNPC) to come and present to us what we are supposed to do if the subsidy is to go.
“How much the removal will save and how much it is going to be used for the benefit of the people?
“We have not reconvened. I chair that committee. When we reconvene, we will cross the bridge as we get there.
“The people who have spoken on it are speaking as fiscal people because this is a budget season, so the finance minister might have had some reasons for saying what she is saying; same with NNPC GMD who generates revenue from NNPC.
“But they will not take workers or Nigerians for granted. I am hopeful; I am optimistic that there will be discussions in the coming weeks.
“The meeting has not been reconvened because we are still waiting for the final report. Most of these meetings are tripartite.
“We have the government people there; we have labour and we have NNPC on one side.”
The minister also said the tripartite committee may reconvene its meeting before the end of the year to address the fears of labour.
“As the chairman, I will contact them all – NNPC and the rest of them, invite them and we will fix our meeting. There is a likelihood that the meeting will hold this year.
“What the Labour people are kicking against is taking a unilateral decision against them or shaving their heads behind their back.
“There is no implementation yet. Minister of Finance and GMD of NNPC – as the managers of revenues are telling you what they think we should do in 2022. That is what is there. This is not a one-off thing.
“It will be done in such a way that it conforms with the discussions we are already having. There must be a discussion.
“Labour and Nigerians should not worry. We are not interested in punishing anybody,” the minister added.
PDP: Poor Nigerians won’t Benefit from subsidy removal
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman-elect Iyorchia Ayu warned against imposing more hardship on Nigerians.
He told reporters: “The PDP does not believe in visiting more hardship on the Nigerian people.
“The party has not discussed the issue of increase in petroleum prices but our general position is that the people of Nigeria are already hard-pressed; there is so much hardship.
“If you are poor, you are not going to benefit from what is called petroleum subsidy because if you increase the price of petroleum products today, with the kind of suffering that Nigerians are going through, it means that there will be enormous difficulty in transportation.
“Food prices will escalate and there are already very high prices out there. You will find that the crime rate will increase.
“Every single vice which has escalated under the All Progressives Congress (APC) will double.
“So, the APC government is trying to take us into the highest level of suffering and ultimately, taking Nigerians to a position of nonexistence.”
‘N5,000 palliative to be funded from special account’
The Nation learnt yesterday that the Federal Government may fund the N5,000 transportation palliative that will follow the exit of petrol subsidy from a special account.
Petrol subsidy will run for the first six months of 2022 while the N5,000 transportation palliative will begin before the end of petrol subsidy.
The money to fund petrol subsidy and the N5,000 transportation palliative will be drawn from a special account domiciled in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), it was learnt.
One of our correspondents learnt that the special account “is funded as revenue accrues to the Federal Government”.
As has been the practice in the past, the Federal Government may present a supplementary budget to the National Assembly containing details of the funding for the post-subsidy transportation palliative.