Your advice irresponsible, NLC blasts governors in letter to president
THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has described the state governors’ advice to President Muhammad Buhari to, among other things, retrench workers within the age bracket of 50 years and above, as “repugnant, shameful, utterly irresponsible and a show of extreme selfishness and in- sensate cruelty.”
The NLC stated this in a letter dated August 8 and entitled Reviving the Economy: Our Response to Governors Prescriptions, and dispatched to Buhari through the office of his Chief of Staff.
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Sunday Tribune, strongly kicked against the removal of elimination of subsidy from petroleum products and early retirement of civil servants from age 50 and above.
“Your Excellency, while we do agree that the economy is in need of revitalisation, we are dismayed by some of the prescriptions of the governors as they smack of extreme selfishness and insensate cruelty.
“The governors have canvassed for the premature termination of the appointments of public servants from age 50 and above in clear violation of their contracts of employment which is a subsisting law.
“We find this repugnant, shameful and utterly irresponsible. Aside from running contrary to your mission and principle of creating 100 million jobs (aside from poverty intervention schemes), this policy is clear invitation to anarchy and damnation. “Those promoting this idea should be treated as enemies of your government.
“The implementation of this proposal will lead to the sacking of almost a quarter of the public sector workforce, the decapitation of that workforce through the retrenchment of its most experienced layer and the intensification of poverty and misery among citizens.
“Your Excellency, when one of the states (contiguous to FCT) against wise counsel sowed this policy (though it keeps denying it), it reaped whirlwind. Today, the state is in the hands of bandits. Truth is that mindless policies generate gigawatts of their own violence.
“One of the hallmarks of popular democracy like ours is justice to all in equal measure regardless of ethnicity, religion, sex or class.
“Pursuant to this, if state governors strongly believe that age 50 is the problem, we demand that all governors, public office holders and politicians above 50, as a mark of good faith, should immediately step aside. Leading by example would spur public servants to take a cue.
“Beyond this, however, implementation of this policy in the public sector will give a cue to the private sector to follow suit, with all its attendant devastating consequences,” the labour union said. The letter also said; “We consider heartless, the recommendation that the planned 22 per cent salary increase for workers is put on hold given the massive devaluation of the Naira leading to the pegging of the Naira at 675 to the dollar at the parallel market, inflation rate at 18 per cent, increased energy and sundry tariffs, combustive commodity prices and prohibitive cost of living which have wiped out every vestige of the value of their salaries.
“At over N600 to a dollar, the minimum of N30,000 amounts to no more than $42.8 for a family of four for 30 days. “The implication of this is all too clear to see already, with the rapidly rising crime wave, and the intensifying epidemic of insecurity.
“While we commend you for your thoughtfulness for a wage increase, truth of the matter is that given the misfortune that has befallen the Nigerian populace, especially workers with fixed incomes, there is an urgent need for a massive intervention much deeper than the 22 per cent.
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“We would recommend a 50 per cent salary review across the board given the realities on ground,” NLC said.
On the issue of subsidy removal, the letter said; “Speaking directly to the issue of removal of fuel subsidy, we find it unrealistic, insensitive and hypocritical. “It is on record that governors have always been against the culture of saving for the rainy day. In spite of this culture of recklessness predating your administration, few of them have anything to show for all the moneys they have collected.
“If there is little or nothing to show for the principal sums or revenues collected over the years, what assurance do we have that the additional sum on top of the principal popularly called subsidy (most of which is shrouded in mystery and crime anyway) can be put to effective use. “Coupled with this, we find it distasteful that petrol subsidies in Nigeria create distortions in the economy, but they do the opposite in the US or Western Europe!
“Truth is that removal of the little benefit the average person in Nigeria enjoys could lead to unintended consequences which we would be better off without. “The solution to subsidy and the ballooning deficits lies in domestic refining, effective management of our refineries, and creating an enabling environment for effective and efficient public sector leadership in the building and management of local refineries.
“The 1999 Constitution, as amended, is very clear in the provisions of Chapter Two that the commanding heights of the economy should be in public hands, and also that the resources of the economy should be held in public hands and also that the resources of the country should be managed in such a way as to as- sure maximum benefits to the people of Nigeria.
“We aver that the only way these provisions can be effectively implemented is by ensuring that public sector leadership in the oil and gas sector, in the refining of petroleum products, and in the management of the benefits accruing therefrom.
“Currently, our country loses $1.9 billion to oil thieves every month. Consequently, Nigeria is un- able to meet its production quota to OPEC in addition to the colossal damage to the environment. Yet, the greatest damage is to Nige- ria’s economy.
“One does not need a degree in Economics to under- stand the full extent of the tragedy unfolding before us. A half of $1.9 billion is more than enough to solve the problems in the education sector that have kept our children at home for six months and counting.
“The best way to ensure this is for government to be decisive in curbing and punishing corruption, wastage, mismanagement, and maladministration in the petroleum sector.
“Beyond this, however, implementation of this policy in the public sector will give a cue to the private sector to follow suit, with all its attendant devastating consequences.”