Hikes in petrol, electricity tariffs have erased minimum wage gains – NLC President
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba has lamented that the hikes in the prices of petroleum products and electricity tariff had erased the gains of the minimum wage.
Wabba who spoke during a meeting between the federal government and the organized Labour on how to resolve issues surrounding the hike in prices of petrol and electricity tariffs faulted the government for unilaterally fixing the prices of electricity and petrol without consultations with Nigerians.
According to him, many Nigerians are struggling to survive because of the high cost of living occasioned by the government’s recent policies which included the increase in the Value Added Tax.
Wabba stated, “The question now is what do you have on the table to actually cushion the effect on workers and their families because they have been pushed to the wall. They are already enraged.
“Do you have anything for us so that we can say yes, despite this challenges, this is what I have for Nigerian workers so that they can have something that can cushion this effect for them?
“Already, the value of the minimum wage has been eroded; that is the reality. If Ghana compares their minimum wage with our own, you will see their minimum wage.”
He accused the government of transferring the “inefficiency in the subsidy regime” to the consumers which they (consumers) have to pay through the hike in price.
The NLC president admonished the government to fix the nation’s refineries and stop lining the pockets of fuel through a fraudulent subsidy regime.
Wabba noted, “I agree with Mr President that subsidy is a fraud but do we address it or transfer it to the customers? That is where the issue is. We don’t need to transfer it to the customers.
“More than 90 countries of the world actually have minimum wage on this. Those are the issues that are biting very hard and workers and citizens are crying aloud that there is much burden on them.
“We have increased VAT, we have increased some taxes, we have increased now the fuel price and the electricity tariff. An ordinary worker can’t pay those charges. In fact, higher-level officers are complaining seriously. This is the predicament we are in.
“Therefore let us also look for solutions. How do we mitigate this impact which is very pronounced on workers?”
On his part, the TUC president, Quadri Olaleye asked the government to reverse the recent price hikes, which he said, had been biting Nigerians hard.
Olaleye stated, “Nigerian workers are crying and the populace is also crying. Last December, we were so happy that when we signed the minimum wage agreement and Nigerian workers were happy that their lots were increased.
“Unfortunately, now they are crying. By calculation, we are losing an additional 15 per cent of what we gained as a result of the signing minimum wage. For somebody who is paid N6,666 as increment, now he is losing not less than N25, 000 from his income. The N6, 666 is going, additional N15, 000 is added.”
Also speaking at the parley which eventually ended in deadlock, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva in his presentations stated that the FG had yet to begin the full deregulation of the downstream sector “because of the desire of President Buhari not to inflict more pains on the masses.”
The minister emphasized that the landing cost of petrol is N163 but it was being sold for N161 per litre, indicating that full deregulation was yet to take off in the country.
He said going by the current exchange rate, the products could have been sold at N183 per litre.
He also said the FG spent N10.4 trillion on petrol subsidy between 2016 and 2019, stressing that the country was losing N1 billion daily to fuel subsidy between 2016-2019.
He added that the country was in a bad shape because of the crash of crude oil globally.
“We have not fully deregulated because of the concerns the government has for Nigerians. Price of fuel could go up to N183 per litre going by the current rate of the dollar. We need to open up the economy, even though, the initial stage may bring pains to Nigerians,” he stated.
The Federal Government two weeks ago increased the ex-depot price of petrol from N 138.62 to N147.67, prompting marketers to adjust their petrol prices to between N158 and N162 from N148 to N150 in August. The ex-depot price is the price at which government sells petrol to marketer.