The organised Labour on Monday said President Bola Tinubu’s administration must not fail to fulfill its promises to Nigerian workers in 2024.
The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, which gave the warning in separate interviews with one of our correspondents in Abuja, said the President must “walk the talk’’ in the New Year.
The two Labour unions were reacting to the President’s New Year broadcast which the Peoples Democratic Party and the Labour Party described as “a harvest of deceit, false claims and empty promises.’’
But the ruling All Progressives Congress took a swipe at the critics of the President’s speech, particularly the two opposition parties.
The APC Director of Publicity, Bala Ibrahim, in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday, described the statements by the two opposition political parties as an affront to the intelligence of Nigerians.
The PUNCH reports that the President in his New Year broadcast to Nigerians on Monday affirmed that Nigerians were frustrated because of the removal of fuel subsidy and naira devaluation.
He said, “I am not oblivious to the expressed and sometimes unexpressed frustrations of my fellow citizens. I know for a fact that some of our compatriots are even asking if this is how our administration wants to renew their hope.
“Over the past seven months of our administration, I have taken some difficult and yet necessary decisions to save our country from fiscal catastrophe. One of those decisions was the removal of fuel subsidy which had become an unsustainable financial burden on our country for more than four decades.”
The President, however, called on Nigerians to be patient with him, adding that his government was working towards solving all issues around the socio-economic situation through his ‘Renewed Hope Agenda.’ He also promised the implementation of a new living minimum wage for Nigerian workers this year.
Unions warn FG
Commenting on the presidential broadcast, the NLC, and the TUC warned the Tinubu administration against failing to fulfill its promises.
They alleged that the Tinubu administration had developed a reputation for breaching promises. They, therefore, advised the government to “walk the talk” in 2024.
The Head of Information, NLC, Benson Upah, and the National Vice-President, TUC, Tommy Etim, stated this in separate interviews with one of our correspondents in Abuja.
Reacting to the President’s speech, NLC’s Upah, said, “I have been in motion and have only seen the highlights of the speech. Nonetheless, this government in its short life has acquired a reputation for keeping its promises in breach. In light of this, we are sleeping with both eyes open.
“Also note, payment of a new national minimum wage is not a favour. It is a statutory obligation.”
The TUC’s vice-president, Etim also encouraged the administration to “walk the talk” in 2024.
He said, “Our advice to the government is to walk the talk in 2024. Nigerians are tired of failed promises.”
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the PDP described the President’s speech as uninspiring and a waste of valuable time as it did not address any of the critical issues plaguing the nation.
Ologunagba stated, “The Peoples Democratic Party dismisses the New Year Speech by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as a harvest of deceit, false claims, and empty promises.
“The PDP describes the speech as unpresidential, uninspiring, and amounts to a waste of valuable time as it did not address any of the critical issues plaguing the nation.
“Nigerians were dismayed as President Tinubu employed rhetoric and failed to address the critical issues of insecurity, decayed infrastructure, comatose manufacturing, and productive sectors; crushing 28% inflation rate, continuing plunge of the Naira, alarming unemployment, excruciating poverty, and economic hardship occasioned by the reckless, ill-advised and insensitive policies and programmes of his administration.”
The PDP Publicity secretary said it was an unpardonable assault on the sensibility of Nigerians for Tinubu to assert that “Everything I have done in office, every decision I have taken and every trip I have undertaken outside the shores of our land, since I assumed office on 29 May 2023, has been done in the best interest of our country.”
He noted that “On the contrary, all decisions and actions of the Tinubu Presidency including the approval of an increase in the pump price of fuel from N167 to over N700 per litre, devaluation of the naira with the consequential high costs and hardship; skewing of the 2024 budget in favour of luxury appetite of the Presidency and APC leaders without concrete policies to revive the economy and create jobs; the wasteful foreign trips with political cronies and failure to address the mindless killings across the nation cannot be said to be in the interest of our country.”
The party further declared that the President’s statement that his actions and policies were in the interest of the nation further confirmed that his administration was subjecting Nigerians to hardship as a way to suppress them to surrender to totalitarianism.
The statement read in part, “President Tinubu ought to have used the opportunity presented by the New Year to apologize to Nigerians and marshal out steps to address our national challenges, including those responsible for the exiting of multinational manufacturing companies and other businesses from our country.
“What Nigerians demand of President Tinubu is to provide a comprehensive account of our nation’s earnings including the proceeds from the removal of subsidy on petroleum products, especially in the face of allegations that the earnings are being diverted to private pockets of the APC leaders and their cronies.
“The National Assembly is invited to step up and perform its Constitutional role of oversight to hold the Executive Arm accountable as the custodian of the purse of the nation.”
The Labour Party similarly accused the President of dishonesty in his address to Nigerians.
The LP National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifoh, in a statement on Monday, described Tinubu’s speech as “an arrogant display of dishonesty, disregard for citizens.”
Ifoh said the LP was appalled by the alleged hollowness of the address.
The opposition party said “If anything, the speech conveyed to Nigerians the high level of hypocrisy, deceit and lack of empathy which has become the guiding principle of the All Progressives Congress administration which Tinubu leads.
“It is depressing to note that the President and his handlers didn’t deem it fit to include a word of comfort for the families of over 200 persons killed by terrorists during the Christmas Eve massacre in Plateau State. What a shame.
“The President’s helplessness in the face of his glaring failure to address the critical issues of insecurity, decayed infrastructure, the collapse of the manufacturing and productive sectors, inflation, and the Naira to Dollar exchange rate which is spiralling out of control is written all over the speech.”
The LP queried how the decision on fuel subsidy removal without a plan to ameliorate the suffering of Nigerians could be said to have been taken in the national interest.
APC slams critics
But the ruling APC took a swipe at critics of Tinubu’s broadcast. The APC publicity director, Bala, insisted that Tinubu deserved commendations for setting up the Federal Government Appointees’ Monitoring and Evaluation Unit in the Presidency to monitor the performance of officials.
He stated, “I wouldn’t want to say they don’t understand English. But I want to say they are mischievous in understanding the content of the President’s speech. What President Tinubu said was very unmistakable and very clear.
“The President says he feels the yearnings and aspirations of the people. He knows the expectations and the anxiety of the people. And since the last seven months that he assumed office, he has been mapping out strategies that will not certainly make everyone equal, but give everyone equal opportunity.
“He mentioned that it is the area of his administration, to see to it that all Nigerians who are interested in legitimate business enjoy the fruits of their wealth, and those who have not gotten enough will have the opportunity to raise equally.
“If you understand English, I cannot see how anyone will say he has not shown any sign of addressing the problems of the nation. And he made a statement about the fact that in his budget presentation to the National Assembly, he highlighted eight key areas that are going to address the problems of the country.
“I think they need to go back to school and understand English, except if they’re being politically mischievous. The statements from the PDP and LP should be disregarded, it’s even an attack on the intelligence of Nigerians to say that the President’s speech is empty.’’
Also, the Deputy National Organising Secretary of the APC, Nze Chidi Duru, said it would be unfair for critics to accuse the President of failing to address the core issues plaguing the country at the moment.
Duru also stated that the ruling party could not fault the opposition PDP and its LP counterpart for their criticisms, adding that both were simply playing their roles as opposition parties.
He said, “We cannot expect anything different from both the PDP and LP. They are playing their roles as the opposition. The President has spoken and spoken well. He talked about having to make difficult decisions on fuel subsidy removal which has become unsustainable. He mentioned working to deliver a regular supply of electricity and his determination to remove any of his officials who fail to live up to expectations.
“It is good that we are also starting the New Year with the 2024 budget. As I said earlier, the PDP and the LP have a right to agree or disagree with his views. They are only playing their role as opposition.”
The Director-General of Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, Ilorin, Issa Aremu, however, hailed Tinubu for the “categorical presidential commitment” to a new minimum and living wage in 2024.
He commended the President for his commitment to wage-led growth strategy, economic recovery, and poverty eradication through the payment of adequate living wages.
He said the President was “on point” to declare wage improvement as “not only good economics” but as “a morally and politically correct thing to do.”
The director general called on states and local governments, employers of labour, and organized labour to align with the vision of the President in making “2024 a year of mass secured, productive decent work in conditions of human dignity, healthy environment, with negotiated adequate promptly paid minimum and living wages.”
LCCI advises FG
On its part, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a statement on Monday by its Director-General, Dr Chinyere Almona, commended the President.
The LCCI stated, “As the voice and representative of the business community, we acknowledge the challenges faced in the past year and commend the President for his commitment to addressing critical issues that impact the economic landscape of Nigeria. ”
The chamber said it carefully reviewed the President’s speech as he highlighted vital aspects of his administration’s achievements and challenges faced and outlined plans to address these critical concerns.
According to the LCCI, it has identified positive and concerning elements from the address to foster constructive dialogue and provide a comprehensive analysis.
It added, “The commitment to power projects, including the Siemens Energy initiative and efforts to enhance the reliability of transmission lines, is a positive step towards addressing the critical issue of electricity supply, which aligns with the business community’s aspirations for a robust and diversified economy.
“However, there is an urgent need to address the structure of the power sector. The government needs to consider bringing private sector investment into the transmission segment of the power sector. This would ensure adequate technical and financial capacity for a well-functioning sector to power economic growth.
“The focus on cultivating farmlands to grow staple crops and boost food security aligns with the need to ensure constant food supply, security, and affordability for citizens.
“However, the LCCI cautions that the productivity of the farmlands and the effectiveness of investments in food production are subject to adequate security measures.’’
It added that investments in agriculture had a limited chance of success if the government failed to deal with the security issues.
The chamber stated, “The LCCI recommends that the government consider fast-tracking the movement of the police from the exclusive list to the concurrent list to be legislated upon by the federal and state governments. This will guarantee effective policing of the nooks and crannies of the society, particularly the farmlands.
“The announcement of a new national living wage is a positive step towards ensuring the well-being of workers and promoting inclusive economic growth. The dedication to creating a conducive business environment is commendable. The assurance to simplify fiscal and tax policies, the commitment to removing obstacles hindering business competitiveness, and the call for collaboration with the private sector resonate well with the chamber’s vision for a thriving business environment.
“The LCCI believes that while removing the fuel subsidy was necessary, its impact on individuals, families, and businesses, leading to discomfort, must be carefully managed. The potential ripple effects on the cost of living and inflation must be closely monitored. Acknowledging the challenges of high inflation (above 28%) and an unacceptable under-employment rate is crucial. However, specific strategies to address these issues were not mentioned, leaving room for concerns about the impact on citizens.’’
It stated that while efforts to address security challenges were mentioned, specific details on comprehensive security strategies were limited.
The LCCI stated, “The commitment to building a fair and equitable society and addressing inequality is commendable. However, specific policy measures to close the widening wealth gap are unclear. Despite the setting parameters for the evaluation of ministers and heads of agencies mentioned, there is a need for transparency in these evaluations to ensure accountability and performance improvement.
“The LCCI appreciates the President’s efforts to address these critical issues facing the nation. However, the Chamber urges the administration to provide more detailed plans and strategies to tackle these challenges, such as inflation, under-employment, security, and social inequality. A transparent and inclusive approach to governance will contribute to building public confidence and achieving sustainable economic growth.’’