NLC Opposes $30bn Foreign Loan, Calls for Minimum Wage Review

  • Warns FG against further fuel price hike

Paul Obi in Abuja

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) friday expressed opposition to plans by the federal government to obtain a foreign loan of about $30 billion to fund infrastructural projects in the country.

The NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba made the position of the Union on the loan issue public during the ongoing National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the NLC in Sokoto.

Wabba declared: “The NLC will not support the plan by the federal government to borrow more money from anywhere as we obviously have enough to attend to our immediate needs.

“If the government vigorously pursues those in possession of our collective wealth, especially multinationals who have refused to remit funds meant for corporate Nigeria, we would have enough to rejuvenate the economy and the quality of the lives of our people.

“NEITI has already been quoted to have discovered that $22 billion had not been remitted by multinational firms to the federation account. This amount alone can take care of some of the areas any new loan is expected to be expended on.

“If we must borrow, perhaps such borrowings, on terms strictly not against our collective interests and in particular not designed to deepen our debt burden, it should be directed towards revitalising rail transportation and roads and not for servicing remunerations or tastes of public office holders.

“We are also opposed to the idea of giving public funds to bail out commercial banks or interests, especially the recent proposal to give out $7 billion as bailout funds to commercial banks without any repayment schedule whatsoever.”

The NLC also warned the federal government against any further increment in the pump prices of petroleum products.

The NLC’s warning is coming months after the government hiked the price to N145 from N86 per litre.

Wabba threatened that the NLC would do all it could and within its powers, to mobilise Nigerians against President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, should government insist on the purported fuel price increase.

He explained that the current economic realities do not support further increment of fuel prices, because no positive effect had been felt with the last hike.

“While Nigerians are still struggling to cope with the severe hardship imposed on them by the last increase in the price of petroleum products, there are ongoing campaigns and contradictory statements by the NNPC and government officials on yet another plan to review the template for the pricing of petroleum products.

“We are totally opposed to any further increases as we are yet to see the benefits of the last increase even as the current Minimum Wage Act has not been reviewed. It would amount to unleashing further hardship on workers and the poor if any further price increase is allowed,” he said.

The NLC boss maintained that it would amount to provocation if the federal government pushed forward with the planned hike.

“The government must not take us for granted; indeed the patience and perseverance of the entire populace must not be taken for granted as we will sure mobilise the entire citizenry for mass protests in addition to other legitimate actions to resist any further increase.

“What is urgently required of government is not another increase, but a downward review of the current pump price of petroleum products,” Wabba told NLC NEC members.

On national minimum wage, he said: “The current National Minimum Wage Act has long elapsed and as you are already aware, we have long submitted our proposal for a review but government seems not in a haste to recognise the urgency in attending to our demands.

“Nigerian workers and pensioners are as important to the growth of the economy and must not be allowed to continue to suffer further hardships. We therefore reiterate our call on government to treat the review of the minimum wage and pension with the utmost urgency they deserve.”

Speaking against the backdrop of recent criticisms that have trailed the administration’s anti-corruption approach, Wabba said: “While NLC supports the fight against graft, we urge that the battle should be more systemic and institutionalised with strong laws and institutions strengthened enough to sustain the battle. Our country has been seriously harmed both in image and resources by the impunity with which public funds were looted for decades such that what we need is beyond a flash in the pan approach.

The NLC President also called for an inclusive, transparent, accountable government in line with the principle of good governance.

He cautioned the administration against bowing to foreign economic prescriptions.

He said: “The prescriptions only generate massive wealth for the tiny few rich while devastating the quality of lives of the citizens.

“We should not be seen to be accepting alien economic recovery policies that have been proven to be responsible for our problems in the first instance as all previous prescriptions from the Breton Woods institutions have only ended up destroying our economy and impoverishing our people.”