By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday in Abuja said his administration would not inflict more hardships on Nigerians, but would rather strive to alleviate the plights of citizens and create a more enabling environment for everyone to thrive.
The president made this pledge while receiving the new leaders of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) led by its President, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, at the State House.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said the president made the pledge while responding to a plea by TUC leaders that the president should resist the temptation to further hike fuel price.
According to him, the president reasoned with the group that instead of hiking fuel price, it will be better to eliminate corruption in the oil sector, assuring TUC leaders that more hardship will not be unleashed on Nigerians.
“On fuel prices, I agree with you on the need to eliminate corruption and inefficiencies in the sector. I want to assure you that, as an administration, we have no intention of inflicting any additional hardship on Nigerians,’’ the president said.
According to Shehu, the president assured that the federal government remained committed to implementation of the new national minimum wage, pointing out that Wednesday’s inaugural Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting dwelt mainly on the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), which he said included issues of the new minimum wage.
According to the statement, Buhari told the TUC executive what his administration did in its first term which he said helped Nigeria to exit recession.
“During our first term, we secured the nation’s territorial integrity and continue to protect the lives and properties of our citizens. We introduced various economic stimulus packages that support businesses and traders at all levels, promoted backward integration programmes especially in the agricultural sector to enhance our food security while creating jobs.
“We embarked on the most ambitious infrastructure development and rehabilitation projects this country has seen in decades. We also introduced the largest Social Investment Program in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Although these programs and many more successfully lifted Nigeria out of recession, the full impact is yet to be felt. In the next four years, we shall sustain this momentum and by the grace of God, lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty,’’ the statement quoted the president.
Shehu also said Buhari promised that his administration would work hard to improve on the livelihood of Nigerians, alleging that most of the inherited challenges were avoidable, if previous governments had shown commitments to infrastructure development and human capacity building.
He said the president made the allegation while responding to demands of TUC leadership for investment in agriculture, arguing that lack of power and infrastructure provision made creation of jobs by the private sector difficult.
“The points you raised are all interconnected. The lack of power and infrastructure due to decades of under-investment led to the closure or inefficient operations of a number of factories across the country. This meant the private sector was unable to create jobs fast enough to cope with our increasing population.
“You will agree with me that, all these challenges and many more were long ago left unattended to, thereby leaving the country in the mired state we inherited. You all will also testify to having seen and experienced what we have put in place as an administration to address these challenges,’’ Shehu further quoted the president.
The statement added that the TUC President in his remarks, advised the federal government to pay more attention to the welfare of Nigerians by deliberately avoiding fuel price hike and promptly implementing the new national minimum wage, which he said had been delayed by negotiations on consequential adjustments.
“We are, however, disturbed that the enthusiasm is turning into a nightmare,’’ Shehu quoted Olaleye, whom he said also implored Buhari to focus on poverty reduction and improving security.
According to the statement, Olaleye assured the president that TUC would support the government if it moves to tackle challenges facing the country.
It also said the TUC leader commended Buhari on the increase in internally generated revenue and the government’s prompt response to xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa as well as the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).