NLC Writes Buhari, Rejects Governors’ Call for Mass Retirement of Workers
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to discard the recommendations by state governors on how to halt drift of the economy, including compulsory retirement of civil servants aged 50 years and above from service.
The Congress said that as part of efforts to revamp the economy, Buhari should direct the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate and make public how the governors diverted and misused funds allocated the states with a view to ensuring full recovery.
In a letter addressed to President Buhari and signed by NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, the Congress said that it found most of the suggestions by the governors distasteful and repugnant.
In the letter titled ‘Reviving the Economy: Our Response to Governors Prescriptions’, the NLC said though it agrees that the economy is in need of revitalisation, it felt disappointed with some of the prescriptions of the governors as they smack of “extreme selfishness and insensate cruelty”.
NLC said that the governors had proposed amongst others, the elimination of PMS subsidy/under-recovery estimated at N6-7 trillion, early retirement of civil servants from age 50 and above, the implementation of the reviewed Oronsaye Report, putting an end to financing government’s budgetary expenditures, converting its N19 trillion debt into a 100-year bond.
Other recommendations by the governors include; putting a final stop to PMS subsidy, eliminating NNPC’s federation-funded projects, capping Social Investment Programme (SIP) and National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy budgets at N200 billion, eliminating extra-constitutional deductions from FAAC, reducing National Assembly constituency projects.
But NLC said that the call for the premature termination of the appointments of public servants from age 50 and above is 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 a clear invitation to anarchy and damnation. Those promoting this idea should be treated as enemies of your government,” it said.
NLC further argued that the implementation of the 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.
“We find it necessary to reiterate our position here once again that any action or process or policy that will lead to the loss of jobs or incomes by workers will not only be inhumane and unconscionable, but shall be resisted by us,” said NLC.
NLC further said that it considers as heartless the recommendation that the planned 22 per cent salary increase for workers be 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.”
It said that 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,” it said.
On the removal of fuel subsidy, NLC said it would lead to the removal of the little benefit the average person in Nigeria enjoys and subsequently leads to unintended consequences.
According to NLC, the solution to subsidy 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.
On the recommendation for the imposition of new taxes, especially the ones that hits the poor masses most, NLC is opposed to it.
“We find it repugnant that any reasonable person acting reasonably would still seek to impose more taxes, and consequently more hardships on this segment of society,” it said.
Instead NLC said that the rich should be the ones to be compelled to pay more taxes as obtained in other civilised societies and not what the governors are canvassing for.
“Accordingly, we call for a raise in taxes across the board for the rich, including increased taxes on luxury goods and lifestyles.
“We are at a loss as to what the governors mean by “reduce personnel costs of FG MDAs”. Mass retrenchment? Wage cuts? Wage freeze? Recruitment freeze or what?
“Certainly, we will never be in support of waste in any form and personnel costs, in our view, ought not constitute a waste given the fact that the greatest assets of any nation are its personnel for whom nothing is too big to be given.
“By far, the fastest way of reviving the economy is through building the capacity of its personnel because of its multiplier effect. President Obama put this strategy to good use. President Obasanjo also did same when he reviewed upward the wages of workers across board in the early 2000s.”
NLC said that if any costs need taming, “it’s the profligate lifestyle of governors, the excesses and ostentatious lifestyle of political office holders and the corruption they promote.
“Governors are clawing and clutching at everything in sight in order to save their skin because the moment of truth (the moment of refund) is here.
“We recall you had the presence of mind to give out huge bail-out and budget support funds to enable the Governors clear backlogs of salaries and pensions for which we workers remain grateful to you.
“You equally halted repayments during COVID-19 pandemic. There could be no better demonstration of understanding and empathy by a leader but the Governors abused it all as few of them applied these funds to the purposes for which the funds were given,” it said.
However, NLC said that not more than 20 per cent of these funds were properly channelled.
“Accordingly, we would strongly urge you to direct ICPC and EFCC to track afresh and make public how the Governors diverted and misused these funds with a view to full recovery,” it added