Subsidy removal: Artisans, business owners accuse NLC, TUC Of selling out

Abuja—A cross-section of artisans, engineers and other Nigerians have accused the organised labour of selling out over the resolutions reached with the federal government on the fuel subsidy removal.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Monday secured “seven key agreements” with the federal government before suspending their planned nationwide strike scheduled to commence today.

Daily Trust reports that the unions were set for their first major national strike in eight years, hours before the workers back-pedalled after reaching an agreement with the government.

This, however, did not go down well with many Nigerians who believed it was unlike NLC and TUC to cave in after they convinced millions of Nigerians that they would act on their behalf.

Reading out the communiqué issued at the end of the Monday night meeting with the labour unions, the Speaker House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who led the government side, said seven resolutions were reached to address the situation, including that;

“The federal government, the TUC and the NLC to establish a joint committee to review the proposal for any wage increase or award and establish a framework and timeline for implementation.

“The federal government, the TUC and the NLC to review the World Bank Financed Cash transfer scheme and propose inclusion of low-income earners in the programme.

“The federal government, the TUC and the NLC to revive the CNG conversion programme earlier agreed with labour centres in 2021 and work out detailed implementation and timing,” among others.

But Nigerians who will not likely benefit from the palliatives proposed at the meeting as they are not civil servants have condemned the labour unions.

Muhammed Yunusa, a fashion designer in Kubwa, Abuja, who uses petrol for his generator to operate industrial machines for sewing, said it had not been easy carrying out his work.

“The petrol we normally get for N220 before is now between N537 and N550 per litre. How can we cope with that? We are just struggling to survive; the money is not there.

“I am still wondering why the NLC shelved the strike. I plead with the authorities concerned to consider us. Although the decision to remove the subsidy is good, the timing is very wrong,” he said.

Olagunju Deji, a barber, said the cost of living and doing business in Nigeria had gone up with the subsidy removal.

He said, “From the day President (Bola Ahmed) Tinubu made the announcement, there was this wind of suffering that blew away the roof of the average Nigerian and exposed us to more hardship. With this increased petrol price, there will be a rise in the cost of food, a rise in house rents, transportation and school fees.

“The situation is really affecting my business because after increasing my barbing fee, quite a number of customers stopped coming to my shop. The NLC should have embarked on the planned protest.”

A bakery owner, Thomas Ruth, said it was inhuman to remove the subsidy without putting in place palliatives to cushion the effects.

“Businesses like mine depend on electricity. The epileptic power supply and lack of money to buy enough fuel to power generators will ground our business.

“The situation is pathetic. This is very sad and inexcusable for a government that is just coming in. If you don’t get fuel and no electricity, you will stop operation, no money to make and salaries will not be paid. Bread and garri are going to be out of reach with these unnecessary hikes,” Ruth said.

Yusuf Idris said he could no longer take his family’s clothes to the laundry due to the increase in the service fee.

“I pay N400 for a pair of clothes but now they have increased it by 100 per cent, how much am I earning?

Also speaking, a tailor, Ibrahim Na’Allah said, “We used to sew a pair of cloth at the rate of N3,500 but now we can hardly sew that to you at the rate of N5,000. Even the cost of materials we used in sewing the clothes has increased.”

A staff of a hotel in Kano, Martha Musa, said she was surprised that the labour rescinded its decision to embark on a protest.

She said, “We knew all along that the labour was up to something. They met last week, so why delay the strike till Wednesday? This appears to me that the labour has sold out. The resolutions reached did not capture some of us who are not government workers. What is the percentage of those they are seeking wage increase for?”

Malam Musa Ismaila, a civil servant, also accused the labour leaders of insincerity.

“Some states have not implemented the N30, 000 minimum wage, yet the labour leaders are seeking an increase. Who are they fooling? What about traders and other private persons, what do they stand to gain from the resolutions? There is pressure on their earnings already,” he said.

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