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Nigerians kick against Tinubu’s N500b ‘wasteful’ palliative, slam NASS’ speedy approvals

Nigerians kick against Tinubu’s N500b ‘wasteful’ palliative, slam NASS’ speedy approvals

Organised labour in Nigeria on Thursday described as laughable and economic waste, the plans by the Nigerian government to transfer N8000 to 12 million poor households in the country for six months.

In separate requests to the two chambers of the National Assembly, President Bola Tinubu had sought approval from the Senate and House of Representatives for an $800 million loan and N500 billion palliative for the removal of petrol subsidy.

In May, former president, Muhammadu Buhari, had asked the Senate to approve the loan request despite the public outcry it generated.

Tinubu’s letter, which was tagged ‘Request for approval of additional financing of the national social safety net programme set up by the National Assembly,’ stated: “The purpose of the facility is to expand coverage of shock responsive safety net support for all and vulnerable Nigerians and the cost of meeting basic needs.

“Under the conditional cash transfer window of the programme, the Federal Government will transfer the sum of N8,000 a month to 12 million poor and low income households for a period of six months with a multiplier effect on about 60 million individuals.”

President Tinubu further explained that “to guarantee credibility of the process, digital transfers will be made directly to beneficiaries’ accounts and mobile wallets.

“It is expected that the programme will stimulate economic activities in the informal sector and improve nutrition, health and education outcomes for beneficial households.”

The Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Dr. Ben Akabueze, had recently criticised the continuous accumulation of public debt, saying the lean revenue does not support the move.

Speaking at the induction programme for lawmakers elected into the 10th National Assembly, Akabueze lamented: “We now have very limited borrowing space, not because our debt-to-GDP is high, but because our revenue is too small to sustain the size of our debt. That explains our high debt service ratio.

Despite all the reservations, the Nigerian Senate, without delay, approved Tinubu’s requests – the $800 million World Bank loan and N500 billion fuel subsidy removal palliative.

According to the Senate, the N500 billion request meant to cushion the negative effects of the removal of fuel subsidy by the executive shows that the nation has a “government that listens.”

Also on Thursda, the Senate passed amendments to the N819.500 billion 2022 supplementary budget. In passing that amended supplementary budget, the Senate approved N500 billion for palliatives and other capital expenditure to cushion the effect of the recent subsidy removal policy.

N185,236,937,815 was approved for the Ministry of Works and Housing to alleviate the impact of the severe flooding experienced in the country in 2022 on road infrastructure across the six geopolitical zones.

The sum of N19,200,000,000 was approved by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to ameliorate the massive destruction to farmlands across the country during the severe flooding experienced last year.

Also, the sum of N35 billion was approved for the National Judicial Council; N10 billion to Federal Capital Territory Administration for critical projects, while the National Assembly got N70 billion to support the working conditions of new members in the Assembly.

Nigerians kick

The organised labour called on the government to halt the policy implementation, querying what N8,000 monthly to 12 million Nigerians could do, compared to the hyperinflation and socio-economic challenges the nation is currently battling with.

According to them, with about 133 million Nigerians that are multi-dimensionally suffering from poverty, N8,000 for six months, which translates to N48,000 in six months, will neither eradicate nor alleviate poverty in 12 million household’s lives.

They maintained that what the government has done was an ambush and gone beyond what it was supposed to do, stating that it has compromised the workings of the Presidential Steering Committee it inaugurated to come up with a framework on how palliatives would be distributed to cushion the effect of subsidy removal on Nigerians.

Also, the special assistant on public communications to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Phrank Shaibu, described Tinubu’s plan to hand out N8,000 to 12 million households for six months as a brazen attempt to divert public funds.

Shaibu said in a statement that Tinubu’s plan to spend $800m on palliatives under an opaque arrangement was reminiscent of former President Buhari’s conditional cash transfer and COVID-19 intervention initiative, which saw politicians keeping food items and provisions in their homes while the poor went hungry.

He said Buhari’s interventionist programmes only ended up making Nigerians poorer as shown in reports released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Atiku’s aide stated: “After announcing the removal of petrol subsidy without proper planning, Tinubu has asked for the approval of $800m loan, which he claims will be disbursed to 12 million households for six months at N8,000 for each household per month. This is a continuation of the scam of the All Progressives Congress.

“According to statistics, a Nigerian household as at 2019 counted on an average of 5.06 members. So, with Tinubu’s uninspiring plan, each individual in a household will get N1,600 per month or N53 per day. What should they do with it? Use the money to buy sachet (pure) water or a cup of boiled groundnut on a daily basis? And this is the man they claim transformed the economy of Lagos State? This must be a joke or a more sinister attempt to divert public funds.”

Shaibu argued that Tinubu lacked a clear economic policy apart from taxing Nigerians. He said having deceptively attained presidential power, Tinubu has been exposed as an economic illiterate.

“His only plan is to tax Nigerians to death as he did in Lagos and that is why the people of Lagos rejected him in the last election. Tinubu promised to turn Nigeria’s economy into a $1 trillion economy but it is all a scam and can never be achieved with his brand of agberonomics.”

He added: “Agriculture makes up about 30 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP. He should have invested funds in the production aspect of agriculture and other issues affecting crop yields. The rural areas, which are mostly agrarian, are in the throes of insecurity. On Tinubu’s watch, over 200 people have so far been killed. However, he seems clueless on how to tackle this menace.

“The so-called palliatives that Tinubu seeks to share to the poor are just another avenue to divert public funds. For years, the Nigerian government has rejected calls to publish the list of the beneficiaries of the so-called palliatives but this has never been done because it is all a scam.”

President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Dr. Tommy Okon, said the poverty situation in Nigeria could not be wished away by mere palliatives, adding that as far as labour is concerned, the government is paying lip service to the poverty situation in the country.

The Director-General of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, said the government must stop using scarce resources to fix policy problems. He said it was both unrealistic and unsustainable, alleging that the subsidy regime is a scam and has not in any way benefitted the so-called ‘vulnerable’ citizens.

He said it makes no economic sense to inject cash in the form of palliatives into an economy that is already beset with unending inflationary pressures.

“It is worthy of note that previous palliatives had proved not to palliate the economic woes of the citizens. In reality and within the context of our current economic situation, the majority of Nigerians are vulnerable, especially organised businesses.”

National President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Festus Osifo, who kicked against the move, said any palliative payment by the Federal Government must be in line with the agreement reached with labour in line with the technical committee meeting.

The TUC Deputy President, Dr. Tommy Okon, also queried how the government would determine those who are to benefit from the data deficit in Nigeria.

He said it was proper for the government to allow the presidential committee on the removal of oil subsidy to conclude its report and arrive at a collective agreement with the organised labour before embarking on any palliative care distribution.

 

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