Palliatives: Workers tell FG to repair refineries, increase salaries

President Tinubu 1

Some federal workers have urged the Federal Government to speedily repair the refineries in the country to mitigate the high cost of living following the removal of fuel subsidy.

In a survey conducted among some federal workers in Ondo, Ekiti and Osun states by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), respondents were unanimous that the roll out of palliatives was not sustainable.

Following the removal of fuel subsidy at the advent of the present government on May 29, the price of fuel increased from N185 per litre to between N580 and N615.

The effect was a sharp rise in cost of transportation, prices of goods and services and hyper inflation in the country.

Consequently, the Federal Government recently announced the release of N5 billion to each state as palliative, among other measures, to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal.

The workers, who lamented the hardship being suffered since the removal of subsidy, commended the federal government for the roll out of palliatives and proposed salary increase.

They, however, said that the measures were unsustainable as long as the country continues to import fuel.

Prince Leke Adegbite, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Ondo State Chapter, said the palliatives could not go far in addressing the hard times occasioned by the fuel subsidy removal.

He appealed to President Bola Tinubu to ensure that the nation’s refineries become functional.

“Something needs to be done urgently because the palliatives cannot go far or address anything. The political class will corner about 80 per cent of the materials meant for the masses.

“The president may have good intentions but what about the governors who are reviewing the materials?

“And it is even obvious that nothing has been dedicated for federal workers from all these palliatives,” he said.

Although Adegbite agreed that the issue of fixing the refineries would not be an easy task, he maintained that it was necessary because Nigerians buy fuel every day.

“Our refineries should be revamped so that Nigerians, especially federal workers, can heave a sigh of relief. Only operational refineries can settle this economic woes,” he said

Also, Mr Bola Adeyemi, a staff of Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), said the situation was no longer bearable especially for men who are mostly breadwinners of their families.

“It no longer easy because prices of foodstuffs and transportation are very high now and we only await God and government intervention on the issue.

“We are really suffering now and yet we still have to go to work everyday because of the nature of our job, it’s not easy.

“Children will be resuming back to school next month. This is another issue that would concern parents because of books, payment of tuition and others must have gone up too. Government should intervene as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Also, Mr Victor Amoko, Chairman, Nigeria Labor Congress, Ondo State Chapter, said reduction in number of working days to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal on workers would have a negative impact on the nation’s economy.

Amoko explained that reducing work hours would be like going on strike, which, according to him, does not augur well for the economy of any nation.

The union leader called on government to rather consider making provision of shuttle buses for the workers’ use, upgrade their salaries or allowances or provide other incentives that could reduce the effect on them.

“The governors who had earlier reduced number of work days in their states have come back to say it is not the answer, but I do not blame them much,” he said.

Similarly, Mr Clement Fatuase, Chairman, Trade Union Congress, Ondo State, likened cutting down number of work days within a week to cutting down the productive hours as a result of economic meltdown.

“I don’t think that there is any reason to cut down the work hours because of the fuel subsidy removal that directly affects our finances and budget as workers.

“I think our employers should use the opportunity to appreciate workers and do something that will encourage workers to put in more efforts so that the efforts will translate to better productivity.

“Reducing work days will not help our GDP. I will advice that instead of reducing work days, employers can provide free shuttle buses, give incentives to encourage them and boost their wages,” he said.

In Ekiti, Mr Tope Balogun, another federal civil servant, said that the cost of buying food items had become too expensive for him to afford.

Balogun also said that the high cost of transportation was currently affecting his duties because he now reports for duty three times in a week.

He appealed to President Tinubu to regulate price of petrol , cost of food, so as to enable civil servants live comfortably with their families.

Balogun appealed to the federal government to consider the sufferings of workers, and increase the minimum wage from 30 per cent to 80 per cent, so as to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal.

An economist, Dr Bose Oluwalana, said the only solution to end the sufferings of Nigerians, especially civil servants, was for the government to urgently review the minimum wage upward.

” Many civil servants hardly go to the office on daily basis again because of cost of transportation, this will definitely affect our productivity as a country”, she said.

Also in Osun, Mr Leye Adebayo, a federal civil servant, said since the removal of fuel subsidy, he had been finding it difficult to take  care of his family due to increase in the prices of food and transportation.

Adebayo, who noted that the hyper inflation in the country due to removal fuel subsidy had rendered his meagre monthly salary useless, said the cost of living was no longer within the reach of the impoverished civil servants.

“It is not easy  at all; cost of transportation, cost living and other services have gone beyond our reach, and nothing was added to our salary to cushion the effect.

” Before now, I used to spend N400 to my place of work on a daily basis, but now, I spend N1200 on the same trip.

” Prices of food has gone up. My salary is barely enough to feed my family and yet government is doing nothing about the wage increase,” he said.

He said that the federal government was yet to come out with a new wage increase and kept delaying the whole process with labour union.

” Federal government on several occasions met with the labour union, but with no fruitful outcome; all what we are hearing is “something good is on the way for workers”.

” I am worried because committee upon committee were set up without any tangible results”, he said.

Similarly, Mrs Bose Opayinka, a federal civil servant working in one of the  agency under the Federal Ministry of Health, decried the hardship workers were now facing due to the removal of fuel subsidy.

Opayinka, who noted that she could no longer cope with the increase in the prices of food items and transportation, appealed to the government to come to the aid of the workers.

” Inasmuch as I am not against the removal of fuel subsidy, the government should have put measures  in place  that will minimise the negative impact of the removal of fuel subsidy on workers and the masses at large.

” Workers are suffering due to the rising inflation and government is foot dragging on the implementation of wage award for workers; this is sad”, she said.

Another federal worker, Mr David Tinuola, said with the rising cost of food items and transportation, without increase in the salary, government should not expect the best from the workers.

Tinuola, who explained that workers and the masses in general are facing the worst time ever, said that he had to park his car at home due to increase in the price of the fuel.

” I have a car but can’t fuel it. On a daily basis, I have to trek to a particular spot before boarding a bus to work to reduce the cost of transportation.

” Prices of food items  is on a high side. A bag of rice is now N 47,000 and yet there is no increase in salary.

” With this scenario, how does government expect the workers to give their best? It is sad.

” Government has set up several committees on wage review without any positive outcome.

” I appeal to government to do something urgent to ameliorate the suffering of workers. We cannot cope any longer; we are dying “, he said.

Meanwhile, an economist, Mr Samuel Atiku, said that reducing the number of working days  for workers was not the solution to the current economic hardship.

Atiku said the only solution is for government to implement wage award for workers pending the negotiation on minimum wage in 2024.

” The only way  civil servants can escape poverty is when their income is growing faster than the increase in the prices of good and services.

” Civil servants over the years have been facing severe pressure on how their remuneration can fit in with the some economic policies, even  before the present crises of fuel subsidy removal .

”  We can  see that the situation has now been compounded with  fuel subsidy removal and the devaluation of naira”, he said.

Atiku, who is also a public policy analyst at the International Budget Partnership, said there was urgent need for government to increase the salaries of civil servants and also provide tangible palliatives for the masses.

Also, Mr Nwokocha Chijioke,  Executive Director, Motivator’s Crib Africa, said there are more practical steps that government could take to minimise the impact of removal of fuel subsidy on workers than reducing the numbers of working days.

Chijioke said  government needed to provide  free transportation for workers to and from their place of  work  as well as increase their salaries.

”Everything is increasing, while salaries remain stagnant.

”There is urgent need for government to increase workers salaries in the face of the present economic realities for them to live a decent life” he said.