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NLC Protests Tinubu’s N500bn Subsidy Palliative, Demands 300% Pay Rise

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Bola Tinubu

Last Updated on July 18, 2023 by Fellow Press

Bola Tinubu

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress have thumbed down the N500bn palliative proposed by President Bola Tinubu, stating that it is grossly inadequate to assuage the hardships confronting workers sequel to the fuel subsidy removal.

They are demanding a 300 per cent salary increase to enable workers to cope with the challenges imposed by the deteriorating economic situation that came with the removal of the controversial fuel subsidy.

On Wednesday, the President wrote to the House of Representatives seeking approval for N500bn to cushion the effects of petrol subsidy removal.

Tinubu’s request was contained in a letter sent to the National Assembly and read during plenary by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas.

The President had announced the petrol subsidy removal during his inaugural address on May 29, 2023, in response to claims that the subsidy regime favoured the rich more than the average Nigerians, among other reasons.

In his letter, the President proposed an amendment to the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act.

It read, “I write to the House of Reps to approve the amendment of the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act in accordance with the attached.

“The request has become necessarily important to, among other things, the source for funds necessary to provide palliatives to mitigate the effect of the removal of fuel subsidy on Nigerians.

“Thus, the sum of N500bn only has been extracted from the 2022 Supplementary Act of N819,536,937,815 for the provision of palliative to cushion the effect of petrol subsidy removal.”

The president said he hoped the lawmakers would consider his request “expeditiously.”

The House is expected to hold a plenary today on the president’s request.

Last December, the National Assembly passed a supplementary budget of N819bn for the 2022 fiscal year and also extended the implementation of the 2022 budget till March 31, 2023.

In May, the National Assembly passed the amendment to the 2022 supplementary budget to extend the implementation of the capital components to December 2023.

But unimpressed by the amount contained in the President’s letter, the NLC noted that the money would not be enough to cater for 125 million Nigerians who are believed to be living in poverty.

The National Treasurer of the NLC, Hakeem Ambali, who spoke in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja, questioned the extent to which the palliative would cover.

When asked if the amount would be sufficient, he said, “Definitely not. We have over 125m Nigerians that are technically poor. To what extent can this cushion the effects of this economic hardship?”

Speaking on ways by which the President can mitigate the effect of subsidy removal, the NLC official asked for “Minimum wage review of 300 per cent to all workers; granting licences to individuals for modular refineries to refine petrol locally; granting economic stimulus loan to SMEs at 15 per cent rate.’’

He added, ‘’The government should provide social benefits for aged and unemployed youths; agric loans to farmers and youths through the Agric Bank and community banks at single digit rate; provide alternative energy supply such as massive investment in solar power and Compressed Natural Gas to motorists.

“Fix the refineries; reverse the privatization of electricity back to the state due to poor performance; Execute metro rail line projects in all state capitals and reduction of school fees for students of tertiary institutions.”

NACCIMA, LCCI react

Speaking with The PUNCH, the Director-General of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Olusola Obadimu, welcomed the idea of palliatives for the poor, but he questioned how the N500bn for the palliative measures would be spent.

According to him, the chamber will refrain from making further comments on the matter until clarification is given on how the fund would be utilised.

He said, “The idea, in principle, is good. Of course, people expect some relief. It is in the statement that we issued. We said it clearly that palliatives would be a good idea. We argued for it. But talking about a specific figure is something we can’t do when we don’t know the scope. The concept is fine, but we need more information about the scope.”

On his part, the Deputy-President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gabriel Idahosa, while commending the move, said the fund would be insufficient to cushion the impact of the subsidy removal and the devaluation of the naira.

He further stated that the media and other interest groups must sustain the advocacy to ensure that the palliative measures are extended to the public and private sectors.

Idahosa said, “Whatever the president implements will not be sufficient to wipe out the impact of the two policies — subsidy removal and floating of the currency. So, it is going to be a partial effort to reduce, not eliminate the effect of those policies.

“There is a basis to complain if the details come out and only the public (sector) gets to benefit from it, then everybody in the private sector has a reason to complain. We have to wait and see how the first set of palliatives will be designed, then we can complain legitimately if the private sector is not involved.”

The President of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Mr Laoye Jaiyeola, said his group supported the palliative measure but stressed that it should be extended to those who really needed it.

He stated, “The clarity is that all of us are saying we must have palliative for the people affected. So if you are asking for palliative and the president cannot spend one naira without approval; so, where can he get it if he doesn’t borrow it?

‘’Everyone said there must be palliative for the subsidy removal and the palliative means that government must address the shock of the people. You know you cannot spend without approval and you also know that we are in deficit before; so, which other way can he get money if not borrow? So, he is following what the procedure says is legal.

“We support palliatives but it should go to the ultimate consumer and not those who sit in one place and are spending money. Identify the people that were affected the most and give them the palliative.”

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FG updates on UAE lifting visa ban on Nigeria

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The Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo, has revealed that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government will soon announce the date for lifting the visa ban that has been imposed on Nigerian travellers.

This information was shared during an interview with Otega Ogra, Senior Special Assistant to President Bola Tinubu, which is available on the official YouTube page of the State House of Nigeria.

Keyamo acknowledged that while a resolution was reached between President Bola Tinubu and UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan during President Tinubu’s working visit to the UAE in September 2023, additional processes were required before the ban could be officially lifted.

He said the processes have now been completed, paving the way for the imminent announcement from the UAE government.

“After that high-level meeting, Mr. President, credited to him, made things very easy for us all. We did our follow-ups as his ministers. We have done everything. We have resolved everything.

“Just wait for the announcement from the UAE government, and that announcement is imminent,” Keyamo stated.

The Minister further mentioned that he is aware of the specific date when the travel restriction will be lifted, but he emphasized that it is up to the UAE government to make the official announcement.

The lifting of the ban is expected to restore ease of travel for Nigerian citizens to the UAE, thereby enhancing bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries.

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Otedola, Zenith Bank settle out-of-court

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The Federal High Court of Nigeria, Lagos Division, dismissed the case on Thursday on receiving a notice of discontinuance from the plaintiffs.

Femi Otedola, the chairman of FBN Holdings and majority shareholder of Geregu Plc, and some of his companies have opted for an out-of-court settlement with Zenith Bank Plc.

Otedola was involved in a legal dispute with the bank over alleged “fraudulent transactions” on his company’s accounts.

Court papers obtained by PREMIUM TIMES showed the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Lagos Division, where Mr Otedola and his companies filed the suit against the lender on 12 March, dismissed the case on Thursday, 13 June, on receiving a notice of discontinuance from the plaintiffs.

Zenon Petroleum & Gas Limited, Seaforce Shipping Co. Limited, Luzon Oil & Gas Limited, Garment Care and Mr Otedola were the plaintiffs, while Zenith Bank, Quantum Zenith Securities & Investment Limited, Veritas Registrars Limited and Central Securities Clearing System Plc were the defendants.

According to a court document, Justice A.O. Faji discontinued the lawsuit after the counsel for the first to third defendants and the counsel for the plaintiffs asked for the matter to be dismissed, with the “counsel for the fourth defendant not objecting.”

Details

Mr Otedola and his companies initiated legal action against Zenith Bank and the other defendants in March, claiming that the lender disposed of his shares in the bank without authorisation, manipulated the companies’ bank accounts and fabricated some documents to conceal the alleged crimes.

He accused the lender of wrongfully calculating his debts before selling them to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), which the bank set up to buy the non-performing loans in the books of banks with the intention of recovering them thereafter.

Zenon had claimed that the letters of credit that led to the bad loans AMCON acquired were opened before the corporation took over the debt in December 2011. The company stopped operating the account after AMCON’s intervention.

According to a document seen by PREMIUM TIMES, the overdue on Zenon’s account at the point AMCON took over the liabilities was N39 billion. Zenon said Zenith Bank offered the debt to the corporation at N49 billion. AMCON ended up paying the bank N44.1 billion for the debt.

Sources with knowledge of the matter told PREMIUM TIMES in May that Mr Otedola chose to take legal action against the bank after several failed reconciliation attempts. During the month, both parties held three meetings, none yielding the desired results.

“It is clear that Zenith Bank Plc is not sincere in resolving this issue out of court and as such a time-wasting exercise,” one of the sources said.

“At this juncture, we have resolved to pursue our claims via the judiciary, law enforcement, the CBN and the court of public opinion as we know that our claims are very genuine.”

According to a document detailing the deliberations of both parties at a meeting held on 20 May, Zenith Bank agreed to refund the N205 million it wrongfully debited to Zenon’s account with compounded accrued interest using a bankdraft.

Seaforce Shipping Company Limited, owned by the billionaire tycoon, said Zenith Bank presented some statements of account claiming that it owed the bank N5.9 billion as of February 2024. It added that Zenith Bank abandoned the claim after the company showed proof that Seaforce’s account was in credit as of 2018.

A source said Zenith Bank sold the 415 million shares that Zenon held in Zenith Bank for N4.9 billion in December 2010, noting that the shares were repurchased in the following month for N5.4 billion, triggering a net loss of N142.9 million.

He further disclosed that related transactions were carried out on Mr Otedola’s account, causing a net loss of N61.5 million and a combined loss of N205.4 million in both cases.

Isyaku Mohammed, the commissioner of police in charge of administration at the Force Criminal Investigation Department, summoned the managing director of Zenith Bank on 16 May over what he described as an alleged unauthorised debit to Zenon’s account.

“This office is investigating an alleged case of fraudulent misrepresentation, wrongful debit and unauthorised transactions referred from the assistant inspector general of police, FCID Annex, Alagbon Close, Ikoyi, Lagos, involving your financial institution,” the letter, a copy obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, read.

“A precis of the petition at disposal reveals that sometime in 2011, an unauthorised withdrawal was carried out on the account of Zenon Petroleum Gas Limited with number 10110385211 to the tune of Two Hundred and Five Million, Three Hundred and Forty-six Thousand, Five Hundred and Seventy-Three Naira (N205,346,573.00) without justification.”

The letter stated that Zenith Bank wrongfully opened some letters of credit after AMCON acquired the debt in 2011, which led to unsolicited loan disbursement that further plunged Zenon into indebtedness.

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