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Fuel Subsidy Removal Triggers Backlash as Organized Labour Questions Efficacy of N180bn Palliative Package

In a strong response, organized labour has criticized the Federal Government’s decision to release a N180 billion palliative package to states as a measure to offset the impact of the recent fuel subsidy removal. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have expressed doubts over the intentions of state governors, asserting that the benefits would primarily favor politicians rather than the intended beneficiaries.

The N5 billion allocated to each state government for distribution to citizens has drawn skepticism from labour unions, who argue that the money would not effectively reach those in need. The contentious fuel subsidy removal has led to sharp increases in fuel prices, consequently driving up the cost of goods and services, contributing to widespread poverty and exacerbating the country’s socio-economic challenges.

Protests by organized labour have erupted nationwide, demanding the government to prioritize the repair of refineries before implementing such a substantial policy change. The policy, which resulted in soaring fuel prices, has ignited social unrest and ignited concerns about its effect on the overall well-being of Nigerians.

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Despite the criticism, the Federal Government has defended its decision, highlighting a multi-faceted approach to alleviate the effects of the subsidy removal. During the 135th National Economic Council meeting chaired by Vice President Kashim Shettima, the Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, unveiled the details of the palliative package. The N5 billion allocation to each state aims to enable the procurement of essential items, including 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize, and fertilizers, to combat food shortages across the country.

Furthermore, the government has outlined a formula for the distribution of funds, with 52 percent allotted as grants to states and 48 percent to be repaid to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by states and local government areas over a 20-month period.

In response to the government’s actions, labor unions have questioned the transparency and effectiveness of the distribution process. Assistant National Secretary-General of the NLC, Mr Chris Onyeka, raised concerns about governors’ intentions and emphasized the importance of adhering to the previously agreed-upon milestones for addressing the subsidy withdrawal.

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The Trade Union Congress (TUC) echoed similar sentiments, underscoring the need for a transparent body to oversee the implementation of the palliative funds. Deputy National President, Tommy Etim, emphasized the importance of accountability to ensure that the relief reaches the intended recipients, especially vulnerable groups.

Despite the government’s efforts, criticism persists regarding the scale of the palliative package and its ability to provide substantial relief to Nigerians affected by the fuel subsidy removal. The tug-of-war between organized labour and the government underscores the challenges of navigating socio-economic reforms and addressing the concerns of the citizens. As the nation grapples with these issues, the debate over the efficacy of the palliative measures continues.

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