NLC seeks recovery of stolen bailout funds

NLC President, Ayuba Wabba
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The Nigeria Labour Congress has faulted a proposal by state governors asking the Federal Government to retrench workers above 50 years and impose taxes on citizens who earned above N30,000.

To overcome the dwindling economy, the governors had reportedly  proposed the elimination of fuel subsidy and under-recovery estimated at about N7 trillion and the implementation of the reviewed Oronsaye Report.

They were also said to have asked the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to convert the nation’s N19 trillion debt into a 100-year bond, eliminate the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited’s federation-funded projects and reduce the National Assembly constituency projects, among other things.

But the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, in a letter to the President dated August 8, and titled, “Reviving the economy: Our response to governors prescriptions,” said the governors’ proposal smacked of “extreme selfishness and insensate cruelty”.

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The letter, which was routed through the President’s Chief of Staff, was made available to journalists in Abuja on Friday.

While acknowledging the need to revitalise the economy, the union insisted that removing fuel subsidy was unrealistic, insensitive and hypocritical, adding that it could lead to unintended consequences “which we would be better off without.”

The solution to subsidy and the ballooning deficits, he said, could be found in domestic refining, effective management of the refineries, and creating an enabling environment for effective and efficient public sector leadership in the building and management of local refineries.

The NLC further accused the governors of lacking the culture of saving for the rainy day, noting that few of them had little to show for all the money they had collected.

 Wabba stated, “We recall you (the President)  had the presence of mind to give out huge bailout and budget support funds to enable the governors clear backlogs of salaries and pensions for which we workers remain grateful to you. You equally halted repayments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There could be no better demonstration of understanding and empathy by a leader but the governors abused it all as few of them applied these funds to the purposes for which the funds were given. Give or take, not more than 20 per cent of these funds were properly channelled.

“In the past, the ICPC did a good job of tracking down how these funds were used which is partly responsible for the financial straits we have found ourselves in today.  Accordingly, we would strongly urge you to direct the ICPC and the EFCC to track afresh and make public how the governors diverted and misused these funds with a view to full recovery.”

 The congress further argued that the proposal for premature termination of the appointments of public servants as canvassed by the governors was a clear violation of their contracts of employment which is a subsisting law.

“We find this repugnant, shameful and utterly irresponsible. Those promoting this idea should be treated as enemies of your government,’’ Wabba added, stressing that the implementation of the proposal would lead to the sacking of almost a quarter of the public sector workforce, the decapitation of the most experienced layer of the public service, and the intensification of poverty and misery among citizens.

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