Federal workers have urged the federal government to speedily increase their salaries and repair the refineries in the country to mitigate the high cost of living following the removal of fuel subsidy.
In a survey conducted among federal workers in Ondo, Ekiti and Osun states, 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 the 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.
Leke Adegbite, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Ondo State, 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 Mr 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, 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 is 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, Victor Amoko, Chairman, Nigeria Labor Congress, Ondo State, said reduction in the number of working days to cushion effects of fuel subsidy removal on workers would have a negative impact on the nation’s economy.
Mr 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 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 the 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, Clement Fatuase, Chairman, Trade Union Congress, Ondo State, likened cutting down the 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 effort so that the efforts will translate to better productivity.
“Reducing work days will not help our GDP. I will advise 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, Tope Balogun, another federal civil servant, said the cost of buying food items had become too expensive for him.
Mr Balogun also said the high transportation costs was affecting his duties because he now reports for duty three times a week.
He appealed to President Tinubu to regulate the price of petrol and cost of food, so as to enable civil servants to live comfortably with their families.
Mr Balogun appealed to the federal government to consider the sufferings of workers, and increase the minimum wage from 30 to 80 per cent, so as to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal.
An economist, 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 a daily basis again because of the cost of transportation, this will definitely affect our productivity as a country,” she said.
Also in Osun, Leye Adebayo, a federal civil servant, said since the removal of subsidy, he had been finding it difficult to take care of his family due to increase in the prices of food and transportation.
Mr Adebayo, who noted that hyperinflation in the country due to removal of fuel subsidy had rendered his meagre 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 of 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 have gone up. My salary is barely enough to feed my family and yet the government is doing nothing about the wage increase,” he said.
He said the federal government was yet to come out with a new wage increase and kept delaying the whole process with the 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, Bose Opayinka, a federal civil servant in one of the agencies under the Federal Ministry of Health, decried the hardship that federal workers were now facing due to the removal of fuel subsidy.
Mrs 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.
“In as much 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 dragging on the implementation of wage awards for workers; this is sad,” she said.
Another federal worker, David Tinuola, said with the rising cost of food and transport, without an increase in salary, government should not expect the best from workers.
Mr Tinuola, who explained that workers and the masses in general are facing the worst time ever, said he had to park his car at home due to increase in fuel price.
“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 are 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, Samuel Atiku, said that reducing the number of working days for workers was not the solution to the current economic hardship.
Mr Atiku said the only solution is for the government to implement wage awards 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.
Mr Atiku, who is also a public policy analyst at the International Budget Partnership, said there was an urgent need for government to increase the salaries of civil servants and provide tangible palliatives for the masses.
Also, Nwokocha Chijioke, Executive Director, Motivator’s Crib Africa, said there are more practical steps that the government could take to minimise the impact of removal of fuel subsidy on workers than reducing the numbers of working days.
Mr Chijioke said the 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 an urgent need for the government to increase workers’ salaries in the face of the present economic realities for them to live a decent life,” he said.
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