Palliatives we need are good roads, refineries, salary increase — Workers tell FG

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 federal workers in Ondo, Ekiti and Osun states by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), respondents were unanimous that the palliatives rolled out were 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 hyperinflation 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 rollout 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 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 every day 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 the reduction in the 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 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, 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 the 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 that 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, 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 a week.

He appealed to President Tinubu to regulate the price of petrol and the cost of food, so as to enable civil servants to 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.

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 a daily basis again because of the 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 hyperinflation in the country due to the 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 of living and other services have gone beyond our reach, and nothing was added to our salary to cushion the effect.

Similarly, Mrs Bose Opayinka, a federal civil servant working in one of the agencies under the Federal Ministry of Health, decried the hardship workers were now facing.

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 the government is footdragging on the implementation of wage increase; 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.

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

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

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

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