Petroleum Subsidy Removal, N5000 Grant For Vulnerable Nigerians: Senate Reacts; NLC, TUC, Experts Kick Against Move

The Senate, Trade Union Congress, Nigeria Labour Congress have disagreed with the Federal Government’s plan to remove fuel subsidy next year and replace it with a N5,000 monthly transport grant to 40 million Nigerians. While the Senate said there was no provision for such grant in the 2022 budget, TUC expressed shock that government could come up with this when negotiations on subsidy removal between government and the Labour movement is still ongoing, saying it is unacceptable. The Nigerian Labour Congress on its part, described the development as an open invitation for unrest and revolt.

Meanwhile, analysis by The Journal showed that the implementation of the proposed N5,000 monthly grant to 40 million Nigerians will cost the Federal Government N2.4 trillion annually, which is 81.71% above the average annual subsidy payment from 2016 to 2019. During the four years, the FG spent N2.93 trillion on fuel subsidies as follows: 2016 – N563.3 billion; 2017 – N144.53 billion; 2018 –   N730 billion and 2019 – N1.5 trillion.

However, Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, said yesterday that the Federal Government has not concluded work on the proposed N5,000 transport grant, adding that the duration for the implementation will not exceed one year.

Speaking with journalists after the submission of its committee budget proposal, Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Olamilekan Adeola (APC, Lagos West), said that there was no provision for N5,000 monthly grant for 40 million Nigerians for transportation allowance in the 2022 budget currently before the National Assembly.

According to him, before the Executive can embark on such intervention, the proposal must come to National Assembly because it is going to cost N2.4 trillion. “What are the criteria that would be used to determine beneficiaries of the transportation   allowance?”, he queried. “For now, I still want to take it as a rumour and as news until it is formally presented before the National Assembly.”

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, disclosed yesterday, in Abuja that money to finance it would come from the Federation Account. The minister, who stated this while responding to inquiries on the modalities of the relief package, said the N5,000 monthly transport allowance will last between six months and one year. Consequently, the minister said that a committee had been set up to look into it. According to her, a federal government team, led by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has been negotiating with the state governors on the programme. Mrs. Ahmed said the exact number of poor Nigerians to benefit from the package would be determined by the committee, adding that there would be no cash payment, as beneficiaries would be paid through money transfers. She said: “The intervention we want to provide is for between 20 and 40 million people and there is still a lot of work going on.

“We have a committee that is chaired by His Excellency the Vice President, state governors and a  few of us ministers as members.

“So we have to have a landing as to the exact number between 20 and 40 million. We already agreed it will be N5000 and we have also agreed that the remittances have to be done digitally.

“The e-Naria will help, but so also are the various payment platforms that are currently available.

“What we will not do is pay people in cash. So the transfers that people will receive will be through one kind of electronic money or the other and it’s meant to be for a period of six, nine or 12 months.

“So these are things that we are still in negotiating because it’s still money that would have to come from the federation account. So everybody that is a member of FAAC will have to agree on the numbers. The maximum will be 12 months, the minimum will be six months.

Also reacting yesterday, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, rejected the transport grant, saying government was inviting anarchy.

NLC in a statement by its President, Ayuba Wabba, warned that the government was planning to set the nation on fire, contending that government’s new position was being anchored by the International Monetary Fund, IMF and the World Bank.

Similarly, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, said the government’s new position on fuel subsidy was totally unacceptable, warning that the government is looking for trouble.

Secretary-General of TUC, Musa Lawal, said Labour was shocked with the government pronouncement on Tuesday because it was a unilateral decision without the input of labour.

He said: “We are surprised and shocked with the government pronouncement. We do not know how the government came about it. The government is calling for trouble if they think they can go ahead with subsidy removal without labour.

“The Presidential Committee made up of government representatives and Labour has not concluded its assignment. Our last meeting was in April. This new position is totally unacceptable to us. 

“Let us look at the issue of N5,000 for about 40 million Nigerians. How did the government arrive at the figure? How did they determine the targeted beneficiaries? Most Nigerians are aware that similar money was given out, the identities of the beneficiaries have remained a subject of controversy and debate among Nigerians.”  

Also speaking, human rights activist and program officer, Rights Protection and Accountability Network, Dr. Siyanolu Abegunde, said: “This government lacks economic thinkers, how can they think N5,000 monthly hand-outs will make a difference in today’s Nigeria when inflation is riding to the sky and cost of living is very high?

“Besides, the process of executing the cash transfer will, as usual, be controversial and riddled with corruption, nepotism and all the negatives associated with this country.

“As for me, the government should have invested in heavy constructions that can give some hope to the vulnerable in the form of jobs as we see in rail construction.”

Similarly, the Director of Entrepreneurship at Redeemers University, Ede, Dr. Olufemi Omoyele, questioned the success level of previous social intervention schemes of the government and wondered why Nigerians should be optimistic about the new proposal.

He said: “All the previous and ongoing social interventions schemes of this administration such as Conditional Cash Transfer, TraderMoni and others, what have been their impact on the poor and vulnerable?

‘’These schemes are poorly thought out, poorly executed and highly politicized. Tell me, how did they come about the 40 million to benefit from the scheme? What are the parameters?

“These people are extremely poor, so in what way will N5,000 alleviate their sufferings in the midst of spiralling inflation and high prices? This government should come down from its high horse and face reality.”

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