The Federal Government says organised labour’s plan to embark on strike to protest electricity tariff and petrol pump price hike will inflict more hardship on Nigerians.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed stated this on Saturday while meeting members of the Online Publishers Association of Nigeria.
Recall that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and affiliate unions had vowed that there was no going back on the industrial action scheduled to commence on Monday.
Mohammed reminded organised labour that the nation had lost 60 percent of its revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the price hike were necessitated by the current realities.
The minister further disclosed that Nigeria spent N10.4 trillion on fuel subsidy from 2006 to 2009 and N1.7 trillion to supplement electricity tariff in less than five years.
He said, “Revenues and foreign exchange earnings by the government have fallen by almost 60 per cent due to the downturn in the fortunes of the oil sector.
“There is no provision for subsidy in the revised 2020 budget. So where will the subsidy money come from?
“Remember that despite the massive fall in revenues, the government still has to sustain expenditures, especially on salaries and capital projects.”
He said that Nigerians were not the beneficiaries of the subsidy that he lasted for years in the petroleum sector.
“Between 2006 and 2019, a total of 10.4 trillion naira was spent on fuel subsidy, most of which went to fat cats who either collected subsidy for products they didn’t import or diverted the products to neighbouring countries where prices are much higher.
“Instead of subsidy, ordinary Nigerians were subjected to scarcity of petroleum products.
“They endured incessant long queues and paid higher to get the products, thus making the subsidy ineffectual,” Mohammed said.
He further disclosed that the Federal Government has been supporting the largely privatised electricity industry because of challenges confronting the industry.
“To keep the industry going, the government has so far spent almost N1.7 trillion especially by way of supplementing tariff shortfalls.
“The government does not have the resources to continue along this path.
“To borrow just to subsidise generation and distribution, which are both privatised, will be grossly irresponsible,” the minister stated.