The organised labour, the federal government and other concerned stakeholders have sharply disagreed on the consequences of the economic policies of President Bola Tinubu’s administration.
While labour union particularly insisted that the policies such as fuel subsidy removal leading to hike in the price of petrol, Naira devaluation, freeing foreign exchange market, among others have brought untold hardship on Nigerians, the government maintained that its vision is to revamp the economy and make life better for the citizens.
They spoke at the 21st edition of the Daily Trust Dialogue and Presentation of African of the Year Award with the theme ‘Tinubu’s Economic Reforms; Gainers and Losers’, held at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja, yesterday.
In his presentation, the president of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joe Ajaero, lamented that the first three economic policies of the Tinubu administration, notably the fuel subsidy, removal have inflicted more pain on Nigerians.
Ajaero said the situation is getting worse and it will continue to worsen until there is a policy reversal, stressing that the working class and average Nigerians were the losers in the so-called reforms, as indicated in the theme of the dialogue.
“I am here representing the losers. Tinubu administration, driven by neoliberal principles as dictated to it by its two chief priests, or do we call them the twin altars – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) embarked on a series of economic reforms upon assuming office in May 2023.
On her part, the former director-general of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Dr Victoria Akai, said the policies of the present administration were aimed at repositioning the economy in the long-run because they have adverse effects on Nigerians.
Akai said one of such effects is the biting inflation and called for immediate action to tame it, identifying the removal of Nigeria’s foreign currency controls as another move that led to adverse impact on the Naira and dollar flows to Nigeria.
“Urgent action is required to address this issue to curb the current negative impacts on investment and overall economic stability. Short-term policies should focus on implementing robust monetary measures to control inflation and stabilise the currency market, enhancing foreign exchange reserves management, and supporting local industries to boost export activities.
“In the medium term, structural reforms are essential to diversify the economy away from oil dependence and promote non-oil sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing. Long-term policies should prioritize human capital development, technological innovation, and infrastructure enhancement to bolster productivity and competitiveness,” she said.
According to her, tax reforms should be aimed at increasing tax revenues but reducing the burden on individuals and businesses, with the goal being to raise the tax-to-GDP ratio by 18% by 2026, which would significantly impact government revenue and the overall economy.
Also speaking, the former minister of national planning, Dr Shamsudden Usman, who chaired the event, said the average Nigerian seems to be the loser of the fuel subsidy removal policy of President Tinubu as it is now.
He said it was probably too early to make a certain assessment of the policy and others like exchange rate depreciation; he questioned the state of the palliatives rolled out to cushion the effects of the government’s policies on the people.
In his remarks, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Idris Malagi assured Nigerians that the vision of President Tinubu is to provide succour to them, revamp the economy and return the country to prosperity. He asked Nigerians to give the administration more time to get things working well for Nigerians.
Malagi also said some of the palliative measures initiated by the federal government are being implemented despite initial constraints, adding that the state governors now get about 50 percent of what they were getting from the central government to equally tackle the effects of the fuel subsidy removal.
“The N35, 000 wage award, I know that there were some technical disruptions in the way they were implemented, but I can tell you that the president is committed to ensuring that every Kobo meant for the wage award is paid to entitled federal workers.
“There was also the issue of the palliatives that we talked about. Now because fuel subsidy almost went away abruptly there was the need to cushion that effect in the short time. Government is not saying every economic policy will be an emergency one or the one driven by palliative measures.
“What it sought to address was important that people have an immediate cushion to what was happening before a long term solution was proffered. So it’s not all gloomy, it’s not all an emergency. Of course, if you have an immediate shock it is important that you have first aid before a long term solution is proffered and that is being done jointly with labour itself.
“Even when the federal government was making this wage award or providing some of these succour or cushion or palliative as you may call it, we didn’t just stop at the federal level; every state of the federation was involved because we know that that is where the population resides and all the governors were invited.
“Today no state governor is not getting an addition of not less than 50 percent of what he used to get. So let us also ask the governors what they are also doing with those funds. It is not only the federal government, the state governments are there. When the federal government gave money for the immediate purchase of grains, it didn’t do it my itself; it handed it over to the state governors. Monies were given to them, assorted fertilizer were also bought. These were all done by the state governors. The approach of Bola Ahmed Tinubu is that of inclusivity,” he explained.