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Friday, February 23, 2024

Labour Kicks As FG Slashes Workers’ Wages By N100bn In Supplementary Budget

Nigeria Labour Congress

The Organised Labour has faulted the action of the Federal Government for reducing the supplementary budgetary allocation for wage awards to federal civil servants by N100 billion.

Recall that the Federal Government, as part of steps to pacify labour unions, had granted a wage award of N35,000 to all Federal Government workers “beginning from September pending when a new national minimum wage is expected to have been signed into law.”

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had declared during his Independence Day speech that “low-grade workers” in the federal civil service would be awarded a wage of N25,000.

The amount was then increased to N35,000 following discussions with the organised labour unions, but, civil servants received a single payment of N35,000 for September only and not for two months as promised.

According to the Revised 2023 Supplementary Budget, the government swapped the controversial N5 billion presidential yacht for Navy barges, increased the budget for defence from N476.54 billion to N546.21 billion and earmarked N20 billion as capital supplementation for the National Intelligence Agency.

Recall that the recently approved N2.1 trillion 2023 Supplementary Budget was marred with controversy following the discovery of seemingly extravagant items, forcing an amendment by the National Assembly.

In the proposed document, the four-month wage award was to cost the Federal Government around N210 billion but in the approved and newly revised document, it showed that it would now cost the FG about N110 billion.

Also, the revised budget where the Ministry of Defence budget rose from N476.54 billion to N546.21 billion, indicates an additional allocation of N69.67 billion.

The Nigerian Navy, which was caught up in the controversial N5.095bn for the purchase of a presidential yacht, got an additional N25bn to its total allocation.

It shows that its total allocation rose from N62.8 billion in the proposed supplementary budget to N87.8 billion in the approved revised document.

Observation reveals that the presidential yacht was replaced by the purchase of a self-propelled barge (cargo-carrying vessels specifically engineered for operation on inland waterways) with the same amount of N5.095 billion.

The Nigerian Navy also got extra allocation for the construction of two buildings in Enugu and Ebonyi States worth N3bn each.

READ ALSO: “NLC Misplaced Priorities, Should’ve Gone On Strike In States Not Paying N30,000 Minimum Wage” — Oshiomhole

About N19 billion was also allocated for the purchase of two tugboats, which are used to pull or push other large ships for maneuvering or salvage purposes.

Moreso, the Defence Intelligence Agency got an extra N30 billion to its total allocation, from N17.04bn in the proposed document to N47.04bn in the approved copy.

Allocations to the Office of the National Security Adviser, headed by Nuhu Ribadu, increased by N20.3 billion from N29.7 billion to N50.02 billion.

Similarly, the purchase of official vehicles for the office of the First Lady valued at N1.5 billion remained in the budget, while the education loan fund for funding student loans was increased to N10 billion from N5.5 billion that previously allotted.

While it is still unknown why FG decided to slash the allocation of wage awards for federal workers, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) warned that this would be resisted as it was not the agreement they had with the government.

NLC’s Assistant General Secretary, Chris Onyeka, said the agreement was for the government to raise the wages of federal civil servants and not to reduce them.

He said, “Are you saying they cut down the wage awards by N100bn? Well, we have been talking about the high cost of governance and if they decided to reduce their bills by cutting down their numerous aides and assistants, that’s alright.

“But if it is that they don’t want to pay workers what they are supposed to pay, then there is a problem. How can you subject workers to further reductions in their salaries? No way! We agreed to a wage award of N35,000 to all federal workers, so the wage award has to increase.”

Head of Information, NLC, Benson Upah, said, “We were not informed before this was done. However, this behaviour is not inconsistent with the psychology of this government. It’s sad!”

On its part, TUC warned the Federal Government against playing games with the wage award for Nigerian workers.

The National Deputy President, TUC, Tommy Etim, said, “The government cannot play games with the wage award because it was an agreement reached with the organised labour and the instrument of agreement reached was deposited in the court.

“The government is the manager of funds and our business is to ensure compliance to the agreement is reached.”

The Presidency is yet to speak on why the award was reduced as at the time this report.

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