Subsidy Removal: Catholic Bishops Raise Alarm, Say Nigeria On Brink Of Collapse

TINUBU 3.

LAGOS AUGUST 1ST (NEWSRANGERS)-The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, yesterday raised the alarm that the removal of fuel subsidy without cushioning the effects has put the country on the brink of collapse.

The bishops’ alarm came as Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, pleaded with the Federal Government to urgently address the pains of the people arising from the removal of subsidy on petrol.

However, efforts made to get the reaction of the Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, Mr Dele Alake, did not yield any results, as he neither responded to a text message sent to his phone nor picked up his calls.

But the President of CBCN, Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, raised the alarm in a homily delivered at the Maria Assumpta Cathedral, during the reception of the Supreme Subordinate President of the Knights of St. John International, Prof. Remy Uche, in Owerri, weekend, said Nigeria might be heading for the precipice if nothing urgent is done to effectively check the current economic crisis facing the nation and its citizens

He said: “The suffering in the land has over the years been galloping uncontrollably. Our growing economic crisis became exacerbated with the recent withdrawal of petrol subsidy by the Federal Government. Indeed, Nigeria is on the brink of collapse.

“Government has not ceased to inundate citizens with it’s fabled palliative measures to cushion the effects of the subsidy removal. I am sure those running the nation’s affairs at all levels know that palliative measures can never be a cure for any economic or health challenge.

“If Nigerians are given food items as palliatives, we will definitely go hungry again, after consuming the food. So, I ask: Why waste resources on palliative measures, instead of attacking the problems frontally?

“Provision of a constant source of energy remains the driving force in all developing and developed economies. Why is ours different? Why should we not subsidize fuel?

“We have severally been told that some people have been enriching themselves from our commonwealth through petrol subsidy. For many patriotic citizens, this argument does not hold water.

“Why has the government failed, is unwilling or incapable of identifying the supposed culprits and bringing them to account for their sordid act?

“There is a lot of deceit and corruption in the land. How can anybody explain why and how the former administration hurriedly commissioned the Dangote refinery, which is yet to start production? So, why the haste in commissioning an unfinished project?

“There is also the fabled story of the supposed Nigerian airline and how an aeroplane was hired or borrowed to flag off its operation. Where is the airline today? Has anyone been asked to account for the act? This is not a good national testimonial.

“The root of Nigeria’s problem is massive corruption. For Nigeria to survive, we must collectively fight corruption, whichever way it rears its ugly head.

“Government must be told that we cannot afford the luxury of punishing the entire populace, because of the corrupt tendencies of a few. This is not fair to all concerned.”

Address workers, Nigerians’ pains, NECA urges FG

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, has warned that any strike or mass protest in the face of the hardship and suffering in the country could potentially cause a breakdown of law and order with attendant risks for businesses and the nation as a whole.

The umbrella body for employers and voice of businesses in the country urged the government to urgently take immediate steps to ameliorate the economic trauma being faced by workers, Nigerians and organized businesses.
In a statement by its Director-General, Wale-Smatt Oyerinde, NECA argued that any disruption of businesses in the form of a strike or mass protest will exacerbate the current unemployment rate and drag many further down the poverty line.

Oyerinde recalled that businesses in the formal and informal sectors lost over N5 trillion due to the crass vandalism by unscrupulous elements who hijacked the purposeful #EndSARS protest in 2020.

“Any strike, the threat of mass action or civil disobedience that could potentially disrupt economic activities or businesses, especially those in the formal and informal sectors which could compromise sustainability and job creation, based on economic policies of the government which are non-employment related, will be counter-productive.

‘’While organized labour is at liberty to engage with government on behalf of its members on issues of welfare as they relate to the impacts of any economic policy, sometimes deadlock may hold sway. When that happens, the consequential action by organized labour should not, in any way, hinder anyone from going about their businesses peacefully or cause anyone to be intimidated or harassed.

‘Importance of dialogue’

“We re-emphasise the importance of social dialogue, a potent instrument of the International Labour Organization, ILO, and a globally accepted mechanism for dispute resolution.

‘’While it should be noted that various ILO Conventions, recommendations, international treaties and local legislations guarantee certain rights and privileges to social partners, a call for mass action or civil disobedience is certainly not one of them.

“We urge the government to, as a matter of urgency, take immediate steps to ameliorate the economic trauma being faced by workers, Nigerians and organized businesses. It is no gainsaying that many businesses are shut down and many others are on the verge of closing down, which will exacerbate the current unemployment rate and drag many further down the poverty line.

“We strongly request that a coordinated implementation of the various pro-growth and other palliative schemes should commence, without further delay, at the federal level to complement the efforts of some state governments and organized businesses.

“The need for transparent communication and the building of national consensus at this difficult time cannot be over-emphasized.

“Recent events that portend serious danger for the survival of sustainable enterprises, decent work, national development and our industrial relations system as a whole necessitated this urgent call.

‘’The parlous state of the economy and the recent mobilization for strike and civil action by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, is not only worrisome but also calls for urgent action by government and other stakeholders.

“Freedom of association is a fundamental and structural characteristic of the International Labour Organisation, ILO. In fact, without employers and workers, organizations that are autonomous, representative and endowed with the necessary rights that guarantee the defence of the rights of their members, and the advancement of their common welfare, the principle of tripartism would be impaired and chances for greater social justice would be seriously prejudiced.

“However, the rights enjoyed by social partners are premised on the basic understanding and respect for the social and economic rights of others.

“The complex employment inter-relationship between successive Nigerian governments, organized labour (NLC/TUC), and the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, has been challenging, especially between government and organized labour.

“The goal of the interrelations to facilitate sustainable enterprise, decent work and economic growth and assist all parties to achieve their objectives, is menaced by incessant conflicts and numerous threats of strikes.

“While industrial conflict is inherently built into these inter-relationships, there are credible institutions, legislations, regulations and guidelines in place to arrest it and ensure sanity within the context of the labour and employment ecosystem.

“In view of the recent call by the NLC for strike and mass action, and the urgent need to protect the objectives of sustainable enterprise, decent work and national development, it is our candid view that social partners must respect the established institutions created to adjudicate and arbitrate labour matters in the country.

‘These institutions include but are not limited to the National Industrial Court, NIC; the Industrial Arbitration Panel, IAP, etc. Neglecting these institutions could potentially compromise our labour and industrial relations system and framework, with grave consequences for the economy.

“It is important for social partners to deference their jurisdictional and operational limits. A call for ‘strike and mass action’ by any social partner at this difficult time, in furtherance of the achievement of its objectives, could potentially cause a breakdown of law and order, with attendant risk for organized businesses and the nation as a whole.”

Vanguard

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