By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has petitioned President Muhammad Buhari, seeking an immediate investigation of state governors by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Commission, ICPC, over alleged looting and mismanagement of public funds.
In a letter titled: Reviving the Economy: Our Response to Governors Prescriptions by its President, Ayuba Wabba, NLC faulted governors’ recent recommendations to revive the nation’s ailing economy.
The recommendations include elimination of PMS subsidy/under-recovery estimated at N6-7 trillion, early retirement of civil servants from age 50 and above, implementation of the reviewed Oronsaye Report, putting an end to financing government’s budgetary expenditures, converting its N19 trillion debt into a 100-year bond, putting a final stop to PMS subsidy, eliminating NNPC’s federation-funded projects, capping Social Investment Programme (SIP) and National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy budgets at N200 billion, eliminating extra-constitutional deductions from FAAC and reducing National Assembly constituency projects among others.
But the NLC in its letter dismissed majority of the proposals as not only selfish but also cruel.
The letter reads: “While we do agree that the economy needs revitalization, we are dismayed by some of the prescriptions of the governors as they smack of extreme selfishness and insensate cruelty. “We find it unrealistic, insensitive and hypocritical. It is on record that governors have always been against the culture of saving for the rainy day. In spite of this culture of recklessness predating your administration, few of them have anything to show for all the money they have collected. If there is little or nothing to show for the principal sums or revenues collected over the years, what assurance do we have that the additional sum on top of the principal popularly called subsidy (most of which is shrouded in mystery and crime anyway) can be put to effective use? Coupled with this, we find it distasteful that petrol subsidies in Nigeria create distortions in the economy but they do the opposite in the US and Western Europe.
“Truth is that removal of the little benefit the average person in Nigeria enjoys could lead to unintended consequences which we would be better off without.
“The solution to subsidy and the ballooning deficits lies in domestic refining, effective management of our refineries, and creating an enabling environment for effective and efficient public sector leadership in the building and management of local refineries. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, is very clear in the provisions of Chapter Two that the commanding heights of the economy should be in public hands, and also that the resources of the economy should be held in public hands and also that the resources of the country should be managed in such a way as to assure maximum benefits to the people of Nigeria.
“We recall you had the presence of mind to give out huge bail-out and budget support funds to enable the governors clear backlogs of salaries and pensions for which we workers remain grateful to you. You equally halted repayments during the Covid-19 pandemic. There could be no better demonstration of understanding and empathy by a leader but the governors abused it all as few of them applied these funds to the purposes for which the funds were given. Give and take, not more than 20 percent of these funds was properly channeled. In the past, ICPC did a good job of tracking down how these funds were used which is partly responsible for the financial straits we have found ourselves in today. Accordingly, we would strongly urge you to direct ICPC and EFCC to track afresh and make public how the governors diverted and misused these funds with a view to full recovery.’’