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NLC, Atiku tackle national assembly over quick approval of Tinubu’s $800m loan and N500bn palliative



Organised labour, and the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 general elections have described as laughable and economic waste, the plans by the Federal Government to transfer N8,000 to 12 million poor households in the country for six months.

Recall that in separate requests to the two chambers of the National Assembly, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had sought approval from the Senate and House of Representatives for a $800 million loan and N500 billion palliative for the removal of petrol subsidy.

In May, former President Muhammadu Buhari had asked the Senate to approve the loan request despite the public outcry it generated.

Tinubu’s letter, which was tagged ‘Request for approval of additional financing of the national social safety net programme set up by the National Assembly,’ stated: “The purpose of the facility is to expand coverage of shock responsive safety net support for all and vulnerable Nigerians and the cost of meeting basic needs.

“Under the conditional cash transfer window of the programme, the Federal Government will transfer the sum of N8,000 a month to 12 million poor and low income households for a period of six months with a multiplier effect on about 60 million individuals.”

President Tinubu further explained that “to guarantee credibility of the process, digital transfers will be made directly to beneficiaries’ accounts and mobile wallets.

“It is expected that the programme will stimulate economic activities in the informal sector and improve nutrition, health and education outcomes for beneficial households.”

The Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Dr. Ben Akabueze, had recently criticised the continuous accumulation of public debt, saying the lean revenue does not support the move.

Speaking at the induction programme for lawmakers elected into the 10th National Assembly, Akabueze lamented: “We now have very limited borrowing space, not because our debt-to-GDP is high, but because our revenue is too small to sustain the size of our debt. That explains our high debt service ratio.

“Once a country’s debt service ratio exceeds 30 per cent, that country is in trouble and we are pushing towards 100 per cent. That tells you how much trouble we are in. We have limited space to borrow. When you take how much you can generate in terms of revenue and what you can reasonably borrow, that establishes the size of the budget.”

BUT without delay, the Senate approved Tinubu’s requests – the $800 million World Bank loan and N500 billion fuel subsidy removal palliative.

According to the Senate, the N500 billion request meant to cushion the negative effects of the removal of fuel subsidy by the executive shows that the nation has a “government that listens.”

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In a remark shortly after the approval was granted, President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio said: “Let me thank colleagues for today’s deliberation. I must thank all of you for your show of patriotism despite the hiccups. That’s the Senate for you; very matured. Your attitude today has shown your commitment and determination to ensure that the present administration succeeds.”

Also yesterday, the Senate passed amendments to the N819.500 billion 2022 supplementary budget. In passing that amended supplementary budget, the Senate approved N500 billion for palliatives and other capital expenditure to cushion the effect of the recent subsidy removal policy.

N185,236,937,815 was approved for the Ministry of Works and Housing to alleviate the impact of the severe flooding experienced in the country in 2022 on road infrastructure across the six geopolitical zones.

The sum of N19,200,000,000 was approved by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to ameliorate the massive destruction to farmlands across the country during the severe flooding experienced last year.

Also, the sum of N35 billion was approved for the National Judicial Council; N10 billion to Federal Capital Territory Administration for critical projects, while the National Assembly got N70 billion to support the working conditions of new members in the Assembly.

Arguing against what it termed wasteful spending, the organised labour called on the government to halt the policy implementation, querying what N8,000 monthly to 12 million Nigerians could do, compared to the hyperinflation and socio-economic challenges the nation is currently battling with.

According to them, with about 133 million Nigerians that are multi-dimensionally suffering from poverty, N8,000 for six months, which translates to N48,000 in six months, will neither eradicate nor alleviate poverty in 12 million household’s lives.

They maintained that what the government has done was an ambush and gone beyond what it was supposed to do, stating that it has compromised the workings of the Presidential Steering Committee it inaugurated to come up with a framework on how palliatives would be distributed to cushion the effect of subsidy removal on Nigerians.

Also, the Special Assistant on Public Communications to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Mr. Phrank Shaibu, described Tinubu’s plan to hand out N8,000 to 12 million households for six months as a brazen attempt to divert public funds.

Shaibu said in a statement that Tinubu’s plan to spend $800m on palliatives under an opaque arrangement was reminiscent of former President Buhari’s conditional cash transfer and COVID-19 intervention initiative, which saw politicians keeping food items and provisions in their homes while the poor went hungry.

He said Buhari’s interventionist programmes only ended up making Nigerians poorer as shown in reports released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

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Atiku’s aide stated: “After announcing the removal of petrol subsidy without proper planning, Tinubu has asked for the approval of $800m loan, which he claims will be disbursed to 12 million households for six months at N8,000 for each household per month. This is a continuation of the scam of the All Progressives Congress.

“According to statistics, a Nigerian household as at 2019 counted on an average of 5.06 members. So, with Tinubu’s uninspiring plan, each individual in a household will get N1,600 per month or N53 per day. What should they do with it? Use the money to buy sachet (pure) water or a cup of boiled groundnut on a daily basis? And this is the man they claim transformed the economy of Lagos State? This must be a joke or a more sinister attempt to divert public funds.”

Shaibu argued that Tinubu lacked a clear economic policy apart from taxing Nigerians. He said having deceptively attained presidential power, Tinubu has been exposed as an economic illiterate.

“His only plan is to tax Nigerians to death as he did in Lagos and that is why the people of Lagos rejected him in the last election. Tinubu promised to turn Nigeria’s economy into a $1 trillion economy but it is all a scam and can never be achieved with his brand of agberonomics.”

He added: “Agriculture makes up about 30 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP. He should have invested funds in the production aspect of agriculture and other issues affecting crop yields. The rural areas, which are mostly agrarian, are in the throes of insecurity. On Tinubu’s watch, over 200 people have so far been killed. However, he seems clueless on how to tackle this menace.

“The so-called palliatives that Tinubu seeks to share to the poor are just another avenue to divert public funds. For years, the Nigerian government has rejected calls to publish the list of the beneficiaries of the so-called palliatives but this has never been done because it is all a scam.”

Already, Nigerians are agitated, calling for salary increases and palliatives that would benefit all, following the removal of the petrol subsidy. Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) and governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, at a recent meeting, said the President’s decision to remove subsidy was in tandem with his campaign promises.

He expressed optimism that the new administration would come up with palliatives that would cushion the effect associated with the removal of fuel subsidies.

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