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NLC begins nationwide protest today as TUC asks Tinubu’s government to import essential food items



The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) will start the 2-day nationwide protest today, Tuesday, February 27, 2024, as the last meeting with the Federal government failed to produce a fruitful outcome.

A government delegation led by George Akume, secretary to the government of the federation, met with the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) and other labour leaders on Monday night.

After the sit-down, Ajaero said the union would embark on a peaceful rally to express their grievances over the deteriorating economic crisis and high cost of living in the country.

Speaking with journalists, Ajaero said it is the responsibility of both parties to ensure the protest is peaceful.

He asked the federal government to provide security to members of the union as part of the fundamental rights of citizens as enshrined in the constitution.

He said members of the union will march to the national and state assemblies across the country to submit the demands to the lawmakers and government officials.

“The rally goes on but it’s part of their (government) constitutional responsibility to make sure that the rally is peaceful while we are going to try on our own side to make sure it is peaceful. That’s all,” Ajaero said.

“We have demands we must present, so maybe by tomorrow when we present those demands, a copy of it will get to the press.”

Before the NLC announced its nationwide protest, residents of Kano, Niger, Oyo, Edo, Lagos, Kano, Sokoto, Borno and Osun, among other states, had taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest economic hardship.

Meanwhile, leadership of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has started mounting pressure on the Federal Government to jettison the idea of sourcing and distributing grains from the national reserves and engage in importation of food items from around the world, as the hunger situation in the country has become very dire.

This is as it said it would not join the protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over the hardship in the country but prefers to give solution to the government on how to solve the country’s teething problems.

TUC’s President, Festus Osifo, who addressed a press conference on Monday in Abuja, said it was not carried along when the NLC issued the initial ultimatum to government, including the decision to go on protest.

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According to Osifo, out of the sixteen-point agreement to be implemented by government, he believes most of the low hanging ones have been met by the relevant agencies.

He went on to state that the quest for survival is real today than ever before; Nigerians must live to see tomorrow before we could understand how beautiful a government policy is. He told the government that the national pride of striving to achieving food sufficiency locally and not importing from abroad should be temporarily relaxed.

“The leadership of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria has been closely monitoring the increasing rates of hunger and hardship faced by the Nigerian workers and the general populace of the masses of our dear country.

“Over the past few weeks, we have delved into the root causes of these challenges and have researched possible solutions that could help reduce the economic difficulties faced in the immediate and short term, as well as provide long-term mitigation.

“Government at all levels should immediately source and purchase sufficient quantities of food items from different part of the world and distribute to the vulnerable Nigerians.

“Importing food from abroad at this point will assist in reducing the hyperinflation on food that is currently been experienced locally. For example, the price of rice is above the roof today because government at all levels are chasing rice producers to buy the available rice. Thus with high demand and reduced or constant supply prices will definitely soar.

“TUC hereby demand that government should as a matter of urgency commence importation and allow importation of essential food items into the country within the next two weeks,” Osifo told media organisations present at the briefing session.

Still on food, TUC said state governments must immediately choose at least six different food crops to cultivate, while each local government area must identify three food crops to cultivate.

He said, “Now that we are approaching raining season, this must be done immediately in order to boost food production in the next few months. An emergency food coordination center between the federal and state governments should be set up immediately to interface on the kind of crop to produce and the variety that will yield much more per hectare”.

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Commenting on speculative trading in the foreign exchange market, Osifo said government and the central bank should institutionalise policies that will deter speculators from striving to arm-twist the market by allowing a +-2% of official rate on their platform.

He said in recent times it has seen a lot of online platforms where Nigerians exchange naira for dollars especially the Nigerians living in diaspora.

TUC lamented that the remittance from Nigerians in diaspora which used to be a major source of foreign exchange has dwindled to nothing with the advent of outrageous rates on these platforms.

He revealed that most Nigerians go to these platforms to benchmark rate for exchange instead of the official websites. Advising that there should be a ceiling on these platforms in order to prevent them from speculators and unscrupulously profiteers.

According to the TUC, the monetary policy managers should determine the true value of naira because allowing the official exchange rate to devalue alongside the black market rate that does not follow market fundamentals is not the right approach to accomplish this. He said local and international financial institutions have determined the true value to be between N580 and N650 to a dollar in June/ July 2023.

“The Federal Government needs to work towards achieving this realistic rate. Once it’s achieved therefore, the exchange rate will then be adjusted on an annual basis using factor K that will be determined by US/NGN inflation figures.

“This adjustment can also be made every 6 months to avoid sudden shock. It does not make sense economically to allow naira to float freely against an international currency that is in acute shortage of supply due to excessive demand.

“With this in place, investors could forecast the returns on their investments with some degree of certainty. This stability will result in the restoration of confidence in the market and foreign direct investors will monitor this stability over time before eventually returning to the country in droves.

“This can be easily implemented by CBN, who are the managers of our monetary policy, by directing banks to reject dollar bids above the threshold of N580/650. This was done between July and October 2023 when the exchange rate stabilised around N790 to a dollar.”

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