Nigerian workers reject VAT increase, fuel subsidy removal

A new national minimum wage of N30,000 was passed by the National Assembly in January and signed into law by President Buhari on April 18.
May day celebration in Nigeria

Plans mulled by the Nigerian government to increase the country’s Value Added Tax (VAT) from the current 5 per cent and remove petroleum subsidies have hit the rocks, as labour unions have rejected such future decisions and linked them to pressure by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on President Muhammadu Buhari.

At the 2019 May Day celebration in the country’s capital, Abuja, on Wednesday, labour leaders took turns to reject any future increases that may lead to more poverty and reduce the gains achieved by the recent wage increase by the government.

“Organized labour in Nigeria is perturbed at the recent return of long queues at petrol stations in many of our cities”, said Ayuba Wabba, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress. “We believe that the current chaos was induced by the unsolicited advice by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that our government should stop subsidizing PMS (fuel).” Wabba said.

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The NLC president who was flanked by President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Bobboi Kaigama as he read the joint statement said;

“What the IMF means by subsidy removal is an increase in the pump price of petroleum products and the cost of government’s failure to the masses.”

“The working class in Nigeria notes that the intervention of the IMF in Nigeria has always been about three issues – the removal of the so-called subsidy, petrol subsidy, Naira devaluation and opening of our borders to allow the influx of foreign goods.” union leaders said.

Vice President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo represented the government at the May Day rally which had several unions in different kits and attires marching to showcase their work skills.

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“Most labour-friendly President.”

The Nigerian government said it was working hard to improve the working conditions and welfare of workers in the country, describing President Muhammadu Buhari as “most labour-friendly President.”

“While I sincerely salute the resilience of the nation’s workforce and its numerous contributions to national development, we owe plentiful accolades to the most labour-friendly President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who took practical steps to douse the restiveness in the labour force he inherited four years ago due to unpaid salaries and allowances.”

-Chris Ngige, Labour Minister said.

Minister Ngige went on to list many achievements of the government. He said Buhari “released bailout funds at the state and federal levels, and capped it all with a new National Minimum Wage for the Nigerian working class in public and private sectors.”

A new national minimum wage of N30,000 was passed by the National Assembly in January and signed into law by President Buhari on April 18. The former wage was N18,000.

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The workers are now seeking an immediate payment of the new wage as they said many working families are unable to meet up with the basic costs of living, especially feeding and decent accommodation.

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