Workers in Enugu state on Wednesday joined their counterparts across the country to protest the negative effects of removal of fuel subsidy, with an appeal on the state Governor, Dr Peter Mbah to increase workers’ salaries noting that cost of living has gone up except civil servants’ salaries that remained stagnant.
Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Enugu Chapter,Comrade Fabian Nwigbo made the appeal during the workers’ peaceful protest at the Government House, Enugu.
Speaking, the Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress(NLC), Comrade Fabian Nwigbo said, “We are here today to inform the Enugu State Government on some of the policies introduced by the present Federal Government on May 29 that put the entire nation into suffering.
“Since the removal of the fuel subsidy the country had known no peace. In 2019, civil servants were given minimum wage of N30, 000 while the prices of fuel has increased to about N617, N 620 and N700 depending.
“Citizens of this country are suffering, many dying in their numbers while the insecurity is being driven by hunger hardship.
“From N30,000, we pay rent, hospital bills, school fees and buy fuel. We appeal to you to do something about it.
“So we want his Excellency, to take our message to the FG that those policies are affecting the masses”, Nwigbo said..
He commended Enugu state Government for paying minimum wage, stressing that some civil servants in Primary Schools, Local Governments and parastatals were still receiving some percentages of that minimum wage in the state.
The NLC Chairman also appealed to the state Governor to provide palliatives to cushion the effects of removal of fuel subsidy in the state.
Also speaking,Trade Union Congress (TUC), Enugu Chapter, Ben Asogwa,,
said they were on rescue mission for poor Nigerians.
He said, “this is the first time labour is visiting Government House since Mbah came in.”
Asogwa pointed out that Nigerian workers were not trouble makers but fighting for well-being of Nigerians as cost of living had gone high. He explained that salaries of workers that were car owners cannot fuel their cars monthly.
Responding, Governor Mbah , who was represented by the Deputy Governor,, Ifeanyi Ossai, commended labour leaders for leading a peaceful protest. He also commended them for their contributions to the growth and development of Enugu State.
“Just on Tuesday, I set up a committee to provide palliatives to Enugu citizens to cushion the effect of removal of fuel subsidy and in the days ahead, people will begin to receive value from the committee.
“Palliative don’t solve problems but we are going to look at the remote cause of these challenges with focus on medium to long term plan in solving the problems,” Mbah Said.
He explained that removal of fuel subsidy was currently affecting all Nigerians as they all live in same economy and buy from the same market.
The Governor promised to work with labour. He also promised to boost transport system. “There would be an inter model transport system, Government is investing heavily in technology to make their work easier.”. He was optimistic that the investments the State Government had planned to make will yield fruits and high cost of living, high school fees paid in private schools will reduce, and healthcare services will be received at subsidized rate..
” The salaries will go a long way in making life easier because Government must have taken care of some of those challenges.”, Mbah said.
The Deputy Governor added that before the final removal of the subsidy, that Governor Mbah had sustained by private effort, delivery of petrol to Enugu citizens at reduced prices through Pinnacle oil and Gas ,he owned.
He thanked the organised labour for the peaceful protest.
In an interview, the chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Comrade Sam Udekwe, said the workers were not saying they were not in support of the removal.of fuel subsidy. He noted that palliatives should have been put before the removal of fuel subsidy.
” We agitate for measures that will alleviate the sufferings not against the removal of fuel subsidy”, Udekwr said..
The protesters were from various unions including , the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ)led by the Chairman, Comrade Sam Udekwe and the secretary, Comrade Ifeoma Amuta, , Academic Staff Union of the Universities,ASUU, led by Professor Chinedu Aguba, of the Enugu state University of Science and Technology (ESUT), among others.
They carried placcards, chanted solidarity songs and walked from the New Market axis(GRA), State Secretariat to Government house,(Independence Layout),Enugu.
Some of the inscriptions on the placcards read: “Federal Government why protect subsidy criminals?
“We demand a stop to inhumane policies of Government.”, among others.
Author: Maureen Ikpeama