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Criticism Trails House of Reps’ Approval of N8k Monthly Subsidy Palliative for 60m Nigerians

Criticism Trails House of Reps’ Approval of N8k Monthly Subsidy Palliative for 60m Nigerians

The plan by the federal government of Nigeria to disburse N500 billion to 12 million households as a palliative measure to mitigate the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy on Nigerians, has stirred widespread criticism. 

The federal government got the approval of the House of Representatives on Wednesday to seek out the fund to be shared among the poorest Nigerian households as the cost of living soars, following a letter by President Bola Tinubu to that effect.

The lawmakers swiftly passed the amendment of the N819 billion Supplementary Appropriation Act, which the N500 billion will be drawn from. The lawmakers, who have asked for salary increase to cushion the effects of subsidy hardship, also approved N70 billion to support the “working condition” of new members.

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The money is to be shared N8,000 monthly for 60 million people for the period of six months. 

But Civil Society groups have criticized the move, seeking instead a 300% upward review of minimum wage. The Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress had earlier outlined for the government, measures it needs to implement to ameliorate the economic hardship that the subsidy reform has brought. 

The labor unions have called for the implementation of tax holidays for employees in both the public and private sectors who earn less than N200,000 or $500 per month. 

They have also emphasized the necessity of introducing a petrol allowance for individuals earning between N200,000 and N500,000 or $500 and $1,200 annually, whichever amount is higher.

Furthermore, the unions have demanded that the Nigerian government provide mass transit vehicles accessible to all segments of the population. They have also called for an immediate review of the National Health Insurance Scheme to extend coverage to a larger number of Nigerians.

In the medium term, the labor unions have urged the government to fulfill its previous commitment by implementing the nationwide deployment of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

The major concern of the labor unions, which most Nigerians share, is that the fund will be looted given the country’s pedigree of corruption. Many believe that the N500 billion will benefit Nigerians more if it is used to pay for petrol subsidy. 

They referenced ex-President Mohammadu Buhari’s humanitarian programs, such as TraderMoni, which involved disbursing money to poor Nigerians but were riddled with corruption, as a basis for their criticism.

“Like the Subsidy script now we have the Tradermoni script.

“1984 used subsidy and Tradermoni to scam Nigerians.

“The Illegal Govt in 2023 is now using the same Subsidy and Tradermoni script to scam Nigerians of Billions right before their eyes.

“Judiciary should wake up,” a Twitter user wrote.

“”Tinubu has been preparing to be President for 20 years, he is a master strategist, and he will change Nigeria for good.” Tunubu gets into office and immediately reactivates Buhari’s Trader Money, the only difference is that it is N8000 for households. Is this your strategist?” Kelvin Odanz asked.

“This is being done to; 1. Perpetuate a racket.

“2. Convince IMF, World Bank, USAID, DFID etc. “development economists” who will use data, no matter how bad, or contrived – to conduct “studies”, that something is being done about “poverty alleviation”,” Onye Nkuzi wrote.

“Why not start with an effective transport system at a subsidized rate? Use Lagos and Abuja as a pilot…. Subsidize fertilizer, and built PHCs, rails, bridges, schools, and roads! Increase salaries of public servants by 100%! These are sustainable developments,” Taha Adam wrote.

“A lazy solution to a difficult problem. The first thing is to audit to see if the National Social Register of 15.7m people is not filled up with ghost people whose identities cannot be verified by NIN. Secondly, using virement to move funds from one line item to another thru a supplementary amendment is good when you fund something that is sustainable. 

“I understand that for the sake of optics, this might be politically expedient. But the President should understand that the $800m from the World Bank he is asking the National Assembly to approve is a loan the former minister of finance negotiated by staking 535m units (17.1%) of Nigeria’s special drawing rights at the International Monetary Fund with the International Development Association of the World Bank as collateral for an $800m loan. It makes sense to invest it,” Kelvin Emmanuel wrote.

Besides criticism that N8,000 per month will do little to ameliorate peoples’ suffering, there is concern that there is no way to ensure that the fund will get to the “poorest Nigerians” due to lack of reliable data.

Socio-Economic, Transparency & Accountability Project (SERAP) said it is “issuing an FoI request to compel the Tinubu administration to publish details of the proposed transfer of N8,000 monthly to 12 million poor households for six months, such as the list of intended beneficiaries, how they will be selected, and the methods of payments.”

The civil rights group also asked the federal government to “immediately withdraw the unlawful allocation of N70 billion to the National Assembly” or face legal action.

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