Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Presidential Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated his administration’s commitment to the implementation of the national minimum wage, disclosing that Wednesday’s inaugural Federal Executive Council meeting focused on the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework, which included discussions around the new minimum wage.
He further assured Nigerians that the Federal Government will not inflict additional hardship on citizens, rather it will keep seeking ways to ameliorate their sufferings and create a more enabling environment for everyone to thrive.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu said Buhari gave the assurance when he received the new executive of Trade Union Congress led by its President, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, at the State House, Thursday.
Buhari said: “On fuel prices, I agree with you on the need to eliminate corruption and inefficiencies in the sector. I want to assure you that, as an Administration, we have no intention of inflicting any additional hardship on Nigerians.”
He added: “During our first term, we secured the nation’s territorial integrity and continue to protect the lives and properties of our citizens. We introduced various economic stimulus packages that support businesses and traders at all levels, promoted backward integration programmes especially in the agricultural sector to enhance our food security while creating jobs.
“We embarked on the most ambitious infrastructure development and rehabilitation projects this country has seen in decades. We also introduced the largest Social Investment Program in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Although these programmes and many more successfully lifted Nigeria out of recession, the full impact is yet to be felt. In the next four years, we shall sustain this momentum and by the grace of God, lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty,” he said.
President Buhari, who noted that his administration will work hard to improve the livelihood of citizens, said most of the inherited challenges were avoidable, if some previous governments had been keener on investing on infrastructure and human capacity.
“The points you raised are all interconnected. The lack of power and infrastructure due to decades of under-investment led to the closure or inefficient operations of a number of factories across the country. This meant the private sector was unable to create jobs fast enough to cope with our increasing population.
“You will agree with me that, all these challenges and many more were long ago left unattended to, thereby leaving the country in the mired state we inherited. You all will also testify to having seen and experienced what we have put in place as an administration to address these challenges.”
Olaleye, in his remarks, advised the Federal Government to pay more attention on the welfare of Nigerians by avoiding increase of fuel price and ensuring implementation of the National Minimum Wage, which had been delayed by negotiations on the consequential adjustments.
“We are, however, disturbed that the enthusiasm is turning into a nightmare,” he said, urging the President to focus on poverty reduction and improving security.
Olaleye told State House Correspondents at a briefing that: “you are all aware we are still in discussion with government representatives on how it affects Grade Level 7-17. We urged Mr. President to ensure the issue is quickly resolved because the economy cannot afford another strike action for now. And he has assured that quick action will be taken.”
The TUC President, assured that the union will support the government as it tackles challenges facing the country, commending President Buhari for increase in Internally Generated Revenue, steps on the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.