By Bimbola Oyesola
As the Food Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association (FOBTOB) celebrated its 44th anniversary last week, workers in the food sector have made a clarion call to the Federal Government to ensure availability of foreign exchange to the manufacturers to save the sector from collapse.
President of the union, Jimoh Oyibo, in an interview with Daily Sun Workforce, lamented that employers in the sector were finding it difficult to source raw materials from abroad due to the scarcity of foreign exchange.
“Issues of forex are affecting my industry such that we cannot get it to use for important production. The consequence is what we don’t want to imagine.
“Already one of our big employers, Ragolis Water in Ikorodu has shut down due to the unavailability of forex. That means our members working there no more have employment,” he said.
The FOBTOB president said that it was painful that manufacturers who sustain the economy cannot get forex, but the dollar is in the hands of individuals, mostly politicians, who use it at their conventions and other political activities.
He noted that sourcing forex from black market which most of the companies are now doing for survival having been left with no other choice is not sustainable.
“It is unfortunate that such things are playing out. Yet we have government. Sourcing from black market reduced profit margin of the manufacturers and what that means is that they will not be able to meet up with their overheads,” he said.
Oyibo said government should live up to its responsibility and ensure that forex is made available to manufacturers and not party jamborees.
On the introduction of excise duty on carbonated drinks despite the plea by the unions, the labour leader said the present administration has failed not only workers but Nigerians as the effects of the increase cuts across several stakeholders.
“The duty affects our members who are now producing at a loss, but despite this, our employers have been magnanimous as we didn’t witness any redundancy.
“What we did was to advise our employers in those companies affected to push up the volume to make up, but out fear now is the technology being employed,” he said.
He reasoned that the workers cannot afford to lose jobs now with the current inflation that has eroded even the present earnings of the workers: “This government has failed us from day one. At the beginning we felt help had come. All of us should rise up to bring a government with human face.
“The fact that there’s no consequence for corrupt practices is what led us to this level. The leadership will need to change, so that at the end of the day things will be ok for our industry and our country.”