Labour has proposed measures that could make the nation’s currency exchange below N100 to US$1 and invariably return the country to the path of economic recovery.
The United Labour Congress (ULC), at its inaugural Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting in Lagos at the weekend, noted that the revival of the petroleum sector was the key to free Nigeria from the present economic crisis.
Though it commended the Federal Government on the current efforts at protecting the naira through some positive actions that have lifted the value of the currency domestically, the union stated that there could be more sustainable action that would sanitise the foreign exchange market, unify the exchange rate windows and stop immediately the haemorrhaging activities of economic “rentiers” that have ruined the economy.
President of the group, Joe Ajaero, called on the Federal Government to deploy the same zeal with which it has battled to halt the decimation of the naira to mount a more sustainable action to push the exchange of the naira to at least less than a N100 to US$1.
“We once again suggest that, since the importation of petroleum products constitutes about 60 per cent of total foreign exchange consumption, if we revive our refineries, build new ones, especially the modular types as canvassed by the Presidency, and, most especially, the legalisation of the illegal refining of petroleum products in the Niger Delta, within the next six months, we would have attained self-sufficiency in domestic refining and exit forever this embarrassment that is the continued dependence on imports for our petroleum product needs. This will take away this pressure on the naira and make our macro-economic policies more endogenously driven, thus better managed,” he said.
Lamenting the poor living condition of the masses, Ajaero said labour recognises that part of the reason for the worsening of the living conditions in Nigeria is the deteriorating exchange rate of the naira to major world currencies.
“We know that Nigeria, having a high import coefficient, is bound to experience diverse levels of serious inflation as a result,” said the union leader.
He stressed that this makes it now expedient for government to examine the factors responsible for the continuous depreciation of the naira, in order to reduce inflation and make goods and services more accessible to the majority.
“We reiterate that governance is about the people. Any government, no matter the claims to altruism, that does not make the lives of the citizenry better is heading to ignominy. It is, therefore, pertinent that this government should begin to think more about Nigerians and how to make their lives better rather than seeing the people as objects for exploitation”, he said.
On the current xenophobic attacks on African nationals living in South Africa, especially Nigerians, Ajaero said it was a case of misplaced aggression.
“We are sure that Africans are not responsible for whatever difficulties they are going through in their nation but are rather contributing positively to the growth of the South African economy,” he said, calling on the South African government to immediately protect Africans living in the country, bring to book those who participated in the shameful and violent attacks and seek ways to stop a recurrence while working out a compensatory framework for the injuries, lives and properties that have been lost as a result.