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May Day: Labour warns FG over rising external debt profile

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 The Organised Labour Movement in Nigeria has decried the increasing external debt accumulation by government at all levels.

The country’s external debt profile from N4.527 trillion in 2017 to N6.460 trillion in 2018.

Mr Ayuba Wabba, President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Mr Bobboi Kaigama of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), made this disclosure in their message to workers at the 2019 May Day celebration, on Wednesday, in Abuja.

According to Wabba, the NLC is concerned about the increasing debt accumulation by the government at all levels.

The Debt Management Office (DMO), disclosed as at 2018 December 31, that Nigeria’s debt burden stood at N24.387 trillion.

A breakdown of the debt stock revealed that the federal government of Nigeria’s external debt increased by 42.69 per cent, from N4.527 trillion in 2017 to N6.460 trillion in 2018.

About two-thirds of the government’s revenue go into servicing interest payments, with the principal still waiting for redemption at maturity.

Even the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), through the Monetary Policy Committee, recently cautioned the federal government against Nigeria’s rising debt level,‘‘ he said.

He noted that the committee warned that except the federal government came up with measures to address the situation, Nigeria’s debt might rise up to the pre-2005 Paris Club level.

He, however, noted that, that there was nothing wrong in borrowing to invest in physical infrastructure with a capacity of enlarging the public revenue base.

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Wabba added that the organised labour cautioned government to ensure that debt profile does not get toxic and return Nigeria to another milieu of the debt trap.

Also Kaigama noted that in spite of the promising nature of Nigeria’s economy, it has yet to be weaned from import dependency.

Our economy remains essentially rent-seeking, subsistence, non-inclusive, and vulnerable to shocks from the global commodities’ market, fraught to unwieldy inflationary trends and unable to create sustainable mass jobs.

Despite the best efforts of the government to diversify the economy, attract foreign direct investment, increase our foreign exchange revenue and create more jobs, these efforts are being frustrated by systemic challenges.

These challenges include: endemic corruption, institutional chaos, crises in our social sector, and disabling physical infrastructure – electricity supply, water, rail system, road network, inland waterways transportation among others,‘’ he said.

The TUC president, however, said that the persistence of double-digit inflation and stagnant remuneration for workers, have almost wiped the purchasing power of Nigerian workers.

He added that the impact of the prevailing hyper-inflation on pensioners and workers was better imagined than experienced.

He said that working families are unable to meet up with the basic costs of living, especially feeding and decent accommodation, thus plummeting living standards to an all-time low.

The worse is that most Nigerians are not even enjoying utility services, such as public power supply, potable water, public education, and healthcare, despite very high user access charges.

In the absence of cushioning palliatives, it appears that workers have become the sacrificial lamb on the slab of all that is not working in Nigeria. This is indeed very unfortunate,‘’ he said.

He also said that the organised labour noted the efforts by President Muhammadu Buhari to create mass jobs, through the diversification of the economy, particularly through the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

Kaigama called on the federal government to ensure that the initiatives was anchored on a strong commitment to industrialisation.

We call for the revival of the intermediate and capital goods production segments of the Nigerian industrial sector, especially the auto assembly plants, the steel industry, the fertilizer and petrochemical industries; in the context of a medium-term national development planning.

We must develop a national consciousness and culture that frowns at exporting raw materials without value addition.

We call on all tiers of government in Nigeria, to provide incentives to drive and sustain the growth of labour-intensive industrial sector.

There are millions of jobs locked down in the untapped value chains in our agricultural, petroleum and mining sectors.

Now is the time to unlock them and provide decent jobs for our youth.

Now is the time to reconstruct the sour narrative of exporting jobs and prosperity to other climes and importing joblessness, poverty, and misery into the motherland,‘’ Kaigama added.

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