President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that his administration will not inflict additional hardship on them.
Speaking when Quadri Olaleye, president of the Trade Union Congress, led a delegation to Aso Rock on Thursday, Buhari said his government would rather seek ways to ameliorate sufferings and create a more enabling environment for everyone to thrive.
He 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.”
The president’s comment comes 24 hours after widespread criticism over the federal executive council approval of an increase in value added tax (VAT) rate from 5 percent to 7.2 percent.
Buhari told the TUC delegation that the federal government is committed to the implementation of the national minimum wage. He said the inaugural FEC meeting held on Wednesday focused on the medium-term expenditure framework, which included discussions around the new minimum wage.
He said: “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 Programme 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.”
Buhari, who said his administration will work hard to improve the livelihood of citizens, added that most of the inherited challenges were avoidable if some previous governments had been keener on investing in infrastructure and human capacity.
He said: “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.”
On his part, the president of TUC advised the federal government to pay more attention to the welfare of Nigerians by avoiding an increase of fuel price and ensuring implementation of the national minimum wage, which had been delayed by negotiations on the consequential adjustments.
He said: “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 assured Buhari that TUC will support the government as it tackles challenges facing the country. He commended him for increase in internally generated revenue, steps on the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.