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Briefing: Tinubu Jiggers with Secret Subsidy as Unions threaten Total Shutdown & more

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WHAT’S NEWS? September 26, 2023

By Ezinwanne Onwuka

● Nigeria’s ruling party debunks rumor of secret payment of petrol subsidy after removal

Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has debunked reports that President Bola Tinubu reintroduced petrol subsidy through the back door, saying the government only adopted measures to stabilize the pump price of petrol.

Tinubu, ‘possessed with courage’ at his inauguration in May, scrapped the costly subsidy that has kept the price of petrol relatively low in the West African country. His off script ‘The fuel subsidy is gone’ remark sent Nigerians rushing to the petrol stations to nab a last cheap drop of petrol. As expected, the cost of petrol climbed to N537 ($0.688)/liter from N198 ($0.254)/liter hours later. Since late July, the commodity has been selling at N617 ($0.791)/liter.

Recently, reports have spread that the Tinubu government quietly spent N169.4 billion as subsidy in August to keep the price of petrol from crossing N620 ($0.79)/liter. But on Monday night, the national publicity secretary of the APC, Felix Morka explained that “the government’s intervention to ensure some measure of price stability and predictability does not amount to the return of the ruinous fuel subsidy of the recent past.”

● Nigerian workers to begin indefinite strike Oct. 3

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), a confederation of Nigerian workers in various sectors, including unions in workers in the public and private sectors, will strike on Oct. 3 as a protest against recent policies implemented by the government, such as the removal of petrol subsidy.

The workers’ union previously threatened to walk out September 21 if President Tinubu didn’t come up with post-subsidy welfare or food subsidies for workers. The cost of living in Nigeria has soared since Tinubu removed the subsidy on petrol. The union initially issued a 21-day ultimatum on August 31 and launched a warning strike on September 5 and 6, along with protests. The executives of the union met Sept. 25 and agreed to withdraw their services next Tuesday.

Last Monday (Sept. 18), the NLC met with Tinubu’s minister of labour Simon Lalong to resolve issues over the looming work stoppage that could paralyze the economy, but the meeting ended in a deadlock. Among other things, Nigerian workers are asking for tax exemptions and allowances to the public sector workers, and a review of the N30,000 ($38.49) minimum wage.

● Gunmen kidnap one, shoot three students

At exactly 8:00 p.m. local time on Sept. 25, students of the Isa Mustapha Agwai l Polytechnic in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital were attacked by bandits, the latest attack on students after a similar attack at the Federal University of Gusau (FUGUS) in Zamfara.

A female student was abducted and three others, including an admission seeker, sustained bullet wounds. The victims are currently receiving medical attention, authorities say. Police said investigation has commenced.

● Gap between Nigeria’s official and unofficial FX rates widens

The Nigerian naira has extended its slide and hurtled toward the 1000-per-USD mark in street trading, widening the gap between the country’s official and parallel market foreign exchange (FX) rates.

Today (Sept. 26), the naira changed hands at N993/$1, according to Nairalytics, a website that aggregates daily rates for Nigerians, a 0.50 per cent change from the N988 of the previous day. The FX parallel-market rate is now about 28.42 per cent higher than the official exchange rate, where the naira closed at N773.25/$1 on Monday.

The two rates had briefly converged soon after the country’s elected president Bola Tinubu announced sweeping currency reforms in June, but they have diverged steadily since then as shrinking USD supply from the central bank continues to force buyers to the street for hard currency.

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