The Federal Government would reconsider the 500 per cent tariff on local beverages, Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment said. This sources close to the Aso Rock, Nigeria’ Seat of Power, is not unconnected with disturbing signals from the stakeholders in the economy that the arbitrary increase would fuel voters apathy.
According to a statement signed by Mr Samuel Olowokere, Director of Press in the ministry on Friday in Abuja, Ngige made this known when members of the National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Joint Employers and Workers Association visited him in his office on a Save Our Soul (SOS) mission.
According to the minister, the Federal Government will review the newly introduced 500 per cent excise duty on locally produced alcoholic beverages.
“This will save the sector from imminent collapse and forestall the consequent loss of about two hundred thousand jobs.
“You have written to the Federal Government through me that the increase in excise duty on alcohol and beverages will create job losses.
“Because once you add a new cost and pass it on, there will be consumer resistance, resulting in low patronage.
“Whereas the products coming from overseas that are being smuggled in which are cheap, will take over the market. It is a statement of fact.
“I have passed your complaints and luckily we have a listening President who wants the good of all Nigerians.
“The President will definitely ask the Minister of Finance and the economic management team to review the tariff, ‘’he said.
Ngige also said that Nigeria cannot afford to create poverty and job losses while promoting abundant jobs in other countries.
He, however said that Job losses are not part of the present administration and would not support the 500 per cent tariff increase.
He the Economic and Recovery Growth Plan (ELGP) of the Federal Government was partly tailored towards job creation rather than losses.
He added that the Executive Order No. one and four was for job creation as well as ensuring that jobs created were done by the locals.
He said that the cardinal place job creation and protection occupy informed the administration’s fidelity to non-declaration of redundancy in the federal Ministries and Agencies, hence no retrenchment of workers.
“This is not to say that we do not know that in some places available jobs have more than available staff members to match them but this is a compassionate administration.
“The President does not want to throw many families into anguish. The President always said that he was a salary earner in all his working life.
“You can also see that we did not place an embargo on recruitment as we used to have years ago even while we were under recession.
“The Federal Government has been replacing staff members who exited as well as creating new jobs in the public sector. But this has to be complemented with the private sector jobs to have a full blend, ‘’Ngige said.
He also noted that on the issue of welfare of workers that Federal Government has started the staff housing programme for workers which was being operated by the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.
He said the progrmme was under the Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) as well as other housing progrmmes meant to provide cheap houses to Nigerian workers.
“The Federal Government who has this level of commitment to the upliftment of the Nigerian workers cannot resort to any measure that can trigger job losses.
“We will certainly not commit to any policy that will make us lose two hundred thousand jobs, ‘’he said.
He further assured the delegation that the Federal Government through the Custom and Excise Department was working round the clock to tame the activities of smugglers so as to save local industries.
Earlier, Mr Mike Olarenwaju, the leader of the delegation and the Acting General Secretary of the Union noted the plight of the association.
He said that the 500 per cent tariff increase by the Ministry of Finance on their products was counter-productive as the measure was an assured destruction of the sector.
“It will kill investments, it is already creating palpable fear in the operators, jobs losses is looming while imported products will displace local goods for reasons of smuggling and cheapness,” he appealed to the Minster.
He, therefore, explained they were on SOS to the minister to save the sector from going the way of the textile industry.
“We also appeal to you to prevent the loss of about 200, 000 jobs with the attendant economic and social consequences. We have run to you as our last hope.
“ Your antecedent in protecting the cause of the workers, that you have zero tolerance for anything that hurts the workforce is source of our confidence that the 500 per cent tariff on our products.
“This spells doom for the sector and will be looked into by the government, he said.
But National Daily sources hinted that the real deal is the fact that the earlier decision coming on the heels of a buildup to the 2019 General Elections was only going to pitch majority of citizens against government, hence the new move to review the decision.
It however remains to be seen how the government intends to swing this as a joker.