‘How Jonathan cajoled govs to support policy ’
NBA to lead protest, Saraki denies bribery allegation
CONTRARY to the widely held belief that the deregulation of the oil industry will begin on January 1, 2012, The Guardian can report that the take-off date is April 1, 2012 when the current budget would have come to an end.
The hint was dropped yesterday in Abuja by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Austin Oniwon, at the 2008 and 2009 Yearly General Meeting of the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (NNPC).
The NNPC helmsman, who decried queues for fuel in some parts of the country, said deregulation was not expected to take off on January 1, 2012.
His words: “I think what people should really look out for is that in the 2012 budgetary proposal, there is no provision for subsidy. And if there is no provision for subsidy, it will be illegal for government to implement subsidy. We believe that when the implementation of the budget takes off, deregulation would then take off with it.”
The lifespan of the current budget is expected to terminate on March 31, 2012 while the new 2012 budget will begin on April 1, 2012.
Besides, an insight has been given into how President Goodluck Jonathan allegedly arm-twisted state governors to support the planned removal of subsidy from petroleum products.
Also, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has expressed its readiness to lead a protest against the policy.
Yesterday too, the former governor of Kwara State, Senator Bukola Saraki, denied allegations of bribery against members of the National Assembly over the oil subsidy.
According to Saraki at the marking of his 49th birthday yesterday in Ilorin, “there is nothing like bribing the National Assembly to support withdrawal of fuel subsidy. The President cannot do that. It is a baseless allegation. The Senate and the House of Representatives have spoken, looking at the management of fuel subsidy, we cannot be doing that if we have been bribed.”
Speaking with journalists at the weekend in Isan-Ekiti, Oye Local Council of Ekiti State, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Dr. Adewale Omirin, revealed how state governors were cowed into supporting the controversial subsidy removal.
According to him, “the governors never supported it (subsidy removal). What my governor (Dr. Kayode Fayemi) told me was that they (governors) never supported subsidy removal. What the President actually did was that he said he would be deducting the subsidy from their federal allocation but the governors kicked.
“He (Jonathan) now persuaded them and added what is deducted from the excess crude oil and he said they should go out and say they are in support of subsidy removal.”
When reminded that Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State spoke on behalf of governors in the South-West in support of the subsidy removal while briefing journalists after the National Executive Council meeting in Abuja, the Speaker said: “I am not aware of that and I don’t think my governor can tell lies.”
The Speaker berated the Federal Government for allocating N922 billion to security, because, according to him, “we are not experiencing any serious insecurity in the country.”
He said there was no need removing subsidy on petroleum products, describing President Jonathan’s insistence as inhuman in the face of the economic hardship Nigerians were passing through.
Omirin said the Conference of Speakers was yet to take a position on the proposal but added that there was no justification for importing fuel into the country since Nigeria is one of the largest producers of petroleum products in the world.
He added: “We are producing this oil and I believe we should refine in this country. There is no reason why we should import fuel in the first instance. Since we are producing, the oil should be refined here and give to Nigerians to use. So, there is no reason for putting subsidy on oil.”
He said that the removal of the subsidy was being put in place for the benefit of a few Nigerians at the expense of the majority.
“I believe it is very unfair and President Jonathan should reconsider his plan,” he added.
The NBA President, Chief Joseph Bodunrin Daudu (SAN), said that the members of the association would resist any attempt to remove fuel subsidy.
The NBA President who was flanked by other officials of the association at a press conference, held at the Kaduna Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) yesterday, said that “throughout the Olusegun Obasanjo administration and up to the close of Musa Yar’Adua administration, subsidy did not exceed N300 billion, ” pointing out that “how it has now shot up to N1.3 trillion or thereabout remains a matter for serious inquiry without corresponding increase in the supply of PMS.”
Daudu, who faulted the argument of the subsidy removal, explained that “the point that only a few moguls benefited from the existence of subsidy is no argument for its removal as what would be gained from the removal will be transferred to the coffers of the federal and state governments.”
According to him, if the removal of subsidy is allowed, the government whose record of funds management in the economy has been a suspect “will as usual deal with those fresh funds in the same way and manner as previous funds have been dealt with.”
Daudu said: “The moguls will continue to thrive as the funds gained by politicians in government are merely transferred to be borne by hapless Nigerians. Government appears adamant in the quest to remove this subsidy. The people are equally resolved in their opposition to the removal of subsidy. Nigeria is up for rough times ahead.
“The time has come for final determination whether those in government derive their powers from the people or whether they are independent and own their stay in power to other entities other than the people. We foresee a victory and liberation for the people of Nigeria, while those pushing for deregulation in the present form will depart with more than bloody nose.”
The NBA leader further argued that “for the avoidance of doubt, the NBA position on the proposed deregulation or removal of subsidy is …the NBA will not support at this point in time the removal of petroleum subsidy, which is said to amount to N1.3 trillion.”
The South/East South/South Professionals of Nigeria (SESSP) President, Emeka Ugwu-Oju, also said in Lagos yesterday that the parties involved in the fuel removal controversy needed unbiased positions from trusted and non-partisan professional groups to assist in their decision-making process.