Opposition to fuel subsidy removal rises

Bakare_Pol_13-4-11CNPP, Bakare, others vow mass protest

Want govt to build refineries

THE days roll by.  It is countdown to January 1, 2012. With a certain frenzy, the Federal Government reiterates its resolve to remove oil subsidy on that date.

But will it be a smooth sail? The opposition groups do not think so.  They are refining their measures to counter the government’s position.

The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), civil society organisations (CSOs) and the vice presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the last general elections, Pastor Tunde Bakare, were among those who at the weekend expressed their resistance to the fuel subsidy removal.

The statement of the CNPP and civil groups at a meeting on Saturday night in Abuja, which was made available to The Guardian by the Secretary to CNPP, Osita Okechukwu, noted that the stakeholders would not hesitate to take to the street if government is adamant that the fuel subsidy should not be removed.

“Don’t push us to the street; for we went to the street to make you president and would not like to go to the street to remove you as president!,” the document warned.

While calling on Nigerians to join “the Mother of Mass Actions,” Okechukwu said that the CNPP and the CSOs would work in league with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC).

The statement titled: “Fuel subsidy: Seven-point charter to President Jonathan,” requested that new refineries be built. “We are saying build new refineries; for if you don’t have confidence that Nigerians can manage refineries, we don’t have confidence that you can manage the withdrawal proceeds. Stop the rampant corruption in fuel importation; before removing the fuel subsidy! If you can’t stop rampant corruption in fuel importation; you cannot guarantee the proceeds to be withdrawn,” he said.

According to the document, the removal of fuel subsidy is a road Nigerians have passed severally since 1978 and unfortunately, all promises made were broken while the pains of serial removal of fuel subsidy have remained permanent.

Explaining why Nigerians should resist the move at a press conference in Lagos yesterday, Bakare said successive governments had failed to explain why the refineries had remained incapacitated despite the huge investments over the years in Turn Around Maintenance (TAM).

Bakare also wondered why NNPC had to leave its own storage facilities unused and proceed to incur additional costs from leasing third party storage facilities. According to him, the owners of these third party facilities are not faceless people,  “they are part of the cartel siphoning the resources of our nation.”

He further noted that the Federal Government had failed to tell the whole truth surrounding the matter as  “each time it trumpets and blows its propaganda machinery that the N65 per litre we pay for petrol is the lowest in the world. Ours is the highest if we compare the price here to other oil producing nations.”

Bakare warned that if the country ever allowed the removal of fuel subsidy, “Nigerians will be made to pay for the ineptitude of their leaders and the kleptomania of government functionaries.”

But rather than castigate President Goodluck Jonathan for the decision of his administration to remove oil subsidy, former Defence Minister Tokunbo Kayode said Nigerians should praise the president for his courage to take the step.

Kayode, who stated this in his Ikaram-Akoko, Ondo State country home at the weekend said successive governments in Nigeria knew the desirability of the removal of fuel subsidy but lacked the political will to implement it.

According to the former member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) who spoke during his inauguration as the Baba Ijo of his local congregation, St. James’ Anglican Church, the decision being taken by Dr. Jonathan was sealed during the administration of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

Kayode, who was in charge of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity when the controversial decision was taken in 2009 by the cabinet of President Yar’Adua, said the administration lacked the courage to go through the process of implementation.

On its part, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Osun State has called on the National Assembly to save the nation from an unwarranted crisis by prevailing on Jonathan and his economic team to shelve the plan for fuel subsidy removal.

The party said the widespread poverty, unemployment and insecurity in the country might be aggravated if the Federal Government removed fuel subsidy.

The party also blamed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led Federal Government of President Jonathan for his stand on the matter despite the outcry of Nigerians against the action, warning that the authorities should be prepared to take full responsibility for the outcome   of the subsidy removal.

Speaking at an interactive session with journalists in Osogbo, the state capital, the ACN Director of Research and Strategy in the state, Mr. Kunle Oyatomi, expressed worry that the Presidency was yet to have a rethink about the unpopular policy despite outcry against it by Nigerians.

Describing the fuel subsidy removal as anti-people policy by the PDP-led Federal Government, the party urged the National Assembly to stand by the citizens by ensuring that President Jonathan and his economic team do not succeed in inflicting unbearable burden on the already pauperised populace.

Besides, a member of the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, Senator Jide Omoworare has accused the Federal Government of insincerity in the management of refineries, saying refusal to build new refineries informed the proposal for fuel subsidy removal.

Omoworare, representing Osun East Senatorial District therefore called for a state of emergency in the nation’s oil sector to enable the government to embark on aggressive measures to build more refineries in different locations to increase availability of petroleum locally.

The ACN lawmaker spoke at the weekend in Ile-Ife, Osun State after he gave certificate of recognition to some cooperative societies to enable them to access bank loan facilities to enhance their businesses.

He dismissed the argument for fuel subsidy removal as a capitalist agenda aimed at causing dislocation in the economy, adding that the proposal was a way of shifting the high cost of fuel importation by a few rich elements to the masses.

According to him, instead of fuel subsidy removal, which would increase the suffering of Nigerians, the Federal Government should declare an emergency in the building of refineries across the country.

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2 Comments

  • the issue of subsidy removal is a great challenge to the masses; nigeria is great nation in the world, but the level of poverty is incresing each an every day becouse of miss management of fund and high level of corruption.
    now the govt want to fool us by saying they will use the subsidy money to develop the economy, upon all the revenue the govt are generating yet they cant utilize it on economic development. morover they can also use the money all the currupted leaders are stilling pple like the former speaker and those that have not come to our notice, are also enogh to develop the infrastructure. all we are saying is the govt should takcle curruption before removing subsidy.

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