…Ask FG to disclose crude oil sale accruals since 2016
…Subsidy claims, height of deceit —TUC
…PDP, Atiku’s stance on deregulation hypocritical — APC
By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Omeiza Ajayi
The angst against the increase in the pump price of petrol continued yesterday, with pro-labour civil society organizations, on the aegis of Joint Action Front, JAF, faulting the Federal Government’s claims of having spent N10.413 trillion on subsidy in the past 13 years.
JAF contended that the present government had in 2016, told Nigerians that subsidy had been removed after jerking up the pump price of petrol from N86.50 to N145 per litre.
Corroborating JAF, the Trade Union Congress, TUC, said the ruling party had during its campaign in 2015, said fuel should not sell for more than N34 per litre, wondering why the Federal Government is now hiding under the umbrella of subsidy to inflict more pains on Nigerians.
Secretary of JAF, Abiodun Aremu, in a chat with Vanguard, challenged government to publicly disclose what accrued as revenue from the sale of crude oil from May 11, 2016, to August 2020.
He said: “This regime, like previous regimes since 1999, is an agent of international capital. The regime by its pronouncement that over N10 trillion was spent on fuel subsidy must be exposed for its lies and atrocities.
“First, on May 11, 2016, the Buhari regime in its defence of fuel price hike from N86.50 to N145 per litre of petrol, claimed that it had removed subsidy from all petroleum products — kerosene, diesel and petrol.
“Following the protest organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and JAF against the fuel price hike from May 18 to May 20, 2016, which the regime massively repressed, it sponsored a decisive conference of Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, at Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja on May 23, 2016.
“The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Minister of Communication were supervisors of the government side, while the current Minister of State for Labour, who was then a part of the CSOs, acted as the go-between facilitator of the conference.
“The premeditated conference which was aimed at scuttling the mass resistance, assured that total removal of subsidy would be of immense benefits to Nigeria and Nigerians. The government told us that the gains and differential between N86.50 and N145 would be saved for the provision of social welfare services to Nigerians and repairs of the nation’s refineries.
“The government equally promised that the fund would be jointly managed by its committee and CSOs. If we may ask, if the regime has removed subsidy since May 11, 2016 till August 2020, how come it is now floating a non-existent figure of subsidy expenditures in trillions of Naira?
“Rather than being hoodwinked by this regime, we should ask the regime to declare the total amount of unpaid subsidies of the differential between N86.50 and N145 saved from May 11, 2016 to August 2020, which we strongly believe must have been looted.
‘Disclose crude sales accruals’
“The regime should publicly disclose what accrued as revenue from the sales of crude oil from May 11, 2016 to August 2020.
‘’What is the total budget approved for the regime from 2016 to 2020 to claim that it has spent such overblown figures on subsidy The government should explain to Nigerians why enough should be enough of this deception .
‘’We should no longer go on with this unjust system of exploitative rule. The regime was not elected by Nigerians on the basis of private looters but for public interest. Nigerians must be prepared for a long drawn struggle to end the unjust rule of exploitation and dehumanization. ‘’Enough should be enough of IMF and World Bank puppet regime impositions of sufferings and hardships on Nigerians. We must dare to struggle in order to dare to win.”
‘Height of deceit’
Also in its reaction yesterday, the Trade Union Congress, TUC, described the issue of subsidy as the height of deceit by the federal government
TUC President, Quadri Olaleye, said: “The Congress is surprised because in the build-up to 2015 general elections, Nigerians were told that there was nothing like subsidy. We were further told that fuel should not cost more than N34.50 per litre.
“It was one of their cardinal campaign promises that the refineries would be fixed. These and many more were promised us, hence, Nigerians went out en masse to vote for this government. This is the height of deceit.
“If the truth should be told, we are disappointed because the N10.413 trillion government claimed to have been spent on subsidy is enough to fix the refineries and even build several modular refineries.
“Why is the government destroying alleged ‘illegal refineries’ in the Niger Delta when they have no alternatives? Do the people using the locally refined fuel complain that their engines are having problems?
“China will do the opposite by encouraging the local refiners. It does not make sense that for decades we export crude and cash crops only to import finished products. No country develops that way. Check out history if you will find any.
“We must begin to add value to our products, and the N10.413 trillion subsidy claims, though we doubt the figure, is enough to turn around any economy. We are not happy. Nigerians feel sad about this.”
APC attacks Atiku, PDP
Meanwhile, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has chastised the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its presidential candidate in the 2019 election, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar for condemning the recent hike in electricity tariff and fuel pump price, describing it as the height of hypocrisy.
It accused Atiku of being double-faced and lacking in integrity, wondering if after promising to deregulate the economy during the campaigns in 2019, he could now turn around to criticize President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for doing exactly what he (Atiku) had promised to do if elected.
PDP had said in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Tuesday: “Our party stands with Nigerians in insisting that there is no way our compatriots can survive a N162 per litre fuel price and a N66 per kw/h of electricity in a country which, in the last five years, ranked as poverty capital of the world, with a frightening 23 percent unemployment rate; where over 90 million citizens live in abject poverty and many more living on less than N500 a day.
“Indeed, we find it very inconceivable that after the federal government, through the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, confirmed that 90 million Nigerians are living in poverty, it still went ahead to increase the cost of essential commodities that drive our economy.
“Nigerians are already in trepidation that the excruciating price increase is a sudden death sentence on many citizens, particularly those living below poverty line, as they cannot survive under a worsened economic situation.
“Moreover, with a N30,000 federal monthly minimum wage, which represents a N1,000 ($2.1) daily wage, there is no way an average Nigerian can survive under the excessive fuel and electricity hike, with attendant increases in transportation and other operational costs, which will leave most citizens with nothing for food, medicines, house rents and other basic necessities of life.
Atiku backed Buhari’s policies, says APC
But replying the PDP yesterday, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, Yekini Nabena, said in a statement: “The PDP and Atiku’s reaction to what has been adjudged an inevitability by many experts clearly depicts the height of hypocrisy demonstrated by them on many issues relating to the progress and well being of Nigeria.’’
The party said as genuine patriots, reputable groups and organizations make honest contributions to the reactions about the deregulation of electricity and petrol prices, it received with some amazement comments attributed to the PDP and Alhaji Atiku condemning the decision of the Buhari administration to deregulate PMS.
The statement read: “Atiku’s comments clearly portrays him as a man not only acutely lacking in integrity but also one that should never be trusted.
“Atiku continues to justify the majority of Nigerian people who rejected him at the polls. This stems majorly from the fact that he was part of the government that created the corrupt petrol subsidy monster and also the chaos in the electricity sector.
“A further portrayal of Atiku’s hypocrisy was his pretentious promise to deregulate the downstream petroleum sector by privatizing the NNPC. Atiku made the sale of NNPC to his friends and the deregulation of both the PMS and the electricity sector the hallmark of his 2019 presidential election misadventure.
“Atiku argued at different forums in 2018 and early 2019 that NNPC and the power sector must be disbanded through privatization if they must be efficient.
“Quoting his specific words about the privatization of the NNPC as a springboard for the deregulation of the downstream sector, Atiku said, ‘Privatising NNPC would be to our advantage. We are not going to lose anything, but we will rather gain a lot,’ according to a Guardian story of January 17, 2019.
“During the campaign and as reported by Reuters on November 19, 2018, ‘Nigeria’s Abubakar promises to boost oil investment, cut subsidies if elected.’ The news report added ‘Abubakar said he would eliminate subsidies on imported fuel and let the market determine the price.’
“Again, his campaign platform, during the electioneering also disclosed: ‘The liberalization of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry to, among others, allow market-denominated prices for Premium Motor Spirit and eliminate subsidies for its consumption.’
“Recently, specifically in June, 2020, Atiku, in a tweet, hailed the Buhari administration’s drive to remove subsidy on petrol, saying that ‘the stoppage of subsidy and price-fixing is a right move, although it should have come earlier when the economy was stronger.’
“FG and state governments should proceed to remove other impediments and roll out incentives to spur investments in the sector, especially the numerous refineries that have been licensed but yet to be built. Then ensure the quality of fuel meet set standards.’
“Even Atiku’s Economic Adviser, Mustapha Chike-Obi, has the decency to hail the decision to remove subsidies for petrol and electricity.
“Adding his views to the debate Chike-Obi tweeted ‘the gradual dismantling of subsidies by the Buhari administration is well advised. It was unsustainable, and this policy adjustment though late in coming is the proper economic decision. We must not oppose good policies in the name of political opposition.’
“Judging from its background as a party that instituted the very corrupt subsidy regime in the petrol sector, the PDP lacks the moral credentials to question an honest and transparent move by the Buhari-led administration to find lasting solutions to the problems caused by the party in the years that it led the affairs of the country.
“Describing the deregulation of the price of petrol by the APC-led government as callous and cruel is rather sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek, given the pain and anguish suffered by Nigerians on long queues at petrol stations when the PDP-led government presided over a very corrupt subsidy regime.
“It is, therefore, laughable that the same set of people will turn around and condemn decisions taken to fix the mess they created in the system. The PDP’s outburst indeed exposes once again its real fraudulent character and plot to patronize Nigerians and make them suffer in perpetuity by keeping a fraudulent subsidy arrangement that feeds a few individuals at the expense of the masses.
“Judging from the foregoing, the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, and comments attributed to them should not be taken seriously as they simply lack the decency required to guide Nigeria and Nigerians to the path of prosperity and progress.”
APC said compared to PDP’s failed past, under the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, the reviewed petroleum products pricing template has resulted in a more transparent, efficient and realistic pricing system for petroleum products and also resulted in constant availability of fuel nationwide.
“In line with the drive to deregulate the oil sector, the petroleum products pricing template now reflects competitive and market driven components which has inturn freed up cash to fund the ongoing development of critical infrastructure across the country.”