By Dirisu Yakubu – Abuja
As condemnation continues to greet the recent increment in the pump price of the Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, and electricity tariff, students under the umbrella of National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Thursday, threatened to embark on a nationwide protest on Monday, September 14 if urgent steps are not taken to reverse the new costs.
Although, NANS argued that deregulation is not a bad idea; the difficulty faced by Nigerians owing to biting economy made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, it added, makes any resort to increment in the cost of public utilities, untenable.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, Comrade Danielson Bamidele Akpan, Global President of the association tasked the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to prioritize the welfare of Nigerians as its being done by governments across the world.
“Precisely on Monday 14th September 2020, Nigerian students shall be making a loud statement in a mass protest across the six geo-political zones, and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to demand an outright reversal of the insensitive price hikes.
“It is no longer news that the federal government in a swooping total deregulation and subsidy removal policy announced another increase in the pump price of PMS.
“It is also a known fact that prior to that, the federal government also approved increases in electricity tariff while banks regrettably reduced interests on customer savings.
“The effects of these increases amidst earlier increments made in Value Added Tax, VAT, and multiple taxations on goods and services have started causing unbearable consequences, thereby compounding the obvious imbalances in the economic and social life of Nigerians, most of whom are dependent on (unstable) electricity supply and PMS to do businesses and make ends meet,” Akpan said.
According to him, “there have been uncharted abuse of our foreign exchange by beneficiaries of subsidies over the years and by no means new to this administration, which has had nothing to do with the welfare of the masses, is a misplacement, as these huge resources deployed to a few, could also be deployed for the optimum growth of the nation.
“Regrettably, the subsidy regime is no longer visible and its complete removal is inevitable. But the timing of the removal and the effect of the removal is wrong.
“The new normal in the world requires the channeling of resources to profitable ventures with humane face, conscious and deliberate growth plans, discoveries and discussions on sustainability models of revenue generation, firm economic programs with deep impact on citizens and how to prevent the country from another recession, rather than continue an unsustainable squander of the nation’s resources in the name of subsidy. This is totally unacceptable going forward, however, the period of the increase due to such removal leaves all in wonder.”
Justifying the decision to hit the streets nationwide, Akpan accused the federal government of failing to take into consideration the difficulty on the path to recovery following the impact of COVID-19 which brought many businesses to a halt.
He continued: “Nigerians are bewildered that has been under months of lockdown and restrictive measures, welcoming them back to normal life with increases in prices of essential commodities is a burden too harsh for the citizens to bear.
“Nigerian students, in particular, will be hard hit by these policies and therefore cannot concentrate or cope with studies as their usually managed 101 feeding standard can no longer be guaranteed. Many students have been forced out of school already due to the high cost of living and the deteriorating economic conditions of their families.
“Now is the time to reset our priorities as a government, people and develop with a common purpose that seeks the good of the common man,” he said, adding “if our refineries were working at the optimal production level and new ones added over the years, Nigerians would by now have long forgotten the pains of persistent increases especially on petroleum products.”
The students said prior to the commencement of the nationwide protest, a letter of notification would be submitted to President Buhari, stressing that the association would partner with well-meaning Nigerians and concerned groups to prevail on the government to reverse the new cost of PMS and reverse the electricity tariff.