Adewale Sanyaolu and Chinelo Obogo
Nigerians yesterday reacted angrily to the Federal Government’s claim that it currently subsidies cost of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) to the tune of N120 billion ($263,248 million) monthly.
Reacting after the Group Managing Director (GMD), of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari’s disclosure at the fifth edition of the Special Ministerial Briefings that NNPC can no longer afford to bear the cost as Nigerians would have to pay the actual cost for the commodity, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Bismark Rewane, said Nigeria should have opted out of subsidy regime long ago, as the continued delay in doing so would always do the economy more harm.
Rewane however warned that the savings from subsidy programme must be expended judiciously for the benefit of Nigerians, as its current implementation was only benefiting the rich should be discouraged forthwith.
‘’Why should we be subsiding consumption, that is an aberration.
The truth is that, the poor are not really benefiting from subsidy because they go on buses which are powered by diesel which has already been deregulated.’’
He added that subsidypayment is no longer sustainable in the current economic circumstance but noted that it should be managed in a way that wouldn’t lead to untold hardship for Nigerians.
Also commenting, the National President, Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria (PETROAN), Mr. Billy Gillis-Harry, said the comments by the Kyari remained the reality, stressing that Nigerians should be told truth and ready to hear the truth.
He said subsidy is not the way for Nigeria to go, adding that the market dynamics should dictate petrol price at any given time.
He said the argument that the decision to deregulate the downstream sector was not teneable, saying Government should device creative ways to ensure that Nigerians reap the benefit of subsidy savings.
Gillis-Harry maintained that the market should be liberalised to allow for more players to resume the importation of petrol as against the current arrangement whereby the NNPC remains the sole importer.
‘‘Let the market be opened up to players that have the capacity to import while the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) makes forex available to them at competitive rates.
In his reactions, a former law maker, Senator Rufai Hanga, who represented Kano Central in the National Assembly, told Daily Sun that Nigerians should protest if the government increases the pump price of petrol, describing claims of subsidy payment as a scam. He said President Muhammadu Buhari had previously told the nation that subsidy doesn’t exist and promised to bring down fuel price to N50, therefore, he said Nigerians should hold the president to his word.
“Before President Buhari became President, people thought that he had the competence to handle the economy but by the first year of his presidency, people saw that he is clueless, incompetent and lacks capacity. Buhari had always said that subsidy is a scam because he was petroleum minister and he knew what he was saying. He said that there was nothing like subsidy and that the former administration was lying. By the time he became President, we learned that the government was still paying subsidy.
Since he said that subsidy was a scam, then this administration is a bigger scam because what is happening in this government is something that has never happened in the history of this country.
“Nigerians should protest any increase in petrol pump price because this administration told us that subsidy is a scam and promised during their election campaign that fuel price would go down to N50. We should protest and tell the government that we can’t buy fuel at N165 anymore and insist that they should fulfil their promise to bring down the price. We should ask President Buhari if he was lying when he made that promise. We should protest because Buhari himself participated in protests against former President Goodluck Jonathan on fuel price and other issues. We need to tell the government that what is going on regarding subsidy is a bigger scam,” Hanga said.
Also reacting, Mallam Sani Umar, a former campaign spokesman to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 election told Daily Sun that former President Goodluck Jonathan wanted to completely remove subsidy and peg the pump price of petrol at N141, but was opposed by Buhari.
“Jonathan wanted to remove subsidy completely which would have pegged the pump price of petrol at N141 but Nigerians protested and he had to reconsider his position and brought it down to N87 from N65. It was taken to N97 and taken back to N87.
“Now the issue is that we are importing refined petrol, so I don’t know if the subsidy is on that or if it is from the crude oil that we export. If the government is saying it is paying subsidy on the refined petrol that we import, then what about the $1.5 billion we have earmarked to rehabilitate our refinery? The price of fuel is not normally expected to go down, so when you remove subsidy and increase fuel price, what happens after you spend billions on the repair of the refineries? Will you reduce the fuel price? What is the benefit that Nigerians would get when the refinery gets repaired? They want to increase fuel price but they are not telling us whether the price would come down if the refineries are repaired. The government is just playing on our intelligence and making excuses. This is a scam and they are using it to manipulate Nigerian,” Sani said.
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