Friday, 22nd September 2023

Atiku, Uzodimma, others differ on subsidy removal

By Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri), Rauf Oyewole (Bauchi) Abdulganiyu Alabi (Kaduna) and Sodiq Omolaoye (Abuja)
04 June 2023   |   3:53 am
Amid the groundswell of opposition that has continued to erupt since the removal of subsidy on petrol by the President Bola Tinubu-led Federal Government, some groups and giving the government tacit support laced with conditions.

Hope Uzodimma

• Subsidy removal without consultation with stakeholders absurd — Atiku
• Bear hardship now and enjoy later — Uzodimma
• PAC: Govt’s action untimely

Amid the groundswell of opposition that has continued to erupt since the removal of subsidy on petrol by the President Bola Tinubu-led Federal Government, some groups and giving the government tacit support laced with conditions.

The latest to make their positions known on the niggling issue are former vice president and the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 elections, Atiku Abubakar, and the Chairman of the Progresive Governors’ Forum (PGF), and Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma.
While Atiku faulted the hastily announced subsidy removal without consulting with the relevant stakeholders, therefore subjecting the masses to further needless hardship, Uzodimma urged Nigerians to bear the initial hardship in order to enjoy the results in future.
In the opinion of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), it is not the right time for the government to remove fuel subsidy as reflected in the number of Nigerians that are bearing the brunt. But their view runs contrary to that of a civil society group, the Coalition for Good Governance and Economic Development (CGGED), which described the payment of over N1.2 trillion for subsidy as not only outrageous, but economically retrogressive.
Atiku, who spoke at the retreat for PDP elected officials holding in Bauchi State said: “Let me make a remark on the removal of fuel subsidy. Between 1999 and 2007, the PDP-led government initiated petroleum subsidy removal and I chaired the committee. We achieved subsidy removal in two phases, but only after providing palliative to the most affected. We have experience as a party. That is what should have been done and not just subsidy removal without discussion with affected sectors of the economy. I think Nigerians should appreciate what they have temporarily lost.”
Atiku told elected lawmakers: “Let us not allow our individual ego blind our vision and what the party is. Let us remember that our people need security, economic growth, and development, education, millions of jobs, and wages for our workers. Let us not forget that our people need to be united to face the challenges facing our nation.
“Our country is too damaged to allow time for more needless drama. Our nation needs us, history beckons, and we have confidence that our national assembly members and indeed our party leader will not disappoint us.”
Uzodimma, who spoke in Abuja after meeting with other members of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), explained that the Federal Government was working out measures to provide palliative to cushion the effect on the citizenry.
He hinted that President Bola Tinubu, was interested in the welfare of Nigerians, noting that the removal was part of the campaign promises, as other aspirants did.
Insisting that any unsustainable economic policy should not be allowed to stay, he stressed: “The Federal Government is working out measures to be taken to cushion the effect of the subsidy removal.
“Firstly, the decision about removing fuel subsidy was what the presidential candidates promised Nigerians during their campaigns. It is not something new. What the president did was only to say there is no allocation for subsidy in the 2023 budget from June, and that’s the reality.”

He added: “The history of oil deregulation is a long one that requires patriotic responsibility to be tackled once and for all…We need to be our brothers’ keepers. There is no way we can be like other nations that we admire without incorporating global practices.”
Besides expressing shock at the amount that subsidy gulps, CGGED noted that the country cannot afford to be paying such a huge amount to subsidise petrol, pointing out that past administration’s failure to stop the importation of fuel and removal of subsidy was responsible for the current scarcity and long queues at filling stations. 

A statement by the National Coordinator of the group, Comrade Usman Abdulkadir read: “Our decision to support the removal of fuel subsidy is because we discovered from our findings that advantages of removing fuel subsidy far outweigh the disadvantages … We have also discovered that failure on the side of the previous administration to take decisive steps to stop the importation of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and outright removal of subsidy is highly responsible for recurring scarcity and fuel queues at our filling stations across the country.

“We, therefore, state categorically that with dwindling economy and paucity of funds to run the government, we can’t afford to continue to pay N1.2 trillion monthly as fuel subsidy when opening up the market and removal of subsidy will help save money that would be used for sustainable development and quality service delivery.”
Having gone ahead to remove the subsidy, IPAC advised President Bola Tinubu to, as a matter of urgency, set up a forensic inquiry on the subsidy regime to unravel the secrecy and obvious perception of large-scale corruption in the sector. 
Addressing journalists in Abuja, yesterday, IPAC National Chairman, Yabagi Sani, said the government should have put enough palliative in place to ensure that Nigerians do not feel the pain associated with the increase in fuel price increase. 
He said: “It is also not surprising that Nigerians following the adjustment continued to react to the development, with different opinions for and against the subsidy removal. A good number of Nigerians have argued that whereas the subsidy removal is necessary for the nation’s economic growth, the timing, and manner of the adjustment are at variance with the expectations of the Nigerian masses in view of the current living condition of the people vis-à-vis the already tense socio-political environment. 
“For us at the IPAC, the issue of subsidy removal though at the heart of the economic development of Nigeria and a necessary evil, and of course Mr. President must have been overwhelmed by the urgency of the need to address the dire economic situation of the country to have expressed his desire.
“However, in our candid opinion, it would rather have been done at a more suitable time in view of the fact of the PIA 2022 and appropriation Act 2023, the extant laws, as well as Mr. President’s pronouncement in his inaugural speech was clear that he will govern by the rule of law. 
“There is no doubt that economics believe in a market economy, in which production and prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses.
“However, this scenario exposes the local economy to the dictates of global oil price shocks, hence, subsidy regime over the years became a strategy to cushion the effect on the citizens.