CLO queries liberalisation
As the Federal Government yesterday continued to defend its decision to hike the price of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol; the Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO) is not impressed and has ‘’condemned in totality” the hike.
The government is appealing to the organised labour to sheathe its sword because its action could further worsen the economy.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told journalists yesterday, “we have no choice than to liberalize the price of petrol, if we are to end the crippling fuel scarcity that has enveloped the country, ensure the availability of the products and end the suffering of our people over the lingering scarcity.’’
Mohammed debunked the notion that the new price regime amounted to removal of subsidy. “No. There is no subsidy to remove because no provision was made for subsidy in the 2016 budget. Last year, the government paid out 1 trillion naira in subsidy, and that’s one sixth of this year’s budget. We can’t afford to pay another 1 trillion naira in subsidy,” he said.
But the CLO, on its part, in a statement, gave a list of the failed promises of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, which it claimed included one to reduce the pump price of petrol to N45.
Other failed promises, according to CLO’s Agada Vincent Agada and Chike Oguanya, are the rehabilitation of the three major refineries; jettisoning of petroleum products’ importers as well as the importation of petroleum products; and elimination of all forms of corruption and hiccups in the oil sector, a situation they said led to Buhari taking over the Petroleum Ministry as minister.
The minister however reiterated that 2016 budget was packed with palliatives noting that there were N500 billion worth of social intervention projects that will touch the lives of millions of Nigerians and lift millions more out of poverty.
The palliatives include: 500,000 graduates are to be employed and trained as teachers; 370,000 non-graduates (artisans, technicians) to be trained and employed; 1 million people (farmers, market women, etc.) to be granted loans to set up small businesses; Conditional Cash Transfer to be made to the most vulnerable people (not unemployed graduates); School feeding targeting 4.5 million school children; and bursaries/scholarships for STEM (Science, Technology,
Engineering and Mathematics) students.
But CLO called for the immediate reversal of the recent hike in pump price, adding that the financial ability of Nigerians to contain the hardship inflicted by the present administration on the common man has been weakened by the inability of government at all levels to pay workers salaries.
If government fails to reverse the hike, the organization said it would consider collaboration with other human rights and civil society organisations in the country on a mass action against government.
But Mohammed maintained that the fuel scarcity in the country has created an abnormal increase in price, resulting in Nigerians paying between N150 and N300 per litre as prevalent hoarding, smuggling and diversion of products have reduced volumes made available to citizens.