Civil society group flays govt for not confiding in Nigerians
As Nigerians move to mark President Muhammadu Buhari’s one-year anniversary in office and 17 years of uninterrupted democratic rule in the country on Sunday May 29, the Coalition of Civil Society group have called on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to carry the Nigerian populace along before implementing any policy.
In particular, the group said the Nigerian democracy has evolved to a stage where government could no longer take the electorate for granted no matter the policy or action being undertaken.
The civil society group’s reaction was coming on the heels of the tension generated by the recent hike in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) from N86. 50 to N145.00
While it flayed the Muhammadu Buhari’s led government for not adequately carrying Nigerians along before implementing the fuel price hike, the coalition said democracy was all about the people and not just the few personnel vested with democratic power.
Speaking during an interactive session with the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu on Monday, representatives of the civil society groups, led by Rev. Moses Illoh lamented that Nigerians ought to have been substantially intimated about the subsidy removal before now.
The group noted that the government’s decision appeared as a slight to Nigerians who stood by the APC during the elections.The Founder, Partnership For A New Nigeria (PFANN), Evangelist Elishama Ideh blamed the APC administration for asking Nigerians to make sacrifices that government officials on their part were not willing to make.
She said this was the first time in the history of the country “when fuel scarcity and long queues persisted for so long to the extent that traumatized Nigerians were being forced to carry generating sets to filling stations to buy fuel. What did we get next, fuel price hike. The trauma was too much despite the fact we have been having epileptic power supply.”
On her argument that government officials were not willing to make sacrifices, she decried the alleged jumbo pay of the Nigerian lawmakers and other political appointees, saying that government officials and politicians collect extraordinary allowances when the masses were left to suffer and bear the brunt of hard government policies.
Another member of the group, Dr. Chris Nwaokobia Mustapha, a social critic-cum-public commentator also lampooned the government for reneging on its promises not to remove subsidy from fuel when it took over government last year.
He said President Buhari is yet to convince Nigerians what happened between then and the time it removed the subsidy from fuel, adding: “This is part of what generated reactions.”
“It appears Nigerian electorates are only important during elections but no longer needed to be consulted when critical decisions that would affect their lives are to be taken. This is not the best in a democracy,” he observed.
Yet in another comment, the spokesman of Pro National Conference (PRONACO), Mr. Wale Okunniyi also criticised the government for rushing to implement the fuel price hike without necessarily putting into consideration its ripple effects on the Nigerians that have been hard hit by the fuel scarcity.
Although he commended the administration for its humility to interface with the people through the civil society, he said the interactive session has taken care of the sharp reaction to the hike. “The government has promised that it would henceforth carry the civil society along anytime it is taking crucial decision.”
In his submission, the chairman of the interactive session, Rev. Illoh said the situation Nigeria found itself demanded a collective action to bail it out.
He said there was nothing the president or any minister could do “if Nigerians as a people fail to agree to change the country for the better.”
He also charged the administration not to only fight corruption, “it must also figure out the corrupt.”Mohammed in his response promised that the dialogue with the civil society would be institutionalised and would continue throughout the tenure of President Buhari.
He said the government in its quest to get closer to the people would continue with the town hall meetings across the country to engage all stakeholders in the country so as to avoid a disconnect with people.
According to him, “Governance is about the welfare and wellbeing of the people and our policies would be geared towards alleviating peoples’ poverty. NLC said they are going to join us again for negotiation and one of the issues to be discussed is actually the issue of minimum wage and the palliatives to cushion the effect of the new price hike.
“I can assure Nigerians that this democracy is for everybody. The reason why we introduced the new price regime was because we felt that the other system was benefiting only a few. If some people less than 100,000 all over Nigeria could share N1trillion in 2015 from subsidy when 160million Nigerians could not get the product, is unacceptable. At present the product is now more expensive but at least the suffering is reduced and the product is much available and we are going to use that money for general wellbeing,” he said.
He said the government would do the needful to ensure that all the money looted from the treasury was recovered, adding that the recovered money would be used for people oriented programme.
“This is the only country where people are accused of corruption are not in a hurry to clear their names. Rather they go in and put up all kind of delay tactics. So, honestly, what we need is not so much to vilify anybody to recover the stolen money.”
Kachikwu on his part said payment of subsidy was no-longer possible because the country lost over N5 trillion to subsidy in five years, “the policy was no longer sustainable as the government is broke.”
On the allegation that government official were not ready to make sacrifice, the minister said that the assumption was far from the real situation because ministers of the present government do not have accommodation “President Muhammadu Buhari cannot approve N20 million for ministers rent due to low government income.”
On why the fuel queues disappeared immediately the government pegged the pump price of petrol at N145 per litre, Kachikwu said, “Queues disappeared because everybody who had incentive to hoard were no longer hoarding and those who were in the business for hoarding sake left the business because there was no need to hoard. Again we were having pretentious number of consumption for subsidy payment.”
He however said if Nigerians want fuel at the cheapest rate, then citizens must not complain about roads, security and other infrastructure.
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