The All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council has said the incoming administration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu will decide the date the fuel subsidy will be removed.
Though the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) said the subsidy policy would end by June when the budget for the initiative would lapse, the Chief Spokesperson for the All Progressives Congress PCC, Festus Keyamo, on Sunday, noted that the next government would determine the terminal date for the subsidy regime.
There has been apprehension over the planned removal of subsidy with marketers and other petroleum stakeholders projecting that the development may push fuel prices to N750 per litre.
Despite the anxiety over the issue, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria last week called for subsidy removal.
PENGASSAN’s President, Festus Osifo, who said this at the National Executive Council meeting of the association in Abuja, implored the government to ensure the speedy rehabilitation of Nigeria’s refineries, stressing that this would help ease the hardship that could arise from the halt of fuel subsidy.
But the Nigeria Labour Congress has vowed to resist the plan, insisting that the refineries must be functional before the subsidy can be tampered with.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited recently said the country was spending over N400bn monthly on petroleum subsidy which it argued is largely unsustainable.
Speaking with our correspondent, Keyamo stated that he had no doubt that the Tinubu presidency would terminate subsidy payments in line with the plan of the Buhari regime.
He, however, cautioned that since government and not all policy, was a continuum, the former Lagos governor should be left alone to decide on the date of his choice to execute it.
The PCC spokesman also explained that June 2023 was chosen by the FG to officially strike out fuel subsidies because the budget did not capture it beyond that date.
He stated, “It is one of the policies by which we campaigned. I cannot sit here and tell you when exactly it will be done. But the removal of subsidies is something that the president-elect pledged to do. Not only him. Virtually all the leading presidential candidates took the same position.
“Why the FG targeted June (to end subsidy) was that the budget only provided for subsidy up to June. That was the reason. But the new government will decide when it wants to. Of course, you know that when a new government takes over, the country is at its beck and call. Yes, I agree that government is a continuum. But all policies are not a continuum.”
On what the president-elect plans to do to cushion the impact of the removal of the subsidy, the PCC spokesman gave assurances that Tinubu would definitely look into it.
He stated, “I can assure you that the president-elect being who he is will not do that without corresponding palliative (measures) to the masses. I can tell you that confidently.”
In the same vein, Keyamo also cautioned the NLC not to incite the masses against the decision, noting that the Labour Party presidential standard bearer, Peter Obi, similarly endorsed the subsidy removal during the build-up to the February 25 polls.
Recall that Obi promised to phase out fuel subsidy completely if elected as the president.
Reacting to the NLC and the Trade Union Congress’ opposition to the planned subsidy removal, Keyamo dismissed their stance, insisting that NLC had no moral right to ask the Federal Government to retain fuel subsidy when it openly endorsed a presidential candidate that called for its removal.
“This was what I have been saying since last year. All of you in the media did not give it any attention. I knew what was coming. That was why I kept asking why the NLC was supporting Peter Obi and his Labour Party.
“Organised labour has no moral right to turn around this time to say they want to uphold fuel subsidy when removal of fuel subsidy was one of the cardinal campaign points of Peter Obi. Yet, the NLC threw their weight behind him. What moral justification do they have to want to uphold it now? At the end of the day, it is political. So they should tell the nation why they did that. Now is the time for judgment,” he said.
PDP faults APC
While the Peoples Democratic Party expressed its support for the removal of fuel subsidy to free funds for the development of critical infrastructure, it doubted the readiness of the Tinubu government to remove it.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Ibrahim Abdullahi said, “How can APC say they will remove fuel subsidy? They can’t do it. They criticized the PDP-led government for failing to remove subsidies. Now, they have been in government for eight years but they have done nothing.
‘’So, Nigerians should not believe them when they talk about subsidy removal because it is an area they know nothing about. As a matter of fact, they have been embroiled in subsidy fraud.”
Also speaking, the National Publicity Secretary of the New Nigeria People’s Party, Major Agbo said the party would not support subsidy removal as “that will bring a lot of hardship on Nigerians.”
According to him, “The idea of subsidy in the first place is to protect poor citizens and give them a sense of belonging. If the subsidy is removed, it means vulnerable citizens would suffer more and NNPP will never endorse the sufferings of Nigerians.”
He further took a swipe at the ruling party for what he called its hypocritical stand on subsidy, saying, “While they were preparing to come to power eight years ago, they said subsidy was a fraud. So, what do they now want to remove?’’
Meanwhile, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, have supported the call by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria that the fuel subsidy be stopped in June this year.
But the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association kicked against the call for the halt in subsidy, insisting that the right infrastructure should be put in place before stopping fuel subsidy.
Speaking with The PUNCH, the President of NACCIMA, John Udeagbala, said the association was in full support of fuel subsidy removal as it had become a tool for unscrupulous politicians to steal public funds.
He said, “We want the fuel subsidy to be removed. It is not a subsidy that is the problem, rather it is the fraud in the exercise. As long as we keep the subsidy, we are multiplying the fraud.
“We are not developing. No capital projects. Just read the budget. At the end of the day the economy is slowing and then 40 per cent of the money is stolen in the name of subsidy. NACCIMA is in support of the removal. We have said it (in the past).”
On his part, the Deputy President of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gabriel Idahosa, said that the shocks to be experienced in the immediate aftermath of fuel subsidy removal would be a necessary evil Nigerians would have to live with for things to get better.
He said the expected rise in the cost of living was the argument that had been made each time Nigeria tried to remove the fuel subsidy.
Idahosa said the call for the retention of the subsidy was being sponsored by the beneficiaries of the illicit wealth garnered through the instrumentality of the subsidy regime.
Idahosa said, “In the last 30 years, we have been running thefuel subsidy. How much improvement have we seen in the quality of life of the common man? It is just a matter of finding the government that has the courage to do it; and once we do it, you will find that a lot of all this mongering that is going on about how bad things will be, will just disappear.
“Only NNPC imports petrol. So, you have an absolute monopoly. Anything that has been removed from the monopoly, after a little while becomes cheaper.”
According to Idahosa, the petroleum sector would inevitably begin to witness the positive changes that trailed the privatisation of the telecommunications sector once the fuel subsidy was removed.
NECA on subsidy removal
On his part, the Director-General of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, Wale Oyerinde, said, there was no right time for the removal of the fuel subsidy.
He urged the government to ensure that infrastructure and structures that would make the removal less burdensome were put in place before the removal.
“From our view, there is no right time for the removal of the subsidy. One of the most important things before the removal is to ensure that the infrastructure and structures that will make the removal less burdensome on Nigerians are put in place. Not the previous cosmetic and shallow palliatives, but definitive and lasting structures,” he said.
Oyerinde said the Turn Around Maintenance exercise had severally been carried out on refineries without positive results.
“There is no reason why the refineries are not fixed for production. It is on record that Turn Around Maintenance had been carried out severally on the refineries; what happened to the millions of dollars expended on the TAM?
“It will be unfair and cruel for the government to make citizens suffer and be further impoverished because of the inefficiency and corruption encouraged by the government itself in the refineries’ operations and subsidy regime.
“If contractors collected funds for fixing the refineries and they didn’t fix it, let those involved be transparently prosecuted. It is time for government officials to be held accountable for their actions and inefficiency,” he submitted.