Outcry Over Subsidy Removal

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fuel bExcept the incoming Muhammadu Buhari administration wades into Nigeria’s oil crisis which has almost grounded the country, a repeat of the massive protest that occurred in 2012 against an attempted removal of subsidy may play out.

Many Nigerians, this morning, told P.M.NEWS that they would kick against any plan by the government to remove subsidy through any means other than to make the country’s refineries work.

They said if the refineries are working, Nigerians would not buy fuel for more than N50 per litre.

There have been reports that the outgoing government did not make any provision for fuel subsidy in the 2015 budget.

Those who spoke with our correspondent called the subsidy regimes of previous and the current administration of President Goodluck Jonathan a fraud, saying it is just another name coined to milk the suffering masses.

They also said it simply showed the inefficiency of government and its agencies to stop the fraud perpetrated by oil marketers and top government officials.

Comrade Debo Adeniran of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, one of the groups that championed the 2012 protest at the Gani Fawehinmi Park in Lagos, told our correspondent that his organisation would continue to kick against subsidy removal.

“That would be like supporting government’s inefficiency,” he said. “It (subsidy removal or deregulation) would help corrupt oil marketers to continue.”

He recalled that diesel had been deregulated for years but that it had not led to any positive change in pricing, adding: “same would happen with the deregulation of petrol.”

He also recalled that SURE-P was established in 2012 after the protest, yet Nigerians have not benefited from it.

He warned Nigerians to stop comparing the oil sector with the country’s telecommunication sector as they are far apart.

Removal of subsidy, he said, would make the marketers form a stronger cabal that would hold Nigeria on its jugular while quoting Buhari and Tam David-West, who described subsidy as a fraud because the nation’s refineries, as dillapidated as they are, can still sustain Nigeria.

He tasked the government to be alive to its responsibility of monitoring fuel importation and discouraging round-tripping.

Comrade Denja Yaqub of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, said the position of the NLC on deregulation has not changed and that government should be held responsible for the scam in the subsidy regime.

“If my house is not protected and robbers come in, it does not mean I should become homeless. It means I should protect the house,” he said.

He said some of the oil marketers accused of fraud are friends of the outgoing President Jonathan, adding “it is the government that should be responsible. The fact that it has been most incompetent does not mean it should pass the buck to Nigerians.”

Barrister Festus Keyamo, a rights activist, simply said: “I will support revival of the refinieries, not removal of subsidy.

“Before removing fuel subsidy, revive the four refineries to be able to serve the nation and to even export. Then there would be no need for subsidy.”

Afolabi Gbajumo of the National Conscience Party, NCP, recalled how the late Gani Fawehinmi described the fraud in the subsidy regime in a book he wrote then.

He also recalled the protest of January 2012 and how the action by Nigerians unearthed a lot of scandals and secrets in the petroleum sector.

He said he was not in support of the removal but the prosecution of all those who had been fingered in the corrupt activities in the sector.

Yerima Shettima of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF, said there must be an alternative to the removal of subsidy and this should be the provision of refineries.

Taiwo Otitolaye of the United Action for Democracy, UAD, said the current fuel crisis is the outcome of a failed system.

“Our refineries must be made to function and new ones built. Subsidy is a tthieving language and with the refineries, fuel would not cost more than N50 per litre,” he said.

Abiodun Aremu, an executive member of a faction of the Nigeria Labour Congress, said rights activists in the country had never believed there is subsidy, adding that they are also opposed to deregulation.

“If our refineries are working, there is no way Nigerians would buy fuel for more than N50 per litre. The policy on deregulation is that government has no reponsibility for the people.

“The way subsidy is done now, it is a conduit pipe to milk the country and that is why the refineries are not meant to work,” he said.

Aremu said the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, was established to import fuel and sell to marketers and consumers, but that today, the reverse is the case.

He said is was shameful that with crude oil, the country is still witnessing such level of crisis while countries like Cuba without oil are doing well.

Cuba depends on sugarcane and is a leading country in terms of education and health.