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FUEL SUBSIDY REMOVAL IRREVERSIBLE, ELECTRICITY TARIFF HIKE NECESSARY – BUHARI

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President Muhammadu Buhari said on Monday that the removal of subsidy on petrol has come to stay.

Buhari also said the recent increase in electricity tariff by the Distribution Companies (DisCos) was necessary even though a source of concern for him.

He said his government was doing everything possible to mitigate the impact of the decisions on the citizens and at the same time save the economy from total collapse.

The president said that like many Nigerians, he was not happy with the quality of service being rendered by the DisCos though there were constraints including poor transmission and distribution capacity.

Represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, President Buhari stated these while declaring open a 2-day First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja.

With some initial pains, Buhari said the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected economies globally compelled his administration to make some necessary far-reaching adjustments for long-term gains.

The increase in petrol price and electricity tariff had attracted criticisms from Nigerians with many groups calling for mass action.

Our correspondent’s report that the federal government is under pressure from various fronts, including yesterday’s decision by medical doctors to embark on a nationwide strike. Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have been on strike for long.

The leading opposition political party PDP, the Afenifere socio-cultural organization and some activists have called on Nigerians to speak out against the decisions of the federal government.

No provision for subsidy in 2020

Buhari, who listed negative consequences if the government should resume the business of fixing or subsidising petrol or fixing prices, said anything short of taking decisive action, would mean a return to the costly subsidy regime with the potential return of fuel queues.

He said: “As you all know when oil prices collapsed at the height of the global lockdown, we deregulated the price of premium motor spirit (PMS) such that the benefit of lower prices was passed to consumers. This was welcomed by all and sundry.

“The effect of regulation though is that PMS prices will change with changes in global oil prices. This means, quite regrettably, that as oil prices recover, we would see some increases in PMS prices. Today we have 60 percent fewer revenues, we just cannot afford the cost.

“The second danger is the potential return of fuel queues – which has, thankfully, become a thing of the past under this administration. Nigerians no longer have to endure long queues just to buy petrol, often at highly inflated prices. Also, as I hinted earlier, there is no provision for fuel subsidy in the revised 2020 budget, simply because we are not able to afford it, if reasonable provisions must be made for health, education and other social services. We now have no choice.

“Nevertheless, I want to assure our compatriots that government will remain alert to its responsibilities. The role of government now is to prevent marketers from raising prices arbitrarily or exploiting citizens. This is the role that government must now play through the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).

“This explains why the PPPRA made the announcement a few days ago setting the range of price that must not be exceeded by marketers. The advantage we now have is that anyone can bring in petroleum products and compete with marketers, that way the price of petrol will be kept coming down,” he said.

Buhari, while speaking specifically on the hike in electricity tariff said that he was not happy with the quality of service being offered by the DISCOs.

As a result, the president said his the administration was pursuing a mass metering programme to provide meters for over 5 million Nigerians.

He said protecting the poor and vulnerable while ensuring improved service in the power sector remained a major priority for his administration.

Buhari, who said many Nigerians were yet to have access to electricity assured that the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) will provide Solar home systems to five million Nigerian households in the next 12 months.

“So, as part of the Economic Sustainability Plan, we are providing Solar home systems to 5 million Nigerian households (impacting up to 25 million individual Nigerians) in the next 12 months.

“We have already begun the process of providing financing support through the CBN for manufacturers and retailers of Off-Grid Solar Home Systems and Mini-Grids who are to provide the systems. The Five million systems under the ESP’s Solar Power Strategy will produce 250,000 jobs and impact up to 25 million beneficiaries through the installation This means that more Nigerians will have access to electricity via a reliable and sustainable solar system,” he said.

The president, who said the government would not inflict hardship on people by being insensitive to their condition at this “very difficult economic situation”, directed ministers and senior officials to ensure a “vigorous and prompt” implementation of the ESP programmes to give succour to Nigerians at this difficult time.

Petrol cheapest in Nigeria, gulps 10.413trn in 14 yrs

Buttressing the position of President Buhari on removing fuel subsidy, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said on Monday that fuel subsidy had gulped N10.413 trillion from 2006 to 2019.

He said the figure amounted to N743.8 billion per annum.

He also said the government had so far spent almost N1.7 trillion to supplement electricity tariff shortfalls since the time of privatization.

He said the government no longer have the resources to continue subsidising electricity and petrol prices, noting that the amount was too high and unsustainable.

Quoting figures by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mohammed said N257bn was spent on subsidy in 2006; N272bn in 2007; N631bn in 2008 and N469bn in 2009.

According to the minister, in 2010, fuel subsidy guzzled N667bn; while in 2011, 2012 and 2013, the federal government spent N2.105trn, N1.355trn and N1.316trn respectively.

He said subsidy gulped N1.217trn in 2014; N654bn in 2015; N144.3bn in 2017; while N730.86bn and N595bn were spent in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The figure for 2016 was not provided.

The information minister also provided a comparative analysis of petrol prices in the West African sub-regions (Naira equivalent per litre).

Nigeria, N162 per litre; Ghana, N332 per litre; Benin, N359 per litre; Togo, N300 per litre; Niger, N346 per litre; Chad, N366 per litre; Cameroon, N449 per litre; Burkina Faso, N433 per litre; Mali, N476 per litre; Liberia N257 per litre; Sierra Leone, N 281 per litre among others.

The minister, therefore, said the angry reactions that have greeted the latest prices of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) were unnecessary and totally mischievous. According to Mohammed, the federal government was not unmindful of the pains associated with higher fuel prices.

“That is why we will continue to seek ways to cushion the pains, especially for the most vulnerable Nigerians,” he said.

FG’s decisions unfortunate – CSOs, others

Reacting, the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Eze Onyekpere, said those in government were bluffing their way through because the country has become insolvent and there was really nothing to tell Nigerians.

“The increase in fuel price is just the manifestation of a deeper challenge that the economy has been hopelessly mismanaged and the people running the economy are incompetent and don’t know their left from their right,” he said.

Speaking with Daily Trust on phone, Deolu Ogunbanjo, who is the President of the National Association of Telecom Subscribers said an increase in the pump price of fuel and electricity tariff at a time when the country’s economic situation was bad would make many Nigerians poorer.

“The federal government should have been more sensitive to the plight of Nigerians. Increasing fuel price and electricity tariff during the COVID-19 period when many Nigerians have been thrown out of jobs is the height of insensitivity”, he said.

Also speaking, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, said Nigerians were shocked at the outburst of the presidency on the non-negotiable the stance of electricity and fuel price increase.

He said that hike coming at a time of job losses and pay cut without mitigating programmes showed that the government is insensitive. But the chairman of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Professor Ishaq Akintola, expressed support for the increase “because it is a necessary thing to do at this particular time.’’

Akintola who is one of the prominent Nigerians, who protested against subsidy removal during the administration of former President Good Jonathan said Buhari’s government removed fuel subsidy for the benefit of all Nigerians.

“Nigerians should rather look at long time gains of this increase that was occasioned by subsidy removal. Let not be sentimental. Fuel price and electricity tariff hike is necessary at this time so that our country can move forward so that more key infrastructure can be put in place”, he said.

Also, the Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) has described the subsidy regime as unsustainable, saying if allowed to continue, the electricity industry will collapse.

According to a statement issued at the end of the meeting from the OPSN secretariat, it said the government no longer had the fiscal capacity to sustain the increasing subsidy level and at the same time finance the capital investment necessary to extend electricity supply to the over 90 million Nigerians who lack access to electricity.

The OPSN comprises of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (NASME), and the Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI).

It, however, called on President Buhari’s government to justify the necessity for the tariff increase at a time when the economy was facing a potentially deep recession and Nigerians were facing increasing hardships with unemployment rising to over 27 percent as many factories were closed.

Also, the apex Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, described the recent increases in the prices of petroleum and electricity tariffs, as insensitive.

The group stated this during its virtual meeting where it considered, among other issues, the recent increases in the prices of petroleum products and electricity, describing the development as “the most insensitive policies against a people being ravaged by a national pandemic without adequate support from their government,” adding, “To ask Nigerians to pay more for these facilities is wicked and inhumane.”

The group in a communiqué by its spokesman, Yinka Odumakin urged the people to use all constitutional and peaceful means to resist and reject the hikes.

Daily Trust reports

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BREAKING: SANWO-OLU TO ABOLISH PENSION FOR EX-GOVS, DEPUTIES

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BREAKING: SANWO-OLU TO ABOLISH PENSION FOR EX-GOVS, DEPUTIES

By Sodiq Oyeleke

Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Tuesday announced his intention to repeal the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension Law 2007), which provides for payment of pension and other entitlements to former Governors and their Deputies.

He made this known while presenting the 2021 budget to the Lagos State House of Assembly.

Sanwoolu said the bill would be sent to the Lagos Assembly for legislative approval.

According to Sanwo-Olu, the abolition of pension for former governors and deputies will reduce the cost of governance.

He said, “Mr. Speaker and Honourable Members of the House, in light of keeping the costs of governance low and to signal selflessness in public service, we will be sending a draft executive bill to the House imminently for the repeal of the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension Law 2007), which provides for payment of pension and other entitlements to former Governors and their Deputies.”

Detail later…

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EndSARS CELEBRITIES, PROMOTERS MUST FACE LAW, GARBA SHEHU SAYS

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EndSARS CELEBRITIES, PROMOTERS MUST FACE LAW, GARBA SHEHU SAYS

The Central Bank of Nigeria had recently frozen the account of some protest organisers in a bid to stop further protests from occurring.

Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, has said that all Nigerians and celebrities, who promoted protests against police brutality in the country must face the law.

The Central Bank of Nigeria had recently frozen the account of some protest organisers in a bid to stop further protests from occurring.

The Nigeria Immigration Service also seized the travel passport of Modupe Odele, preventing her from leaving the country for providing legal aid to arrested protesters.

The Nigerian Government irked by the protests had in October hired thugs to hijack the demonstration, plunging the nation into chaos in a bid to blame it on peaceful #EndSARS protesters.

While speaking on why the CBN froze the account of the protesters, Shehu while speaking on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics said, “This country has only one President and has only one constitution. President Muhammadu Buhari is responsible for his government. The buck stops on his table.

“We are a country governed by law. There is a constitution —under section 33— that clearly defines the rights of citizens to freely protest in a peaceful way but where a peaceful protest turns into riot, violence and looting, there is a law and order duty to be performed.

“Everyone witnessed the massive looting of public and private properties particularly in Lagos, Calabar, Plateau, Taraba and some other states, even the FCT.

“Now, the laws of the country must be allowed to decide, to rule on wrongdoing on the part of anybody.

“I am not particular about any celebrity or promoter but this country has been harmed enormously and people should be prepared to account for what they did.”

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Garba Shehu Classic FM, Abuja.

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PRESIDENT BUHARI: DISBANDING OF SARS FIRST STEP TO EXTENSIVE POLICE REFORMS

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PRESIDENT BUHARI: DISBANDING OF SARS FIRST STEP TO EXTENSIVE POLICE REFORMS

President Muhammadu Buhari Monday in Abuja declared that disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is the first step to extensive police reforms by his administration.

Speaking at the launch of the Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme (P-YES), aimed at creating 774,000 jobs across the Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the country, President Buhari also directed that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts be brought to justice.

”I will like to use this opportunity to say a word on the recent genuine concerns and agitations by Nigerians about the excessive use of force and in some cases extra-judicial killings and wrongful conduct of the men of the Nigerian Police Force,’’ President Buhari said during the launch of the P-YES programme, attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State and Engineer Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State.

He continued: ”The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to extensive police reforms in order to ensure that the primary duty of the police and other law enforcement agencies remains the protection of lives and livelihood of our people.

”We will also ensure that all those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to justice.

”We deeply regret the loss of life of the young man in Oyo State during the recent demonstrations.

”I have directed that the circumstances of his death should be thoroughly investigated.

”Meanwhile, it is important to recognise that the vast majority of men and women of the police force are hardworking and diligent in performing their duties.

”The few bad eggs should not be allowed to tarnish the image and reputation of the force.”

On the empowerment programme, the President while restating his administration’s commitment to youth development and poverty alleviation pledged that the Federal Government policies of social protection and people empowerment would continue on track, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic.

The President, who described P-YES as a cornerstone of his administration’s social and economic development strategies, said it was part of the overall policy of ensuring that 100 million Nigerians were lifted out of poverty in ten years.

”The P-YES is also part of the plan that we adopted in 2016 in which we empowered One hundred youths from each of the 774 Local Government Areas with the necessary tools to acquire skills and establish small businesses.

”Given the success of that initiative, we are now committed to creating 774,000 jobs across all the LGAs, through the P-YES programme,” he said.

President Buhari, who took a tour of P-YES tools and equipment displayed at the forecourt of Presidential Villa, expressed delight that the materials showcased represent the fruits of the initiatives embarked upon by his administration in 2016.

”All the tools, machines and equipment that are exhibited here, are products of the efforts of these empowered youth entrepreneurs.

”I note with particular pleasure that they were all fabricated in Nigeria by Nigerian youths using locally sourced materials. This is a wonderful and uplifting achievement.

”As an entrepreneurship empowerment project, the P-YES programme aims to address the needs of unskilled and less educated youth.

”It targets key areas of activities that are of practical importance and are essential to every aspect of our economy.

”These include areas such as agriculture and food processing, restaurant and catering, tailoring and fashion design, technical skills such as in the Information and Communications Technology sector, artisanship, welding, carpentry and joinery, other small businesses and activities associated with the micro-economic sector of this economy,” he said.

The President used the occasion to call on State Governments, Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government to factor the P-YES into their programmes to assist the youth realise their potentials in their chosen fields.

He urged local and foreign private sector operators in Nigeria to also contribute their share to the expansion of this programme through channelling their corporate social responsibility efforts towards skills acquisition, creation of start-ups, and other intervention measures.

President Buhari declared that the expansion of the P-YES would now be vigorously pursued, adding that more resources will be committed to the achievement of its goals and objectives towards youth empowerment and entrepreneurship development.

The President commended the Office of the Senior Special Assistant on Youth and Students Affairs, under Hon. Nasiru Saidu Adhama, for driving the P-YES programme in accordance with the mandates prescribed for the office and the programme.

He expressed confidence that the programme being supervised by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation would make significant difference.

In his remarks, Hon Adhama assured the President that as achieved in the pilot phase of the programme the selection of beneficiaries in the full-scale P-YES scheme would be done with the utmost transparency and credibility, adding that equal opportunities will be observed in the delivery of equipment, tools and machines to all States and LGAs.

Femi Adesina
Special Adviser to the President
(Media & Publicity)
October 12, 2020

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