FG must act on subsidy removal now — NGF, NLC


By John Ugo

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum in partnership with the Ayuba Waba-led Nigeria Labour Congress, have urged the Federal Government, to expedite action on the issue of fuel subsidy removal to avoid postponing the inevitable.

The governors and organized labour gave the advice after a meeting to deliberate on subsidy removal held at the NGF Secretariat, in Maitama, Abuja.

The two bodies agreed that the gap in the subsidy removal agenda was a hidden falsehood being bandied by Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation in the administration of the subsidy.

The bodies identified that such untruths remained in the forefront of of the mismanagement of proceeds of the nation’s oil resources.

Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, argued that the nation’s economy is at the precipice.

He noted that it has become necessary for the two groups to carefully verify all of NNPC’s estimates to ensure that whatever action is taken on the subsidy issue, would benefit the people and not a few wealthy individuals and their cronies in the country.

The meeting was also attended by the TUC president and leaders of the organized Labour in the country.

Dr. Fayemi on his part told the Labour leaderships that subsidy removal has remained an on-gong conversation not just among governors but the country at large and emphasised that governors cannot but be part of the solution providers in this onerous task that is confronting the nation.

The position of the NGF and the NLC was contained in a statement signed by Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, Head, Media and Public Affairs, NGF Secretariat, on Wednesday.

Barkindo said, “There are raging questions of accountability associated with subsidy removal in the country and it was observed that the NGF and the NLC can jointly work together to proffer solutions to heal the economy and provide succour to the Nigerian people.”

The meeting was also attended by Governors Simon Lalong of Plateau State and chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, and Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.

Fayemi who stressed that the governors cannot ignore the economics of petroleum, argued that all the countries surrounding Nigeria like Niger, Mali, Cameroun and Ghana have their fuel pump price at the equivalent of a US dollar.

He said that Nigeria has a pump price that is far less than a dollar and is uncomfortable with the removal of subsidy until the challenge of what the NNPC is telling the country is confronted frontally.

“We need a partnership with the NLC to confront the challenges of what the NNPC is about, because there is a lot of fraud in the consumption and distribution figures that the country is getting and we can only move forward if the NLC engages all those who are knowledgeable in the field like PENGASSAN to conduct a thorough research into the sector before any further action is taken on subsidy,” Dr Fayemi stated.

On the part of the states, Dr Fayemi stated that only about eight states are benefitting directly from the subsidy while all the others have to contend with the situation on their own.

The Governor of Ekiti State also insisted that the partnership with the NLC must confront the perennial issue of palliatives for the common man to cushion the effects of subsidy removal on the citizenry.

He stated that “not tackling the problem now is tantamount to postponing the evil day.”

“Finding succour for the ordinary Nigerian at this time is absolutely imperative and necessary now more than ever,” the NGF Chairman added.

One of the issues, which formed the terms for convening the meeting was to plead with Labour to jettison their decision to embark on what they referred to as a mega-strike and join hands with Governors to consider the dimensions at play on the subsidy removal palaver because governors through their internal mechanisms had already found out that what is paid is egregiously higher than what is actually being declared by the country’s petroleum industry managers.

The Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, who serves the NGF’s economic analyst on key issues, warned that they have a choice of continuing to behave like Father Christmas (Santa Claus) or take concrete actions on a problem that is permanently with us rather than throwing away N3tr on subsidy.

Obaseki suggested that the nation can, in the interim, increase productivity to reduce imports and create jobs.

He also emphasised that the country would do well to revamp the power sector, which is virtually comatose because without power, we will continue to throw millions of our people into unemployment, and ultimately, poverty, reminding all present that we should know that we have a country to manage.

Also, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau state recalled that the NGF had spent three years on this matter because we cannot continue with subsidising petroleum products.

He stated that we must find options and create opportunities that address the hardships that stare our people in the face.

Lalong volunteered that the painstaking work that led to the solutions that the NGF was highlighting took a year to script together and warned therefore that the fact that we are sitting here with Labour to resolve the contending issue does not mean that all should go to sleep.

He said the teams from the two groups should immediately set out to work to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

The meeting took place barely an hour before the NLC announced the suspension of its mega-strike

Lalong disclosed to the governors that the labour committee had consulted widely and decided to call off the planned strike before arriving at the NGF secretariat.

Both Comrade Ayuba Waba and the TUC president had stressed lack of appreciation of the trust deficit that characterised previous negotiations and wondered why the subsidy issue had always been shrouded in lack of transparency on the part of government.

The union leaders argued that the conflicting figures that always came from the managers of the petroleum sector had always tended towards inefficiency which have remained, to the people and to Labour, completely objectionable.

“As a sequel to its meeting of the 19th of January the NGF, yesterday, met with the leasdership of the NLC, led by its president Comrade Ayuba Waba, to deliberate on the fuel subsidy removal which both groups believe is a necessary action that the country must deal with now or in the nearest future,” the statement said.

“The meeting brokered a partnership between the NGF and the NLC, as both parties agreed that the lacuna in the subsidy removal agenda was hidden in the untruths bandied by the administrators of the subsidy, particularly the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, which both groups identify to be at the fore front of the mismanagement of the proceeds accrued therein,” they stated.


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