President Jonathan’s speech shows govt insincerity on subsidy removal – ACN

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The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) said President Goodluck
Jonathan’s televised speech defending
his government’s decision to withdraw fuel subsidy only succeeded in
deepening the people’s mistrust
of the administration, as it failed to address the pertinent issues.

In a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday by its National Publicity
Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the
party said the deficit of trust between the Jonathan administration
and the Nigerian people is the main
reason why the people did not take the President’s speech seriously,
as shown in Organized Labour’s response
that the strike due to start on Monday will go ahead in spite of the speech.


It recalled that while the President promised to consult with all
stakeholders across the country and collate
their views before taking a decision on the fuel subsidy issue,
probably in April, he rather decided to ambush
Nigerians and ruin their New Year celebrations by rushing to withdraw
the subsidy after just one
stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos.

”If the President did not stand by his earlier promise to Nigerians
on this issue, why should they believe him
now to do all that he has promised in his speech?” the party queried.

ACN therefore re-stated its opposition to the removal of the fuel
‘subsidy’, saying all that the government
subsidizes are corruption and inefficiency. It also hailed the
Governors of ACN states for their courage in standing
on the side of the people and labour, in their quest to get the
government to rescind its decision to remove fuel
subsidy.

”The President seemed surprised that his action has inflicted untold
suffering on Nigerians. He also said he feels
the people’s pain. Our stand is that he does not. If he did, he would
have rescinded a policy of fuel subsidy removal
that obviously was not well thought out. What was the President
thinking would happen when petrol price shoots
up from 65 naira per litre to as high as 200 naira? Did we not warn
that the action would deepen poverty and worsen
the suffering of Nigerians?” the party queried.

On the so-called sacrifices by the government, which the President
reeled out in his speech, ACN said it amounted
to a mere tokenism compared to the avoidable pain and suffering that
his administration’s decision has inflicted
on Nigerians in the New Year.

”The President must tell Nigerians what 25% of basic salaries of
public office holders amount to, and what impact this
will have in a government suffused with incredible profligacy. We will
also like to know the allowances and other perks
that these officials receive, which is the core issue.

”We recall that when the stakeholders’ meeting was held in Lagos,
government officials who attended were ferried to Lagos
in four different private jets. So who is fooling who about cutting
the cost of governance. In any case, the recurrent vote in this
year’s budget is a high 74 per cent, compared to 26% for capital. How
will the tokenism announced by the President reduce this?

”The truth is that a government that has budgeted 2.3 billion in just
a little over two years, including 1 billion naira in 2012
alone, for feeding the presidency alone cannot be serious about
cutting cost or engaging in shared sacrifice. This sacrifice
is one-sided, and it is being borne by the people of Nigeria while the
government engages in Arabian-style opulence,”
the party said.

On other measures like provision of buses and completion of railway
lines, ACN said the President was merely putting the
cart before the horse by removing subsidy first.

”We had called for safety nets to be provided by the government if it
was bent on removing subsidy. We had called for massive
infrastructural development, including roads and alternative means of
transport like the waterways and the railways. We had
asked the government to repair existing refineries and build modular
ones. The government ignored all this, only to now be
talking about some ill-thought-out mass transit programme. Even if all
the 1,600 buses to be procured by the government are
deployed to Lagos, on what roads will they be driven? What impact can
they have in a state with a population in excess of 15
million?

”We maintain that it is disingenuous for the government that says it
can no longer afford the funds to subsidize fuel to now turn
around to say it will use the funds to build infrastructure. In the
first instance, were the savings from the fuel subsidy included in
the 2012 budget? Can the government spend money that has not been
appropriated? In any case, we have always argued that
the issue of fuel subsidy is not pure economics, but that it has
implications for the welfare and security of the citizenry,” the
party said.

It also challenged the government to counter, with facts and figures,
the conclusion by experts that there is indeed no subsidy on
fuel; that the production from local refineries, even though they are
functioning far below capacity, is enough to meet domestic
needs hence there is no need to import fuel.

”We will also like to ask the government again to tell Nigerians what
happens to the 445,000 barrels per day allocated to the NNPC?
If part of this is refined locally, what is the cost? And what is the
landing cost of part of the NNPC allocation swapped with some
refineries abroad? And who are the beneficiaries of this?” ACN said.

The party said the best way President Jonathan can show that he feels
the pain of his compatriots is to admit that his administration
made a mistake in rushing to withdraw fuel subsidy and reverting to
the old price, adding that cheap tactics to break the ranks of
labour or send the police after protesters will not work.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed
National Publicity Secretary
Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)
Lagos, Jan. 8th 2012

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