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Fuel subsidy palliatives not possible again – Jonathan



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The Master, The Subject

PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan on Monday said the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment programme promised by his administration was no longer realistic.

The President said SURE was hurriedly conceptualised in January on the heels of the nationwide protest against the removal of the fuel subsidy. Jonathan added that the implementation was no longer feasible since the zero-subsidy policy planned by his administration was not being implemented.

Jonathan spoke at the 58th National Executive Committee meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party where he ordered his party men to retrieve copies of a SURE publication that had been advertised.

The PDP members had distributed the publication to attendees at the meeting, but on sighting the document the President expressed surprise and ordered that it should be withdrawn.

The President said, “As I came in, I saw this SURE book being distributed, we are withdrawing it. This is the old one. We developed this with the expectation that we were going to completely deregulate the downstream sector of the oil industry, (after) the 100 per cent removal of subsidy.

“You know we could not achieve that though there was an increase in the pump price. I don’t want this thing to be distributed; it will give a wrong impression.

“We are working on a new document based on the reality, but we don’t want to promise what we will not achieve. Those who have it please withdraw it, we cannot realise the money that is stated therein, but we will still come up with a document based on what we get.”

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Curiously, Jonathan had inaugurated a board for the implementation of the SURE programme barely a week ago, on February 13. The board is headed by a former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade.

Critics of the government and opposition parties had earlier predicted that the government could not be trusted to implement SURE which some of the critics had described as a “fraud”.

In the SURE document, which was distributed on Monday, government has put the total subsidy reinvestible funds at N1.134tn based on an average of $90 per barrel of crude oil.

According to the document, out of the total, N478.49bn would accrue to the Federal Government, while state governments and local governments would get N411.03bn and N203.23bn respectively.

The document adds that N9.86bn would go to the Federal Capital Territory while N31.37bn would be transferred to the Derivation and Ecology, Development of Natural Resources and Stabilisation Fund.

Among the items the Federal Government promised to spend money on were the construction of the East–West Road; construction of some roads and bridges in the six geo-political zones of the country; and the completion of rail routes.

The government also listed some of the irrigation projects it planned to embark on, promising that the revitalisation of the irrigation projects would increase the local production of rice by over 400,000 tonnes per year.

The withdrawn document further adds that government will contribute to the power sector reforms by improving generation capacity through hydro and coal power plants.

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“The current subsidy regime in which fixed price is maintained irrespective of market realities has resulted in huge unsustainable subsidy burden,” the document says.

The government had on January 1, 2012 announced a total removal of subsidy on petrol but the consequent jump in the pump price of the product from N65 per litre to N141 had attracted nationwide protests and a strike action championed by organised labour and civil society groups.

Following a week of paralysis in the socio-economic sector, the government on January 16 agreed to revert the price of petroleum to N97 per litre.

The Federal Government, however, on February 15 proposed additional N656.3bn to the 2012 budget to cater for its subsidy on petrol.

Jonathan’s coordinating minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had in a statement explained that the 2012 Fiscal Framework earlier submitted to the National Assembly assumed 100 per cent subsidy removal and that only N155bn was provided for the carry-over of 2011 subsidy payments.

Okonjo-Iweala explained that the estimated total figure for subsidy in 2012 was N888bn, made up of N656.30bn for 2012 and N155bn as carry-over from 2011.

Shedding light on the subsidy budget for 2012, the minister stated that the amount was arrived at after extensive consultations with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency.

Source: Punch

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