- Category: Business and Economy
- Published on Monday, 12 December 2011 09:07
- Written by Admin
- Hits: 789
Nigeria’s civil rights community has told President Goodluck Jonathan to shelve the proposed removal of oil subsidy.
They pledged to return to the trenches and fight for the people should the President stick to what they described as his “fixation” on fuel subsidy.
The meeting was in continuation of the President’s consultations with stakeholders on the issue. He had earlier met with leaders of some key political parties.
Some of those at the session were foremost human rights campaigner, Femi Falana, ex-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba(SAN); Rights Advocate, Hajiya Bilikisu Yusuf, ex-Student Union Activist, Nasir Nura, Clement Nwankwo, Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chidi Odinkalu, Labour activist, Saliu Lukman, Anikko Briggs among others.
Apart from the President, those on the government side were Vice-President Namadi Sambo, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke; Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, the Minister of Labour, Mr. Emeka Wogu; the Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Dr. Sam Amadi, the Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, a Special Adviser to the President, Oronto Douglas among others.
A source described the session as “frank and sincere” with all the sides making their contributions unhindered.
The source said: “The President expressed his gratitude to the CSOs for rising to the challenge of the constitutional stalemate which the nation ran into in 2010 following the health trip of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua to Saudi Arabia.
“He said were it not for the agitation of the CSOs, only God knows the kind of turmoil Nigeria would have found itself in.
“The President later claimed that he invited the leaders of the civil society groups for consultations on the proposed withdrawal of fuel subsidy.”
“The Minister of Finance, Okonjo-Iweala also made a presentation on why the removal of subsidy has become inevitable for the nation.”
But, according to another source, the civil society leaders , who took turns to speak, insisted that there are many alternatives to the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
They also listed many sources of funding for the government to finance its budget and projects.
The source said: “In his contribution, Falana said with the ongoing reform of the PPPRA, it has become evident that about N1.3trillion that Nigeria is spending on fuel subsidy is far more than it should be.
“He said the list of over 138 beneficiaries of oil imports has suddenly been trimmed to about 42 who have depots. He said if a clean up of the system is done, the fuel subsidy can be affordable for the country.
“He also asked the President to learn from the withdrawal of subsidy for food items and commodities in the 90s. He said today Nigeria is spending trillions of Naira to import food items.
“Falana also suggested that since neigbouring countries like Senegal, Niger have refineries which are operating below capacity, Nigeria should refine its crude at lesser cost from these neighbouring nations pending the time it will fix its refineries.
“On his part, Agbakoba asked the government to look inward to fund its projects. He said from shipping alone, Nigeria can earn N7trillion per annum.
“He urged the government to learn from President Barrack Obama who is taxing the rich to save the middle class.”
“ Anikko Briggs from Bayelsa State reminded the President that the poor in the Niger Delta cannot afford to buy fuel at between N120 and N150 per litre. She said the high unemployment rate in the Niger Delta will be compounded by the withdrawal of fuel subsidy. She said the consequence is predictable.”
The third source at the session said: “The CSOs demanded the immediate reform of the EFCC and ICPC without sparing sacred cows to rid the nation of corruption; drastic reduction of jumbo allowances being paid to government officials especially members of the National Assembly; cutting recurrent cost and increase its revenue drive.”
“On the use of Executive fiat to withdraw fuel subsidy, they reminded the President that the PPPRA Act does not give him such powers. Jonathan must revert to the National Assembly to amend the PPPRA Act first before he can unilaterally withdraw the fuel subsidy.
“We told the President to ignore the fixation that the fuel subsidy must go in the interest of democracy and the nation. We made him realize that when the CSOs fought for him to be acting President and struggled for him to be substantive President in April, it was because he promised a transformation of the nation.
“We said that there is nothing new in all the palliatives reeled out at the session because successive governments of ex-President Ibrahim Babangida and ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo had toed .similar paths
“We made him realize that withdrawal of fuel subsidy is not transformation. We were all unanimous in rejecting the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.But we said if the government remains adamant on the withdrawal of fuel subsidy, we will go back to the streets to protest.
“We also pledged to assist the government with a list of sources of funds to finance its projects.
Asked what the response of the President was, the fourth source at the session added: “He promised to look at our points.”