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REVEALED : How Buhari was ‘forced’ to dump fuel subsidy removal

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 REVEALED How Buhari was forced to dump fuel subsidy removal

Details have emerged on how security advice forced President Muhammadu Buhari to make a U-turn on the decision to remove fuel subsidy.

An impeccable security source said that intelligence handed over to the President by security officials showed that the protests that would have accompanied the subsidy removal might have been far worse than the #EndSARS demonstrations, mass protests against police brutality that grounded many parts of the country in 2020.

The official, who spoke on strict condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak with the press, said the President was eager to implement the Petroleum Industry Act which would have ensured that subsidy was removed by June and investments in the oil sector increased.

He further stated that the government was afraid that such protests would have easily been hijacked by the opposition and affected the chances of the All Progressives Congress in next year’s election.

READ ALSO:Nigeria TI corruption rating worst under Buhari

The official added, “The police, DSS, the National Intelligence Agency and the Office of the National Security Adviser usually send security reports to the President on the impact of sensitive issues like fuel subsidy. Reports given to the President showed that the protests being planned by unions would have been 10 times bigger than the #EndSARS protests.

“Petrol price was projected to increase to about N350 if the international price of oil continues to rise. This would have increased the cost of everything and encouraged everyone to take to the streets.

“They also drew the President’s attention to the coups sweeping many African countries and how the protests could have been hijacked by the opposition. This was why the President not only delayed subsidy removal but transferred the responsibility to the next government.”

Former President Goodluck Jonathan had in 2012 faced a similar challenge when he removed petrol subsidy forcing the price to rise from N65 per litre to N140.

The incident sparked protests in several parts of the country especially in Lagos where thousands converged on Ojota for over a week, grounding commercial activities in the country’s commercial capital.

“Some ministers actually advised the President to go ahead with subsidy removal because of the potential investments that deregulation would bring. But the President could not have taken such advice. The country is currently facing insecurity in several states, people are hungry. Outright removal of subsidy would have led to a rise in the cost of goods and protests. The alternative given to the President is to increase fuel price slightly. This could be done gradually by adding N3 or N5 periodically,” he said.

When one of our correspondents called the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on the phone on Thursday for a reaction, he declined making any comments on the issue

But, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had in an interview on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise Daily’ programme on Wednesday, said subsidy removal would have forced Nigeria into a tailspin.

Adesina added, “If that subsidy had been removed, it would have been a show of will that we want to solve this problem (oil fraud). There was a will but if you have a will and what you want to do will upturn the system, throw the country into a tailspin, then you would have to reconsider, you will weigh it. That is why further consultations will still happen.”

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union had last year said it would on Thursday (yesterday) and February 2 embarked on nationwide protests against government’s plan to remove fuel subsidy.

But on Tuesday, the union shelved the protests following government decision to shift fuel subsidy removal by 18 months and amend the Petroleum Act, whose implementation was earlier scheduled to start in June.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives, on Thursday, adopted two motions to institutionalise an earlier order by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, for an investigation of the current state of Nigeria’s four refineries and the actual volume of petrol being consumed by the country daily.

Gbajabiamila had earlier on Wednesday ordered separate probes into the issues, setting up ad hoc committees to carry out the tasks.

The Speaker had stated that the facts must first be made available before the Federal Government takes decisions on the subsidy being paid on petroleum products.

On Thursday, two motions were moved and adopted based on Gbajabiamila’s order.

The Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, titled ‘Need to Ascertain the Actual Daily Consumption of Premium Motor Spirit in Nigeria.’

Elumelu said, “The House notes the concerns of Nigerians over the recurring incidence of fuel scarcity. The House is concerned about the huge sums of money being paid as subsidies and the controversies it has been generating.

“The House is worried that it may not be possible to ascertain the actual sums of subsidy required and being paid without accurate data of the daily consumption of Premium Motor Spirit in Nigeria;

“The House acknowledges that when such data is generated, it will enhance effective planning, supply and distribution of the said product to Nigerians.”

Adopting the motion, the House asked an ad hoc committee, which Gbajabiamila set up earlier on Wednesday, to “investigate the actual daily consumption of premium motor spirit in Nigeria and report back within eight weeks for further legislative action.”

Similarly, Ademorin Kuye moved a motion titled ‘Need to Ascertain the Actual Cost of Rehabilitation of Nigerian Refineries,’ noting the non-functionality and deplorable state of the nation’s refineries.

Kuye said, “The House also notes that several billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money have been expended into the Turn Around Maintenance and rehabilitation of the nation’s refineries without any productive outcome.

“The House observes that past government efforts have been sabotaged by variation costs from partners or lack of proper project costing and analysis.

“The House is cognisant of the government’s intention to commence another phase of rehabilitation of the refineries and if proper steps are not taken, the country may be plunged into repeating past mistakes.”

Adopting the motion, the House asked the other committee to “ascertain the actual cost of rehabilitating the Nigerian Refineries and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.”

 

 

(PUNCH)

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