WE REMAIN OPPOSED TO FUEL SUBSIDY REMOVAL -ACN
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has re-stated its opposition to the plan by the Federal Government to remove fuel subsidy, saying the pains the action will inflict on Nigerians who are already reeling from the effects of bad governance will far outstrip whatever 'gains' will accrue therefrom.
In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the clarification of its stand on the issue became necessary in view of the insinuation by the government's propaganda machinery that it had secured the support of 40 political parties for the subsidy removal.
'The government should state the 40 political parties it met on this issue. By the grace of God, our party is the largest opposition party in the country today. We have not expressed support for the removal of fuel subsidy. We remain on the side of the people. We feel their pulse and their pains. We believe the removal of fuel subsidy is a great misadventure and have conveyed our stand on the issue in a letter to the president, though we never got a response,' it said.
'President Jonathan did not tell Nigerians, during his electioneering campaign, that his administration will only be able to deliver the dividends of democracy by removing fuel subsidy.
'Therefore, it amounts to arm-twisting the people to say that funds saved from fuel subsidy removal will be used to construct roads, build hospitals and schools and other expectations from the government. The government should have been honest enough to say it is seeking ways to raise money for governance and Nigerians would have been glad enough to let it know how to raise money without resorting to a phantom fuel subsidy removal.
'Our message to the president is that if he feels he cannot explore other areas to raise money for development, like cutting down on government excesses, then he should say so clearly and leave the stage for those who can ensure development with minimal pains,' the party said.
It repeated its earlier statement that what the government was claiming to subsidise was corruption and inefficiency, adding that unless refineries were repaired and built to refine enough products for local consumption and the NNPC revamped to function more efficiently, no amount of fuel subsidy removal would end the current reign of the so-called cabal.
'There will always be a cabal in the oil sector for as long as local production cannot meet demand and the government resorts to importation. This also applies to other sectors. Therefore, the best way to deal with the cabal is to ensure enough local refining of oil.
'With the knowledge that even if all the local refineries are working at full capacity, they may still not meet domestic demand, we have suggested that the government should build modular refineries.
'This does not require rocket science. After all, Niger discovered oil only a few years ago and now has a refinery,' ACN said.
The party also took the Federal Government to task on its claim that whatever hardship was inflicted by removal of fuel subsidy would be shortlived, wondering if at all the government even knew the kind of pain it would inflict on the citizenry by its fuel subsidy misadventure.
'Does this government know that the moment the so-called subsidy is removed, food prices will triple; cost of transportation will shoot sky-high; health care will be further impaired; mortality rate will go up and the country's ability to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be affected?' it queried.
ACN said despite the government's so-called consultations with stakeholders, the way its propaganda team was carrying on suggests that the removal of fuel subsidy was already a fait accompli.
But the party advised the government to tarry a while, desist from its divide-and-rule tactics against Labour and the opposition, provide answers to critical questions like whether or not the NNPC accounted for the 445,000 bpd of crude it received, what was the current refining capacity of the functioning local refineries and how much fuel was being refined locally, what did the NNPC do with the balance, what was the ex-refinery cost of the fuel refined in Nigeria and how much was it sold for?
'By the time these questions and others are answered, the government will no longer be under any illusion that it is subsidising fuel and that what it needs to do urgently is to ensure that the country can refine enough oil to meet local consumption and in turn stop the exportation of technology, jobs, growth and expertise that goes with crude oil export,' ACN said.