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ACN Challenges GEJ To Subject Controversial Policies To Debate, Referendum

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LAGOS, November 13, (THEWILL) – Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has challenged President Goodluck Jonathan to subject his administration's controversial policies, especially the planned removal of fuel subsidy and the seven-year single tenure for President, to a rigorous debate and referendum, if he is indeed convinced they are good for Nigeria.

The party threw the challenge in a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

''Mr. President, if you are convinced, as you said, that Nigerians know the truth and are in support of these policies, and that the 'opponents' of your administration have been misinforming the public, then let's have a robust debate on the issues, especially concerning single-tenure and fuel subsidy.

''After the debate, which must not be government-sponsored, the issues should be subjected to a referendum, and the outcome accepted by all. This is the way to go, instead of the current

style of your administration officials talking down on Nigerians with dubious figures calibrated to twist facts,'' ACN said.

The party said the President's recent stout defence of the single-tenure proposal has shown that he is not listening to the voice of Nigerians, and that he is indeed fixated on what a few advisers are

telling him.
''Mr. President, Nigerians are suspicious of your single-tenure proposal. It reads as tenure elongation to them. They are wondering why you have made it a key issue at a time the country is yearning for a strong leadership in tackling worsening security problems, revamping dilapidated infrastructure and battling social problems, especially mass unemployment. They think you are getting your priorities wrong.

''Our duty as an opposition party is to engage your administration in constructive criticism, which we have consistently done. But if indeed you are convinced we are misinforming the public, please take the issues directly to Nigerians as we have suggested, through a debate of stakeholders and a referendum,'' ACN said.

The party also said it remains resolute that the removal of fuel subsidy is not the solution to the so-called huge government spending to subsidise petroleum products, noting that the ultimate solution is ending the importation of the products and ensuring domestic refining of oil.

''Our stand is simple: Governance is about the people. The planned removal of fuel subsidy is a knee-jerk approach typical of this administration. We do not support it because it will have a negative multiplier effect on all facets of life: education, transportation, cost of foodstuffs and the overall standard of living of Nigerians. In other words, it will deepen poverty,'' it said.

ACN said the President's contention that those opposed to the removal of oil subsidy are those with five jeeps is wrong, and indicates the totally wrong approach to the issue by his administration.

''Mr. President, those who have five to 10 jeeps are not overly worried by the cost of fuel, because they can afford it at any cost. Those most affected are the ordinary Nigerians, who have to contend with the effects of the so-called deregulation on the cost of public transportation, foodstuffs and others.

''It is unfair to compare the Nigerian situation with what obtains in France, for example, because the ordinary French people do not need to provide their own electricity or pay for the cost of an inefficient public transportation system, as Nigerians do daily,'' the party said.