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Fuel subsidy must go -Jonathan

By The Citizen
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President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday said the Federal Government would still remove fuel subsidy.

But he said the government would first discuss the proposal with Nigerians before removing the subsidy.

The President said at the Nigeria Summit, which held in Lagos, 'We cannot continue to waste resources meant for a greater number of Nigerians to subsidise the affluent middle class, who are the main beneficiaries (of fuel subsidy).

'We believe that as we progress, government is going to continue to enlighten Nigerians on the need to remove fuel subsidy.'

The Federal Government had announced the total removal of subsidy on petrol on January 1, 2012 without prior announcement, raising the price of a litre of the commodity to N141 from N65.

The removal was, however, vehemently rejected by the citizens, who staged weeklong mass demonstrations in major cities of the country, forcing the government to partially remove the subsidy and reduce petrol price from N141 to N97 a litre.

According to the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency's pricing template, the landing cost of a litre of petrol is currently N131.10, with total distribution margins of N15.49, thus bringing the total cost to N146.59.

This means that if the government eventually removes the subsidy, Nigerians will be paying a minimum of N146.59 per litre of petrol at filling stations.

The President also said the government was planning to create 480,000 jobs through its transformation programme this year.

He said, 'Fifty per cent of our population is below the age of 35. That is why we established the YouWin programme. The idea is to make entrepreneurs to create jobs for themselves so that one youth can employ more than five youths. Our target is that this programme will create 80,000 jobs.

'Through the SURE-P programme, we are targeting 400,000 jobs this year. This is part of our transformation agenda, which is based on policies and programmes to promote job creation, engender private sector led inclusive growth, and promote peaceful environment. Our ultimate goal is to have everyone occupied in our development programme so as to improve the standard of living of our citizens.'

Jonathan said significant changes were going on in the agricultural sector, encouraged by the reforms, adding that the government was committed to finding sustainable solutions to terrorist threats currently confronting the nation.

He said, 'We have adopted a value-chain approach to accelerate the production of staple foods such as rice. The Mortgage Refinance Company will bridge the housing gap in the country and improve the number of mortgages to 200,000 within the next few years from its current 20,000.

'Our economic transformation is not without major challenges. It is important for the business and international community to recognise that these security challenges are part of a rising global phenomenon. Terrorist groups operating within the country are increasingly linked to other groups operating internationally.'

Jonathan said, 'The first of our three-prong approach to addressing this menace comprises the strengthening of counter terrorism cooperation with neighbouring countries. Now more than ever before, the international community is giving support in the fight against terrorism.

'Our second approach is openness to political dialogue. This can only be realistic when the groups involved in the act of terror can relinquish their anonymity, come forward and make their objectives known.

'Our third approach is economic inclusion. This strategy targets the disadvantaged and unemployed, particularly in the northern part of the country. We are also diversifying the economy away from oil to agriculture, housing, the creative industry and other sectors that can generate jobs.'

He noted that the three tiers of government were now meeting regularly to appraise government's anti-corruption fight.

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, while speaking on where the agenda for the structural reforms of the economy currently stood, said the Nigerian economy had improved from its 2.3 growth rate when the present administration assumed office in 2003.

She said Nigerians were asking questions and demanding for change, which the present administration was focused on, by putting a system in place to check corruption in governance.

'We are working on fighting corruption, which is about building institutions. This is where other countries are getting it right; it is not as if they don't have corrupt people. Our system is antiquated and we have to put in place a new system,' the minister said.