ZAINAB AHMED, Nigeria’s Finance, Budget and National Planning Minister, in October 2021, told the nation and foreign economic interest, that President Buhari’s government made no provision for petrol subsidy beyond the second quarter of 2022. Interpreted by analysts, that the government plan to completely deregulate the sector, in the middle of 2022 — say about June.
Ahmad Lawan, Senate President, after meeting with Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday, told State House journalists, that the president has not directed anyone to implement fuel subsidy removal. He said he was in the Villa to convey the feelings of constituents to the president, on some concerns, including the proposed subsidy removal.
Another beatitude tune on the removal of subsidy. Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, after the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting on Wednesday, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, told journalists, that he would consult with relevant ministries and agencies, to determine government’s true position on the removal of fuel subsidy. Lai Mohammed was asked to respond to the controversies on the issue of subsidy removal.
Still another escapade on the removal of fuel subsidy. Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s Vice President, and all 36 State Governors, and some federal government officials, are meeting on Thursday, January 20, 2022; to consider and, perhaps, adopt a report by the ad-hoc committee on fuel subsidy removal and likely increase petrol pump price to N302 per litre.
Nigeria’s 36 State Governors have been in the forefront, championing the removal of petrol subsidy, to enable state governments earn more money from the federal covers. Nigerians and analysts are concerned about who is in charge of policy decisions and running the affairs of Buhari’s government.
THE FUEL SUBSIDY CONTROVERSY, is itching towards confrontation, as Nigeria’s major labour unions, on Tuesday, at a meet in Abuja, outlined conditions the federal government must meet before conceding to the removal of petrol subsidy. The unions said fuel subsidy and hike in the pump price of petrol have been recurring in the country.
At the meeting were officials of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC; Trade Union Congress, TUC; Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSN; and others. It was at the Annual General Meeting and inauguration of the newly elected National Executive Committee of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria.
Quadri Olaleye, National President, TUC, said “incompetence and corruption of the government” has been responsible for energy crisis in Nigeria. And Nigeria is the only OPEC member country that imports more than 90 to 95 per cent of refined petroleum products for consumption.
“Nigeria has a total of five refineries across the country of which four are owned and managed by the government, and one by NDPR (Niger Delta Petroleum Resources Limited). It might interest you to know that none of the government-owned refineries is functioning, yet in the past 10 years alone, the government has wasted about $9.5bn for turnaround maintenance of the moribund refineries.”
TUC’s position is that “there should be the establishment of modular refineries and construction of functioning refineries in the country”. It says “proactive committees must be set up to check, balance, and ensure successful execution of projects and to generally oversee activities”.
The unions believe that the debate on fuel subsidy removal has dragged for too long. The federal and state governments have been calling for its removal as it has been depleting national revenues. But the “moribund refineries must be active and we must put an end to the counterproductive acts of importing petroleum products when we can refine here and sell at a competitive price”.
The unions said they are not against the removal of petrol subsidy. But make sure that the removal of subsidy does not further inflict untold hardship on already impoverished Nigerians. Acceptable conditions by organised labour must be met. And Nigeria has the capacity to meet the demands, even “diversify like advanced countries”. But that “will not happen because the current political class does not want it”.
Organise labour unions have insisted that if their demands are not met, labour will respond appropriately. The bottom line, analysts say, is that Buhari’s government may not have the political will to implement the removal of petrol subsidy in the 2021, being an election year, ahead of 2023 general election.