From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has said that fuel subsidy removal is in favour of majority of poor Nigerians, noting that without removing the subsidy, only few opportune Nigerians will continue to enrich themselves with billions of Dollars from the subsidy.
The group pointed out that subsidy payment by the federal government has constrained Nigeria’s development goals, as the subsidies only benefit mostly a few wealthy households.
In a communique read on Tuesday by the CNG Spokesperson, and Chairman, Communique Draft Committee, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman at the end of one day Town Hall meeting of of NGOs and Northern stakeholders urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to hold accountable all those involved in smuggling, hoarding and subsidy scams’ regardless of rank or status in the society.
The Communique read in parts, “The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has taken stock of developments in the country since the announcement of the withdrawal of oil subsidy on May 29th by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in his inaugural speech.
“CNG notes that Nigeria spent 2.91 trillion naira ($7 billion) towards petrol subsidy between January and September 2022 which is largely responsible for the country’s dwindling public finances.
“This was confirmed by immediate past Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed at a panel discussion at the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund during the Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington, U.S., October 13, 2022, when she said: the federal government has set aside 3.36 trillion naira ($7.5 bln) to spend on costly petrol subsidy until mid-2023.
“Worried by this entrenched scam, successive governments in Nigeria have tried and failed to remove or cut the subsidy, which has greatly constrained Nigeria’s development goals, as the subsidies mostly only benefit a few wealthy households.
“Concerned by these revelations, and the backlash from some quarters that followed the announcement of the withdrawal of the subsidies by the President, CNG convened a one-day stakeholder roundtable of all its 150 affiliates and other northern interest groups at the Arewa House, Kaduna on June 6, 2023.
“At the end of the Townhall discussions, it was observed that generally, subsidy is an evil that subsequent previous governments groomed and fed fat all these years to the detriment of the masses.
“All along, the oil subsidy has been a conduit pipe for siphoning public funds for the benefit of a very few members of a powerful cartel at the expense of the entire nation.
“Since assumption of office, the former President Muhammadu Buhari had made several promises of rehabilitating the nation’s refineries, all of which he failed to fulfill. Instead, he pursued unpopular deregulation programmes while maintaining the fraudulent subsidy regime and further plunging the nation into deeper crisis and mass suffering.
“On emergence as Nigeria’s new President, Bola Tinubu disclosed that the current budget handed over to him by former President Buhari did not provide for the petrol subsidy and therefore it is gone, which did not go down well with the exploiter class that benefits from the subsidy budgets.
“Since Tinubu’s announcement of the removal of the fuel subsidy, the cartel that has been reaping its benefits at the expense of the suffering masses, has waged a campaign about the fictitious knock-on effects that it will have on the daily lives of Nigerians.
“Not quite unexpected, the Nigeria Labour Congress typically joined in the frenzy and deliberately escalated tensions with its usual threats of mass action that has completely lost meaning over time.
“While this is going on, we observe that the government is yet to publicly suggest ways to mitigate the impact of this decision for people on low incomes or suggest a permanent solution to this recurring standoff.
“As responsible representatives of the interests of the vast majority of Northern society we have resolved to to call the attention of the public that the petroleum resources is a natural endowment bestowed for the collective benefit of all the people of Nigeria.
“We call on the public to remain calm, focused, patient and vigilant while demanding from government full protection of their collective rights over the resources God has endowed them with”.
The communique further added, “We remind the Federal Government that Nigeria is the Nigeria of all Nigerians and its resources belong to all Nigerians regardless of status and it will not be acceptable for only a minor favoured capitalist class to be allowed to exploit and monopolize the total available economic activity in the country at the detriment of the larger majority.
“We impress on the Federal Government the urgency in finding a permanent solution to this unacceptable exploitation by, among others, reactivating the nation’s refineries and moving urgently and seriously to complete the exploration of the newly discovered oil reserves in Kolmari Bauchi/Gombe states and in Kogi.
“While acknowledging the reality that all countries, including Nigeria, are required to eventually remove all fossil fuel subsidies to meet their human rights obligations, it is also important that the removal of the subsidy is accompanied by social cushioning and protection measures.
“Before a permanent solution is put in place which would hopefully bring down the prices of Petroleum to affordable limits, we plead with Mr President to dispassionately look into the current price of N540 per litre pegged by the NNPCL and bring it much lower down immediately.
“We urge the Tinubu administration to finally respond to longstanding demands to investigate the fuel market chain, and to hold accountable all those involved in smuggling, hoarding and subsidy scams’ regardless of rank or status.
“We demand the Federal Government to urgently put in place measures to protect the rights of people most affected by the removal of the fuel subsidies and prioritize addressing widespread hunger, higher unemployment and the rapidly falling standard of living”.