More reactions, yesterday, denounced the planned removal of petroleum subsidy and introduction of N5,000 transportation subsidy to 40 million Nigerians as announced by the Federal Government last week. The President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Bishop Francis Wale Oke, cautioned the government against compounding people’s woes with subsidy removal.
In a release issued by his media office, Oke, who is also the presiding Bishop of The Sword of the Spirit Ministries, warned that the implementation of such policy would increase the hardship currently being experienced by citizens.
The cleric lamented that prices of consumables and other items were going out of reach of the people, noting that if the proposed subsidy removal is effected, it will heighten the hardship in the land.
He said: “An increase in the price of petrol from its present N165 to N340 per litre can trigger tension and crises in the country, which in turn can paralyse our economy if not handled with utmost care.
“Everybody will feel it, particularly, the less privileged. The negative effects will surely outweigh the positive. The cost of transportation for humans and goods across the country will skyrocket and other things connected, which will have a spiral effect on the general living standard of the populace; the suffering will be multi-dimensional. Please let all stakeholders be sensitive to this avoidable path and do the needful.”
He lamented that the situation has become worrisome due to the reduction in the purchasing power of Nigerians caused by the continuous fall in the value of the nation’s currency at the exchange market.
Hence, he admonished the government to do all it could to revive the four ailing refineries in the country, with a view to ensuring they operate at an optimal level for a lasting benefit, for the country and its people.
NATIONAL President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr. Samson Ayokunle, also, urged the Federal Government to engage stakeholders before subsidy is withdrawn.
He made this known yesterday at the retirement service of CAN National Vice President, Rev. (Dr) Caleb Ahima, who stepped down as the President of the Christian Reform Church-Nigeria (CRC-N) at the church’s headquarters in Taraba State.
Ayokunle said: “The government need to engage labour and other stakeholders. We all know the prices of food items in the market, and know that there is no increment in salary, a lot of people might find it difficult to survive.”
SPEAKING in a similar vein, the Enugu Ecclesiastical Province of the Anglican Communion has rejected the government’s proposal to completely withdraw fuel subsidy and pay 40 million Nigerians N5,000 palliative each. The church stated that the government proposal was a disgrace to the sensibilities of Nigerians and asked President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the idea.
The church also said the value of the naira has become more or less useless with hyperinflation, noting that even the Federal Government’s introduction of e-naira cannot save the devalued currency.
Archbishop, Enugu Province, Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma, stated this during a media briefing to mark the 50 years anniversary of the creation of the Enugu Diocese from the Diocese in the Niger in 1970.
Chukwuma said the outbreak of Coronavirus could not allow the Diocese to mark the 50 years of its creation last year, noting that it had continued to grow in spiritual uplift and infrastructural development. He urged state governments to return the Anglican schools that were taken over by the government in the manner it returned the mission schools to the Catholic Church in states like Enugu.
THE Knights of St. Mulumba of Nigeria of the Catholic Church have urged the Federal Government to halt its plan to totally remove subsidy from Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) next year so as not to plunge the country into anarchy. The Knights said the country has had enough troubles of insecurity, hunger and unemployment in recent times; hence subsidy removal should be the last resort.
Their leader, Sir Diamond Ovueraye, supported by his Secretary, Sir Prof. Fabian Obi and six others, at the 42nd Supreme Council Convention held in Asaba, Delta State, yesterday, said the removal will further dwindle the nation’s economy and multiply hunger among citizens.
Overall, therefore, advised the government to do the needful by first, “fixing our refineries, and building more in such a way that instead of importing fuel, we can generate enough to sell across the borders to other countries to generate more foreign revenue.”
MEANWHILE, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) has criticised leaders of the labour unions, including the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) over its timid stance against the government’s poor economic policies. The group, which accused labour leaders of allegedly representing their personal interests and not that of the workers and citizens, vowed to lead an anti-fuel subsidy protest.
CNPP, in a statement issued yesterday by its Secretary-General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, said it was prepared to lead the anti-subsidy struggle, pointing out that Nigerians must be ready to take their future into their hands.
Accusing the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Federal Government of being deceitful in implementing the subsidy regime, Ezwugu said, “what the government wants to do is fuel price increment, not subsidy removal.”
He said: “It is disheartening that the labour unions have joined the All Progressives Congress-led government in its deceitful and manipulative tendencies.
“Before they won the election in 2015, the APC made Nigerians believe that fuel subsidy does not exist, tagging it a scam. But immediately after they won the election, the government swiftly increased the pump price of petrol.
“In May 2016, the Federal Government announced that it had removed fuel subsidy and petrol was to sell for N145 per litre. In fact, NNPC made Nigerians believe that marketers were free to bring in fuel cargoes and sell, subject to meeting standard quality control.
“But in the deceitful character of the government, the NNPC then insisted on a benchmark of N145 per litre as a recommended pump price. Do you remove subsidy and dictate or suggest prices at the same time if you are sincere?
“This cycle of deceit has continued till date as the government has hinted on yet another fuel price increment, which it has again tagged fuel subsidy removal. How many times will the government remove fuel subsidies?
“The same labour unions leaders who were part of the earlier negotiations are the same ones negotiating with the Federal Government today in another cycle of personal enrichment, while Nigerians are to pay N340 per litre of petrol and at a time cooking gas is already out of the reach of the ordinary citizens.
“It is laughable that the only palliative from the Federal Government is N5,000 to a few Nigerians, which government officials will eventually siphon into private pockets like the COVID-19 conditional cash transfer.
“The CNPP is ready to lead Nigerians anytime they want to end this series of subsidy removal deceit by the government in connivance with labour leaders in the country,” the statement added.
THE Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has, also, rejected the proposal to completely withdraw fuel subsidy and pay 40 million Nigerians N5,000 palliative each.
The body called on Nigerians to come out massively against any plan to further increase pump price, stressing that it will lead to an astronomic hike in the cost of goods and services, with a ripple effect on the education of Nigerian children.
ASUU President, Prof. Victor Emmanuel Osodeke, who disclosed this in an interview with The Guardian, noted that the promise of 5,000 palliatives was designed by the government to deceive uneducated Nigerians into accepting the fuel subsidy removal.
He said: “Nigerians should not accept fuel subsidy removal. The fear is that at the end of the day, only a few or nobody would be paid.
“The so-called fuel subsidy is just to enrich a few people. How are they going to identify these 40 million Nigerians? The so-called 774,000 people they said they are going to give jobs to, has it materialised for more than two years now?” Osodeke asked.
He insisted that if Nigeria could afford N2.4 trillion to subsidise the pump price of petrol, what stops it from investing half of the amount in building refineries?
“What the government is supposed to do is to sit down with the academics and build refineries. We don’t need foreign investors to come and build refineries. From our universities, we can get people in engineering who can help to build refineries at little cost to Nigerians and that is the way to go.
“Niger Republic does not import fuel again, they refine their own and even supply some parts of Nigeria. Does it sound reasonable that with all the expertise we have as a country, we are still importing fuel?”
Speaking further, he noted the education sector is already in crisis and an increase in fuel will influence the cost of transportation.
“How will the children of a man who earns N30,000 per month go to school? How will the teacher who earns N15,000 per month feed his family? These are the things we should be considering as a country”, he stated.