The Nigerian Government announced on Friday that it has scrapped the Petroleum Support Fund, also known as fuel subsidy.
Speaking to journalists at the Port Harcourt refinery where he had spent Christmas inspecting the facility, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, said the government could no longer pay the subsidy due to the fraud tainting the scheme.
Mr. Kachikwu, who is also the Group Managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), also added that the government could no longer afford the payment due to the dip in its revenue, caused by the drop in crude oil prices.
He said a new pricing template he signed off on Thursday effectively removed the payment of subsidy on petrol and that oil marketers would be informed of the development in the coming days.
The official price of petrol is N87 but it is sold for higher prices in many states of the federation.
When pressed on what the new price of petrol would be following the removal of the subsidy, Mr Kachikwu said it would sell for below the current official price, maybe as low as N85 per litre.
“It (new pricing regime) is out,” the minister said. ”I signed off on it yesterday (Thursday). I imagined that in the next couple of days the marketers would get advice on that. The nice thing about the PPPRA, where I signed up on it yesterday is that the price will be far below N87,” he said.
“So for the first time, people will understand that the pricing modulation I was talking about is not a gimmick. It is for real. We have gone to find out how we will be able to fluctuate this market to reflect what the reality of the crude market is. The objective is that one, we cannot afford to continue to subsidise.
“We can’t even understand where those subsidies were going to. There are a lot of fraud elements in it so we need to cut that off.
“The second is the earning capacity of the Federal Government is deteriorating by the day with lower prices of crude and come out more,” he said.
The call for government to scrap the payment of subsidy on petrol has become louder recently following the drop in crude oil prices.
Last week, a leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress and former Governor of Lagos, Bola Tinubu, joined the call for the government to scrap the subsidy regime.
Mr. Tinubu, who had opposed the removal of the subsidy under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, said subsidy was originally a good idea, but it had since been “perverted”.
He, therefore, urged the government to divert the money it is currently paying on subsidy to other social programmes and infrastructure that would have more rewarding impacts on the people.
“In a perfect world, I wish we could sanitize the subsidy regime and thus continue (with) it. However, I have reached the conclusion that there are too many demons in the system for this hell to be converted into good earth let alone heaven,” he said while speaking at the 10th memorial anniversary of left-wing politician and scholar, Bala Usman, in Kaduna.
“I would choose to remove the subsidy and use the money to help people – let us feed our school children, with our local produce promote agriculture, create jobs and start erecting a social safety net for the vulnerable among us in true need,” he added.
On Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari told a joint session of the National Assembly that he had directed “the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to adjust its pricing template to reflect competitive and market driven components” that would keep the price of petrol selling at “N87 per litre for now.”
According to Mr Kachikwu, the President’s comment was informed by the analysis that was done that put the price at below the official price of N87.
“But in applying that where we landed when we did the analysis for the very first time was about N85 or N86 so it is below N87.
“And maybe the first price that will come will reflect it. That was why Mr. President said that prices will be N87 for now. And that is what we have in mind,” he said.
The announcement on fuel subsidy removal came two days after the Nigerian Labour Congress threatened it would vehemently oppose any cut on the subsidy regime.
At the end of its Central Working Committee meeting in Abuja, the NLC said the discordant pronouncements from government officials on plans to cut subsidy was creating panic and confusion in the system, even as it reaffirmed its opposition to any fuel price increase.
An attempt by the government to cut fuel subsidy in 2012 led to what came to be known as the #OccupyNigeria protest.
Nigerians were outraged when in the early hours of January 1, 2012, then President Jonathan announced the removal of subsidy from petroleum products.
The then president’s New Year announcement meant that PMS, which sold for N65 a litre – with subsidy – would go for N141, more than a hundred per cent increase.
This action translated into more than one hundred per cent increase in fares, food, rents and virtually every all goods and services in Nigeria.
Petrol is central to Nigeria’s economy and literally close to every Nigerian’s heart.
Expectedly, that announcement immediately drew Nigerians to the streets, sparking spontaneous protests across the country.
But it soon became clear that the subsidy regime was characterised by monumental fraud.
For instance, to benefit from the 2011 fuel subsidy largesse, some oil companies “manufactured” fictional oil ships (vessels) they claimed traversed seas and oceans of the world carrying imaginary petrol, with Nigeria the final destination of the product, a Technical Committee set up by the Federal Government discovered.
For supplying this phantom product to Nigeria, some seven companies pocketed a princely N13 billion naira from the 2011 fuel subsidy payments, the committee’s report, exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES at the time, showed.
Some other companies, not wanting to create fictional vessels, decided to space- travel existing ones; such that real vessels, which were definitely in countries like China and UAE, were purported to have discharged petrol into storage depots in Nigeria at the exact time they were in those other countries. The 11 companies involved in this category of fraud pocketed N21 billion from the 2011 subsidy payments, the report said.
Sources in the oil industry revealed at the time that those companies were able to perpetuate the crime with the help of field officers of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory agency (PPPRA) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), men of the Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Custom officers, banks and others involved in the various stages of fuel importation.
The companies and their owners are still being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
In The Fight Against Corruption, No Individual is Bigger Than The State – Buhari
In response to the suspended acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, President Muhammed Buhari, lamented that the anti-corruption war becomes endangered “when persons entrusted with the responsibility of that magnitude become suspects themselves.”
Buhari, whose vision is to put an end to corruption in Nigeria, believed that every aspect of the nation’s life is enshrined in corruption and it’s of major concern when leaders of institutions saddled with the mandate to fight the menace are found in the waves of the corruption they claimed to be fighting.
This act is a great abomination not only because it strikes at the root but it also trivialises and undermines the anti-corruption crusade itself, the President explained.
He further said that in a bid to put an end to this great abomination, he had set up Ayo Salami Panel to unravel the mystery behind the mystique of Magu’s alleged involvement in corruption that his administration is fighting.
Buhari said that his administration is ready and willing to go all out in the fight against corruption, and no one is too big nor above the law to become a victim of anti-graft’s sledgehammer.
The president said, “However, the stark reality of widespread corruption becomes poignant when allegations of corruption touch on the leadership of an institution set up by law to coordinate and enforce all economic and financial crimes.
“It is an abomination that strikes at the root and undermines the government’s anti-corruption programme.
“It was in response to the serious allegations against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that I set up a panel headed by the Honourable Justice Isa Ayo Salami, retired President of the Court of Appeal, via an Instrument dated 3rd July 2020 pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (Cap T21, LFN, 2004).
“We recognise that there are more grounds to cover in the war against corruption, and we are prepared to go out to possess those lands by cutting off any stream that nourishes the seed of corruption and supports its growth.
“Let it be known that in the fight against corruption, no one is too big to tackle, as no individual is bigger than the Nigerian State!”
In Search For The New EFCC Chairman, Justice Ayo Salami Panel Advises Buhari to Look Outside The Police Force
Justice Ayo Salami’s panel advised President Muhammadu Buhari to look outside the Nigerian Police Force for the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
A credible source confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari may have decided to follow the panel recommendation to avoid a similar fate to that of Magu, the former chairman.
The source also confirmed that the panel recommendation was a result of sleaze allegations against suspended acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu. Also, that search team would be constituted in the next few days to slim down the possibilities of finding the right candidate to bring into reality the President’s vision of a corrupt-free anti-graft agency.
The source further confirmed that “the sleaze and abuse of office allegations against Magu, a commissioner of police, were overwhelming,” and that he may be put on trial.
As advised by the panel, the new EFCC chairman should be in interim position for two years.
It was suggested that the recommendation from the Justice Ayo Salami panel might have pinned Magu, according to Femi Adesina, the presidential spokesman, he advised president Buhari to consider looking into other law enforcement or security agencies, as well as considering important and diligent staff of EFCC in his plans to appoint the next EFCC chairman, as s provided in the EFCC Establishment Act of 2004.
Following the Justice Ayo Salami panel recommendation, Salami said “Your Excellency, permit me to say that four successive chairmen of the EFCC from inception have been drawn from the police. Therefore, in appointing a new chairman of EFCC, consideration should be given to candidates from other law enforcement or security agencies and qualified core staff of EFCC as provided in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment Act 2004).
“It is also important to point out that at the moment, 970 policemen (114 drivers, 641 mobile policemen and 215 operations), are on secondment in the EFCC.
“Therefore, an exit plan for the disengagement of the police and other personnel within two years from now should be considered. This will address the issue of non-promotion of core staff for over nine years.
“Your Excellency, our thinking here is that whoever you are appointing other than a core EFCC staff, should be in transitional capacity of two years during which period, the arrangement would be made for the appointment of any of the core staff who has been commended by National Crime Agency, UK and other international law enforcement for their professionalism”.
Justice Ayo Salami appreciated the president for giving members of the panel an avenue to serve the country.
Ezekwesili Presents Research Findings on Fixing Nigeria’s Politics
She stated this at the public launch of #FixPolitics, where she presented findings from her fellowship research on how to fix politics in Nigeria and Africa more broadly.
Ezekwesili invited 124 Nigerians from diverse fields of endeavour and geopolitical zones to collaborate on designing the research findings over the last one year as a Work Study Group. The group is the co-leadership organ responsible for an integrated citizens-led actions to fix the broken political system.
She pointed out that politics in Nigeria was not fulfilling the core requirement of a democratic system, which was to provide good governance for the common wellbeing of citizens.
“My research findings primarily reinforce that the poor state of affairs in Nigeria is the consequence of the quality of politics at play. Politics is at the heart of everything any society can or will become. The essential process of democracy is not complete without politics,” the 2019 Nigerian Presidential candidate said.
In her study, she established primarily that in a democratic system, “there are three triangular pillars which determine the kind of outcomes that politics will produce for the people.
Explaining the concept, the former World Bank vice president said, “On the right angle or demand side of the triangle is the electorate; on the left or supply side is the politicians, political class and parties; and at the top is the regulatory – constitutional, legal, electoral and institutional context within which the politics happen.”
According to her, these tripod pillars create an interconnecting network of actions that determine the outcomes of every political system.
“Every pillar or angle of the triangle must function effectively and concurrently with the other two to enable the right quality of politics that will deliver strong economic performance for a people.
“In evaluating the outcome of politics in Nigeria and Africa, my study established that the quality of the electorate, quality of political class and quality and lack of independence and capacity of political institutions constitute a structural and systemic problem for democracy and must therefore be fixed by citizens,” Ezekwesili said.
She also said, “The research found that Nigeria is ridden with politicians without competing ideas of how to solve the problems of citizens, who lack a culture of public service and subordinate the common good to their personal and narrow interests.
“The constitutional, legal, institutional and regulatory environment is compromised by the political class to more frequently act without independence, fairness and adherence to the rule of law. The political space is thus completely monopolised by the supply side of governance, that is the political class, thereby causing political, economic and social stagnation for the nation and people.
“Currently in our politics, voters generally lack the level of influence necessary to compel the right political processes and good outcomes that serve the good of all in society.
“The bright prospect is that evidence from the #FixPolitics research shows that citizens are the only angle of the triangle that can act and propel systemic change by collectively and decisively acting for their common good.”
To alter the status quo, Ezekwesili said only the electorate “have the incentive to correct the abnormality in a political system.”
She added, “It is the collective effort of citizens that can change the quality of political class and compel the kind of constitutional and electoral changes required to achieve good governance.”
Delivering a keynote address, former President Felipe Calderon of Mexico said there was an enormous gap between the interests of the citizens and that of the politicians, which he saw as a major problem to a democratic setting.
“To fix politics in Nigeria, the citizens and the politicians must work together and represent the same in practical life,” he said.
Calderon further said that “citizens must change their perception of politics and political participation rather than holding to a view that politics is for corrupt and dishonest people.”
According to him, corrupt people are quite the opposite of what politics stands. “To fix politics is what happens when the people participate and take responsibility to provide political participation with ethical sense and ethical parameters,” Calderon added.
In a goodwill message, former President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda, said politics should be seen as an inclusive love affair and if institutionally implemented, “Africa will witness a great change in its democratic system.”
While dissecting the dynamics of democracy, three intergenerational panels with discussants like Prof. Atahiru Jega, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Aisha Yesufu, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Jude Abaga(also known as M.I Abaga), Cynthia Mbamalu, Yemi Adamolekun, Samson Itodo, among others, agreed that there was an emerging consensus to fix politics in Nigeria as the status quo was untenable and unsustainable.
Speakers like Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Ayo Sogunro, Ndi Kato, Adewunmi Emoruwa, and Dr. Usman Bugaje highlighted that “there is a need for young people and women to fully engage in partisan politics, create platforms for political engagement, use politics as a tool for framing a shared vision based on a new dominant value orientation of public service, connect the elite with the grassroots and mobilise the Nigerian public to mount pressure on the legislature for the right constitutional and electoral changes.”
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