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Senator Ihenyen: Subsidy removal: When the aide is mightier than his oga

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Senator Ihenyen: Subsidy removal: When the aide is mightier than his oga

by Senator Ihenyen

On Tuesday, December 6, 2011, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, made a special presentation on the requested details of fuel subsidy removal she had recommended to the President Goodluck Jonathan administration.

In her presentation of a 19-page brief on fuel subsidy, she provided the key facts about what fuel subsidy is all about, benefits of the deregulation of the downstream sector and reasons for the proposed removal of fuel subsidy, which included the need to remove the fiscal and financial burden on the national economy. She also stated the beneficiaries of the fuel subsidy, as well as the connection between subsidy and the budget of the federal government.

Eventually, on January 1st, 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan announced the total removal of fuel subsidy, increasing the fuel price to N141 per litre. The presidency had argued that removing the subsidies, which costs  government over 1 trillion naira a year, would allow the government to spend money on capital projects such as roads, power and other infrastructural needs and social amenities.

But is the removal of fuel subsidy part of Transformation agenda of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration?

For oil and gas, it is stated in the Transformation agenda that the government would “focus on the promotion of private sector investment, and deregulation of the industry”, among other goals. Therefore, it would be safe to say that fuel subsidy removal was in the Transformation agenda, having been subsumed under “deregulation of the industry”.

Contrary to the recent u-turn statement made by Doyin Okupe that fuel subsidy removal is not a part of the Transformation agenda, it is on record that the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), when announcing the removal of fuel subsidy on January 1st, 2012, made the following statement to the press:

“By this announcement, the downstream sub-sector of the petroleum industry is hereby deregulated for PMS. Service providers in the  sector are now to procure products and sell in accordance with the indicative benchmark price to be published forthnightly (sic) and posted on the PPPRA website.”

Of course, only the naive would express shock at the ever predictable mop-up-the-dirt-machine, Dr. Doyin Okukpe. The Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, in dismissing the “speculation”of subsidy removal, described the president’s comment during the Economist summit, in which he talked about considering the removal of subsidies, as a “frank, intellectual and well-articulated contribution by the President to the discussion on the Nigerian economy at the said summit, and it was from a honest and sincere leadership perspective.”

Is President Jonathan a coward? Imagine how Okupe describes a clear presidential position on such a crucial and sensitive national issue as fuel subsidy removal as a mere “frank, intellectual and well articulated contribution”. He made it sound like a book review in a book launch! How can a presidential aide be allowed to literally reduce a policy statement by a democratically elected President?

After reading the handwriting on the wall on his slim chances in 2015 if he goes on to totally remove fuel subsidy, President Jonathan has only made a self-serving political manoeuvre to save his own ambition. The Presidency must have been following our tweets!

But you will be gullible to take Dr. Doyin Okukpe’s word for it that before any “removal of fuel subsidy in the nearest future” is embarked upon, “extensive consultations and engagements across various segments, interests and stakeholders in the Nigerian polity” would be made. Nigerians need not be reminded that in 2011, similar deceptive assurances were made but the same government went ahead to announce the removal of fuel subsidy without honouring a rescheduled meeting with the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and its affiliate bodies.

I did say very recently that it was high time President Goodluck Jonathan was impeached. But it would appear that Nigerians are very tolerant people, always quick to find excuses for our greedy, unaccountable, insensitive, inept and corrupt leaders. Instructively,  coming at a time when President Jonathan’s unpopular grant of presidential pardon to his mentor and political benefactor, Mr. Alamieyeseigha, and others, Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, was impeached a few days ago for similar acts. The impeached President granted state pardon to criminals with financial frauds, using a broad amnesty as a smoke-screen for pardons of serious economic offences and abolition of their investigations.

READ: Senator Ihenyen: Yes, I Think It’s High Time This President Was Impeached

READ: #InCaseYouMissedIt: Czech Senate Impeaches President Over State Pardon; Faces Treason Charge

In contrast, the National Assembly is not perturbed with such unwarranted and distracting issue as impeachment. It could as well be a taboo in the Nigerian polity to even conceive the idea of impeaching a President, no matter how incompetent, inept and corrupt he  appears to be. It just has to be business as usual – flexing legislative muscles over allowances and the annual ritual of federal budget presentations, budget amendments and supplementary budgets. And as 2015 draws closer, who in the green and red chambers would dare step on the once shoeless toes of President Goodluck Jonanthan?

At a time when Qatar, a country with 1. 7million people in 2001, plans to invest $150 billion of her oil wealth on infrastructural development till year 2016, Nigeria remains in a state of mess in 2013. Already, the country has successfully increased power generation from 2,200MW in 2001 to 8,750 MW currently. Ours is a different story – The story of national rape by visionless leaders. The story of a “microscopic few” plundering the wealth of a nation. Ours is a story of impunity and insanity in public offices. The story of a centenary as a country come 2014, yet a failing state. The story of a shallow democracy in the hands of predatory rulers, political jobbers and shameless sycophants with no integrity. Ours is the story of extreme poverty, unemployment, insecurity, epileptic power supply, poor infrastructure, poor health sector, transportation, and lack of basic amenities such as clean water haunting the daily lives of over 70 per cent of Nigerians.

Continually, our country is being dragged in the mud before international lens, just as the British government is now demanding that the pardoned ex-convict and former Governor, Mr. Alamieyeseigha be extradited at once to Britain for prosecution.

Indeed, Chinua Achebe, things have fallen apart. Anthills of corruption are all over our political system and institutions. We are no longer at ease. Perhaps, more than ever before, we greatly need a man of the people; and urgently too, so that Nigerians will not wake up one day and say, “There was a country”.

Senator Ihenyen is a lawyer and an author. When he is not in court, he is researching the law. When he is not researching, he is writing. When he is not writing, he is working on the next big idea or managing a youth NGO. When he's not doing any of these? He's busy contributing on politics, policies and current affairs on The Scoop because it's the smart thing to do. Disclaimer: Senator is Senator's given name even though Facebook doesn't believe and so shortened the name to 'Sen' on that site. Unlike those who bear the name as a title, Senator has never accepted the millions of Naira which they receive as allowance - not like he's ever been offered though.

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