NewsNigerian Journalists Seek Total Removal of Fuel Subsidy

Nigerian Journalists Seek Total Removal of Fuel Subsidy


December 14, (THEWILL) – The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has called for the complete termination of the subsidy regime in Nigeria’s oil sector.

The call was made in Abuja, at a Policy dialogue on Subsidy Regime, organised by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Council of the NUJ.

In his paper, the lead speaker at the gathering, Eze Onyekpere, a public affair analyst and advocate for social justice, noted with dismay how fuel subsidy has enriched few as it also brought untold hardship to Nigerians.

“The official position is that fuel subsidy has ballooned from 35 million litres a day in 2015, to the present day where the claim is for 68 million litres a day. If you recall, between 2010-2015 when the claim was for 35 million litres a day, Nigerians shouted to the heavens and there were probes by the National Assembly, as well as the Minister of Finance and all of them returned the verdict that those figures of 35 million litres were over-inflated.

“So, it was a conclusive finding that the figures were inflated; the idea was that maybe we were using 20-25 million litres a day meaning there were claims of subsidy for petrol that we never imported and the increase from 35 to 68 million litres a day is not supported by empirical evidence.

“So, my recommendation Is that an open enquiry be conducted in an open and transparent public inquiry because of the quantity of oil they say we consume daily. We need that inquiry to determine the actual PMS consumption on the basis of which a final subsidy decision will be made.

“Civil Society Organisations and the Media should put the quantum of petroleum products consumed on the front burner of national political discussion and make the political parties and candidates take a stand on the issue. The Nigerian people have been massively wronged and robbed, and as such, need a remedy through investigation, prosecution and conviction of offenders.

“We are told by the Minister of Finance that the current bill is about N18.4 billion daily on subsidy and in the Medium Term Fiscal Framework they presented two scenarios; one is to continue the subsidy throughout 2023 and the bill for that is N6.72 trillion. You recall that the actual money we are expecting is about N9.7 trillion and most times, you don’t meet the revenue projection. The maximum you can make is about 80 percent.

“So, the revenue projection is nine trillion and you are proposing to spend six trillion on subsidies and the rest will not even be enough to pay salaries. The second scenario is to do subsidy up to June next year. None of these two scenarios can be justified as they run contrary to the provisions and the reform agenda of the Petroleum Industry Act”, he said.

Also, Deputy News Editor, Catherine Agbo, noted with dismay that getting the exact amount spent on subsidy is always cumbersome because of the calibre of people involved.

“The Media has continued to ask questions about how much we are paying on subsidy or the quantity we are consuming, but the subsidy issue is so technical that it is so difficult to get information even with the Freedom of Information Act in place. However, the Media has done its best on reporting the issue.

“On the removal of subsidies, right now people are barely surviving so, while we agree that we cannot continue to pay subsidies, removal in one swoop will impact the masses a lot and that is why phased removal should be done.

“The people need to be engaged and made to understand, the government needs to win the trust of the people to make them understand that the money will be channelled back into other developmental purposes”, she said.

Another panellist, Frank Tietie, a legal practitioner and social activist, advocated the complete removal of subsidies.

“Subsidy should be removed and then invest the money on behalf of the people. The government exists for the people, and the State exists for the people but unfortunately what I see is the people are suffering so remove the subsidy and give to the people first. Rather than phased removal, there should be a preference for total and immediate removal”, he said.

Earlier, Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, FCT Council, Emmanuel Ogbeche, said the gathering was meant to bring to the fore issues that are critical for the existence of Nigeria.

He said, “One of those issues is that of the subsidy regime. There has been so much controversy and lack of clarity as to what constitutes subsidy, who benefits from it and what is the economic implication for us as Nigerians and for our social infrastructural development.”

The Chairman added that the dialogue was part of NUJ’s contribution to the 2023 general elections.

“The political parties aren’t talking about fuel subsidies. They are not providing viable alternatives that will take us from the quagmire that we’ve found ourselves. This year alone we had countless numbers of fuel scarcity. Can we still say that over 60 million litres of fuel are being consumed daily?  To even imagine that over five trillion will be paid on subsidy this year should be a source of worry and concern to all.

“We should imagine investing five trillion naira in social infrastructure in this country perhaps, transportation, education, health, water, etc and what will be the development impact in this country”,  he said.

The dialogue drew participants from all the chapels of the Union in the Federal Capital Territory.

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