Nigeria may be heading for another turbulent period soon, as human rights activists and eminent Nigerians have asked the masses to be prepared for a showdown with President Goodluck Jonathan’s government over alleged plans to completely remove fuel subsidy.
The Federal Government had on January 1, 2012 increased fuel price from N65 to N141 per litre before pegging it at N97 per litre following nationwide protests that lasted several days.
But the President said again on Thursday last week that there was no going back on total fuel subsidy removal.
According to foremost constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Itse Sagay, the President’s veiled threat may lead to a showdown if implemented.
“I don’t know what the problem is with the Federal Government.
“What the President should think about now is how to provide enough refineries so that this issue of fuel importation should be stopped.
“They are doing this because of the money they will get. It is a risky thing because Jonathan does not expect the people who will suffer to take this issue lightly,” Sagay said.
Also speaking, Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Balarabe Musa, said: “We should be prepared for another showdown because everyone knows that the people in government need money for themselves and they can only get the money through subsidy removal.”
In his own reaction, lawyer and human rights activist, Bamidele Aturu, urged Nigerians to “brace up for this new challenge.”
“Nigerians will certainly challenge this total fuel subsidy removal. This government should not throw us into another crisis,” Aturu said.
Anti-corruption crusader, Debo Adeniran, also challenged Nigerians to be ready for another struggle.
“This new move amounts to treachery as the government had said it will not enforce total removal. There is no reason why we should be led by a government full of deceit and lies,” he said.
Lagos-based lawyer, Festus Keyamo, did not mince words in calling on Nigerians to be prepared for another battle with government over the new move.
“It means what they have been doing; charging people to court is to prepare us for total fuel subsidy removal. They want to shift the whole thing on Nigerians. We should be prepared to go back to Ojota,” he said.
In a related development, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Lamido Sanusi, warned at the weekend in Lagos that the dark clouds hovering over the global economic climate is not over yet.
Despite the pass mark given Nigeria’s economy by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), Sanusi urged strong and serious fiscal restraints and consolidation through the continued building of fiscal buffers to ensure the country weathers the storm ahead.
In a keynote address at the 2012 Annual Bankers Nite organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), the CBN governor noted that but for the N2.3 trillion injected to clean bank balance sheets, it would have cost tax payers a princely N30 trillion in the form of depositors funds and interbank losses.
A key vehicle of the reform was the setting up of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), which not only bought industry toxic assets, but also recapitalised the banks.
“We are happy to say that a few months ago, Spain copied that model. AMCON had to put in nothing less than N2.3 trillion just to fill the hole that had been left by the management of banks, and when I talk about hole, I am talking about negative capital… If that N2.3 trillion had not been put in, what would have been lost was N30 trillion in deposits.
“Many of the banks that were safe and healthy would have been brought down by the banks that had taken money from them. And many people don’t realise the implications of that.
Still on the need to build a buffer against external shocks, particularly in the face of the lingering Euro zone crisis, the CBN boss spoke of the need to enhance the nation’s external reserve, which at the end of Friday stood at $45.68 billion.
This represents a rise of $3.01 billion or 7.05 per cent from $42.67 billion attained at the end of October, and $12.765 billion or 38.78 per cent year-to-date.
“We must continue to build up the external reserves and protect the economy from external shocks to oil prices and focus on the strength and resilience of the banking system.”
Added to this, Sanusi noted that the CBN kept exchange rate stable within the announced band of N155 +or – 3 per cent.
But on Sunday, Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, blamed the Peoples Democratic Party-led Federal Government for the lingering fuel scarcity in the Lagos metropolis and the state of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.
He lamented that “Nigerians are paying the price of an incompetent government at the centre.”
The Governor spoke while rendering his account of stewardship in the last 100 days in commemoration of his 2,000 days in office at the Blue Roof, Lagos Television, Ikeja.
Fashola who was responding to PDP criticism of his administration’s style of marking every 100 days in office which they described as frivolous, said “despite PDP’s cluelessness and local cynicism, the state has continued to make progress with its developmental initiatives.”
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) equally threatened a showdown with government should it go ahead with its proposed deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.
President of the union, Nasir Fagge Isa, gave the warning at a reception organised by the University of Ibadan (UI) branch in honour of National Trustee of ASUU, Chukwuka Okonjo, father of Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was conferred with Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) by the premier university at the weekend.
According to Isa, “The President may have been misinformed by the committee he set up”, adding that “there is no subsidy being enjoyed by Nigerians.”
“Available statistics have shown that fuel ought to be sold at about N40 per liter.
“Politics seems to thrive better by impoverishing the masses, but ASUU will work in collaboration with civil society organisations and labour to fight against total removal of subsidy.”