Presidential spokesman reassures Nigerians.
Barely a week after President Goodluck Jonathan told Nigerians that there was no going back on the removal of petrol subsidy, the presidency on Thursday retraced its steps, saying it has no plans in do so.
Despite assurances that the decision would not be taken until government has concluded consultations with all stakeholders, the president’s declaration had kicked up a huge uproar among Nigerians, who described the move as anti-people and a plot to hike the pump price of petroleum products.
However, in what appears like a u-turn, presidential spokesman, Doyin Okupe, said in Abuja that despite the president’s recent remark, the administration, as a matter of policy, has no plans to remove fuel subsidy.
According to Mr. Okupe, Nigerians do not need to be alarmed on removal of petrol subsidy, as sufficient allocation for fuel subsidy has already been made in the 2013 budget.
He said the President’s remark was “a frank, intellectual and well-articulated contribution to the discussion on the Nigerian economy from a honest and sincere leadership perspective.”
“The President and this administration are not insensitive to the plights of the Nigerian masses and will continue to pursue and execute policies and programmes that are in the overall interest of majority of Nigerians and that will bring the greatest good to the greatest number of our teeming population,” Mr. Okupe said.
He said “no responsible and patriotic leadership would not be worried when a nation spends more than N1trillion, or about 20 per cent of its annual national budget on subsidy paid out to a few companies, which is enjoyed mainly by very few elites while the common man benefits almost nothing.”
“Contrary to the speculation in the media and assumption by certain groups within the polity, we wish to state categorically that, the removal of oil subsidy is not on the table of the Transformation Agenda of the President,” he said.
“The present administration is not considering the issue of removal of fuel subsidy in the nearest future and certainly will not embark on any such programme without extensive consultations and engagements across the various segments, interests and stakeholders in the Nigerian polity,” Mr. Okupe said.
In 2011, the administration had given similar assurances that it would not consider the removal of subsidy on petrol until the committee constituted to consult with all stakeholders completed its assignment.
However, after the preliminary meeting with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and its affiliate organisations, a rescheduled meeting could not reconvene, as government went ahead to announce the removal of the subsidy regime in January 2012.
The decision had immediately raised the price of petrol from N65 per litre to about N141, a development that triggered a nation-wide protest that crippled the country for almost a week, before government intervened and reviewed the price downwards to the present N97.