Bukola Saraki, a senator who contended with President Goodluck Jonathan for the presidential ticket of the People’s Democratic Party, has asked the president to return the price of petrol to N65 a litre, adding to mounting pressure on the government to back down.
Mr. Saraki, a former chairman of the powerful Nigeria Governors’ Forum, believed to be pushing the current effort to cut sibsidy, made this call on Wednesday in a widely circulated statement as the nationwide strike called by labour entered its third day, threatening to shut down oil production and crippling the economy. It is estimated that Nigeria loses $82 billion daily in the strike which labour unions insist will subsist until the pump price is reverted to pre-2012 price levels.
The former Kwara State governor is widely regarded as an establishment man, who aligns with the position of government at all times. His present stance on the subsidy removal crisis is indicative of the shifting loyalty within the President’s camp.
“My humble advice to the Federal Government of Nigeria and all parties involved at this critical moment is for everyone to return to the position before the dispute, which is a standard practice for all industrial dispute resolution all over the world,” Mr. Saraki said. “This is necessary in order to enable resolution to the matter.”
Mr. Saraki’s position aligns with a resolution by the House of Representatives after an emergency session on Sunday to resolve the logjam.
The president, however, disregarded the House of Reps motion describing it a mere “opinion.”
“To revert to previous position by all parties is not a sign of weakness but an act of sacrifice in the interest of all, anything to prevent further loss of life,” Mr. Saraki said. “There are times in the history of our nation where empathy supercedes economics; this is one of those moments.”
Although the senate, where Mr. Saraki belongs, sat on Tuesday, they avoided adopting his position but opted to play the mediator.
In October last year, Mr. Saraki that raised a motion concerning “the potential dangers of the management of the fuel subsidy scheme and the effects it could have on the economy and development of our dear nation”.
His motion led the senate to initiate a public investigative hearing that unearthed the monumental corruption in the management of funds earmarked for fuel subsidy.
“I knew we had to investigate why we spend so much on the scheme in order to determine if it was being abused and identify the culprits responsible for this and allow the law to take its full course,” Saraki said.
He said the the mood of the country requires that “we find a solution to the fuel subsidy dispute which has pitched the Federal Government against NLC, Civil Society and the citizens.”