The Presidency on Monday said contrary to insinuations in some quartres that the federal government had abandoned its Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment (SURE) programme, a new SURE document containing the reviewed palliatives would soon be made public.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, said President Goodluck Jonathan’s comments on the issue reviewing the programme during the 58th National Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on February 20, 2012, were deliberately misrepresented.
“It has been alleged that the Federal Government has abandoned or is attempting to “truncate” the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment (SURE) programme,” Mr. Abati noted. “At no time did President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan say that the Federal Government had abandoned the SURE programme.
“What he said in his opening remarks at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting last week, was that the full implementation of government’s palliatives to cushion the negative effects of the fuel subsidy removal as contained in the original SURE programme, was no longer feasible and will be reviewed, in view of the partial rather than full removal of the subsidy on petrol.”
According to Mr. Abati, the SURE programme was predicated on a policy of full deregulation as stated in the SURE document released to the general public, pointing out that following events that trailed the commencement of full deregulation, “government, after a series of negotiations with organized labour, reduced the pump price of petrol.”
“It therefore follows that the funds that were expected to accrue from full deregulation will no longer accrue, since the policy of full deregulation was stepped down for the time being. This new reality informed the President’s directive that the original SURE programme documents already circulated to the public, be withdrawn in order not to give the public false expectations.
“The SURE programme HAS NOT been cancelled. What President Goodluck Jonathan said was: “We developed this with the expectation that we were going to completely deregulate the downstream sector of the oil industry, (after) the 100 per cent removal of subsidy.” … “We couldn’t achieve that, though there was an increase in the price. I don’t want this to be distributed; it will give a wrong impression.”
The SURE programme was hurriedly put together by the government in the wake of the controversial removal of subsidy of petrol to provide palliatives to cushion the negative impact of the policy.
Following the statement by the President, acting General Secretary, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Owei Lakemfa, had said that decision to step down the programme for the time being meant that the government was ready to return the fuel pump price to N65, accusing it of a plot to deceive Nigerians against expecting benefits from the decision to hike the pump price of petrol.
“From the beginning, organised labour was very wary about Federal Government’s sincerity with this SURE programme. But, government insisted Nigerians should trust it, as the benefits would begin to manifest in six months. By putting the programme on hold, government is asking Nigeria to forget about it,” Mr. Lakemfa said.
But Mr. Abati insists the programme is still on as the Christopher Kolade-Committee mandated to handle its implementation is yet to disbanded, while a new SURE document containing the reviewed palliatives would soon be made public.