The South East Caucus of the All Progressive Congress has said that leaders of the party, who were in the opposition in 2012, opposed the removal of fuel subsidy by the Goodluck Jonathan administration because of the profligacy of that administration.
The spokesperson of the caucus, Osita Okechukwu, stated this on Monday while addressing the APC Zonal Women Summit in Enugu on last week’s decision by the federal government to increase the pump price of fuel from N86.50k to N145 per litre.
Leaders of the APC who were then in different opposition parties, including the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, Congress for Progressives Congress, All Nigeria Peoples Party and All Progressive Grand Alliance, protested the plan.
Following the protest that lasted some days, Mr. Jonathan was forced to reverse the decision.
Mr. Okechukwu said it was also common knowledge that in 2012, members and leadership of the APC opposed the fuel price hike or removal of subsidy because the actors in the Jonathan administration were extravagant.
He also said though President Muhammadu Buhari initially opposed and campaigned against fuel subsidy removal, he changed his mind because of the reality of the present time.
He said, “The Fuel Price Hike is a painful and difficult decision. The pain is that there is no official dollars to sustain the huge bill.
“President Muhammadu Buhari took pains to accept the proposal he had opposed as far back as his first stint as Head of State – 1984 – 1985.
“It is also common knowledge that in 2012, members and leadership of our great party, the APC, opposed the fuel price hike or removal of subsidy.
“In the same vein, Mr President opposed it even in his second coming as president and campaigned repeatedly against it. True, we rejected fuel price hike then, basically because of the profligacy of the ex-regime. Hold us responsible if we squander money saved,” he said.
Mr. Okechukwu called on the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress not to go on strike to protest the increase in fuel price.
He said the mass protest would not only hamper the distribution of goods and services in the country but worsen the condition of the masses.
The APC chieftain explained that the new pump price introduced has the prospect of cutting down waste in the nearest future and also to make fuel available.
“My Dear Compatriots, you must agree with me that what made Mr. President to accept fuel price hike in the midst of abject poverty in the land, despair and despondency; is nothing but the crunchy and dire financial situation – where it is difficult for local, state and federal governments to pay salaries,” he said.
“We all know that this is a president who never placed personal gains over public good and who will never squander our commonwealth.
“The true position is that the dwindling oil price and recent militant attack on oil installations have gravely rendered Federal Government cash strapped.
“Nigeria is at cross-road. Coupled with what the former Minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala dubbed lack of political will to save for the rainy day by the (Goodluck) Jonathan regime, which in simplicita means that we are paying for the sins of crass failure to plan and squandermania of the regime she coordinated.”
Mr. Okechukwu blamed the Jonathan regime for not executing the three Greenfield Refineries which contract it awarded to the Chinese in 2010.
He argued that if that regime had built modern rail lines or saved the unprecedented oil revenue, Nigeria would not experience the drop in oil production from 2.4 million barrel per day to 1.6 million barrel per day as well as the slide of oil price from $90 per barrel to about $40 per barrel?
“To be exact $550m was realized from oil sales in April this year and fuel import receipt gulped $225m, about 46%,” he said.
“This is Oil revenue which contributes over 80% of our foreign earnings and by extension our foreign reserves and over 40% used for petroleum products importation.
“As we stated earlier in every cloud there is a silver lining, therefore we should give benefit of doubt to the Hon Minister of State of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu who had staked better days ahead. Let’s try his dictum that competition will drive cost down.”
“Finally, may we remind Labour that we of the APC are not foolish optimists who deny the dark and painful realities confronting our compatriots at the moment.
“All we are saying is that the patriotic Labour movement should bear in mind that the 70% of the people they had admonished to stockpile food items can barely afford full square meal per day, talk less of stockpiling food.
“Therefore, the strike may end up adversely affecting all of us, especially the same masses on whose behest the strike is being called.”