Senator Bukola Saraki
By Hammed Shittu, Mohammed Aminu and John Shiklam
Mixed reaction continued to trail Federal Government’s move to remove fuel subsidy in the country.
While the Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, Senator Bukola Saraki, described the allegation of bribery levelled against members of the National Assembly by the presidency to support the withdrawal of fuel subsidy as baseless and uncalled for, former Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, appealed to the Federal Government not to remove fuel subsidy in the interest of peace and stability of the nation.
Similarly, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) also warned that if the Federal Government goes ahead with its proposed removal of subsidy on petroleum products, the country may be plunged into unimaginable socio-political upheavals.
But Saraki, who represents Kwara Central Senatorial at the Senate, while fielding questions from journalists, shortly after attending his 49th birthday Monday special prayers held in Ilorin, said: “There is nothing like bribing the National Assembly to support withdrawal of fuel subsidy. The president cannot do that and I want to tell you that it is a baseless allegation. The Senate and the House of Representatives have spoken, looking at the management of fuel subsidy, we cannot be doing that if we have been bribed.”
Saraki stated further that he initiated the bill to probe fuel subsidy to ensure the welfare of the people of Nigeria.
On his part, Bafarawa, while speaking to journalists in Sokoto, maintained that the removal of fuel subsidy would further worsen the living condition of the people.
He wondered why the Federal Government was bent on removing the fuel subsidy, when it was inevitable.
“There is so much insecurity, poverty, hardship and educational backwardness. So removing oil subsidy will not augur well for the people,” Bafarawa stressed.
The former governor added that he was forced by circumstances to leave the All Nigeria People Party (ANPP) in 2006 because of acrimony and internal wrangling within the party leadership.
“If you are principled, you will need to change direction, especially when your supporters are in dire need of that. You see I never liked PDP because it is a small scale industry where people get money through power and that is not the reason I joined politics,” added.
Meanwhile, President of the NBA, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), at a news conference in Kaduna, said the removal of the fuel subsidy would render millions of the people perpetually poor and wretched while a few Nigerian oil tycoons would be enriched.
He said the only way to avoid the bloody days that lie ahead was for the Federal Government to design a seven-year, “staggered phased removal of petroleum subsidy,” pointing out that removing the subsidy at this time without a long term plan was suspicious and anti people.
Daudu suggested that during the seven-year term, government must implement the deregulation of downstream sector as conceptualised by the Obasanjo administration, which he noted, included complete reactivation or turnaround of all the four refineries in the country.
He maintained that the argument that the removal of the subsidy would give ordinary Nigerians access to cheap petroleum products did not hold water, saying that rather it would cripple the economy and make life difficult for the masses.
“In our view, raising the issue of fuel subsidy removal by government at this stage was with respect, suspect. Nigerians will suffer, and unmanageable socio-political upheavals will erupt, the magnitude not seen anywhere in the world in recent times.
“Government appears adamant in the quest to remove this subsidy. The people are equally resolved in its opposition to the removal of subsidy. Nigeria is up for rough times ahead.
“The time has come for a final determination whether those in government derive their power from the people or whether they are independent and owe their stay in power to other entities other than the people.”