• Atiku group attacks FG’s huge subsidy bills
  • Your performance claims is baseless, PDP tell Buhari

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Ahead of the commencement of campaigns for the 2019 presidential election, supporters of the two front-line contenders, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, have traded words over policy positions on how to reposition the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

It was the Buhari group that first attacked the proposal made by the former vice-president to partially privatise the NNPC.

Atiku, a presidential aspirant on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had said he would embark on partial privatisation of the national oil company if he is elected president in the 2019 elections.

But the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO), a media support group for Buhari’s re-election bid, said it found it unpalatable “the texture of Atiku’s proposal at this point in the development trajectory of our country.”

It said the pledge by Atiku to privatise the oil and gas sector, especially the country’s refineries, was callous and anti-people.

The group said it was “rather simplistic for any presidential contender with avowed love of the mass of the Nigerian people to join the advocacy for the sell-off of our national assets, especially the ones that most impact the standard of living of the huge population of Nigeria’s poor and struggling middle class.”

In a statement issued in Abuja by the Coordinator, Austin Braimoh, and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke, the group said it was amazed that “an eminent Nigerian in the class of Atiku would propose the privatisation of the oil and gas sector, inclusive of the refineries when it is obvious that the privatisation of the refineries directly translates to increased price of petroleum products, especially the widely-used petrol with dire consequences on high transport cost aggregating in high inflation rates with massive decline in the standard of living of the people.

“Obviously, Atiku is merely amplifying the long condemned International Monetary Funds (IMF) recommendation for commercial pricing of petroleum products when, in fact, it is established that such products must be socially priced,” the group added.

BMO said Nigerians have resisted “and will continue to resist the IMF and any of the Bretton Woods institutions’ intervention in policy reforms of the national economic template in the understanding that these policies are anti-people in orientation and outlook.”

Responding, the Atiku group known as the All-Atiku Support Group (AASG), slammed Buhari’s men for displaying ignorance of modern economic policies.

The group said other oil producing countries like Malaysia, Brazil and now Saudi Arabia have privatised their national oil companies.

The All-Atiku Support Group blamed the criticism by the BMO of the proposal by former vice-president to privatise some aspects of the oil and gas sector as a display of poor knowledge about modern economic management.

In a statement signed by its Coordinator, Mr. Oladimeji Fabiyi, the Atiku group said the Buhari administration was least qualified to pass a remark about ideas geared towards modernising and optimising the operations of the Nigerian oil and gas sector, and indeed of any other sector of the economy.

It said the Buhari-led administration had done nothing to build new refineries or to revamp the existing ones it met on ground, adding that it amounted to hypocrisy for someone who campaigned against payment of subsidy to turn round to approve payments of huge sums as subsidy while at the same time raising fuel prices.

It said the contradiction inherent in the position of Buhari on subsidy was evident for Nigerians to see.
“After saying there was no subsidy, to making Nigerians buy fuel at the highest price in the history of this country without palliative or cushioning effects to Nigerians and now paying over N1 trillion on subsidy

“For an administration that campaigned heavily about jettisoning subsidy regime and ‘stabilising global oil prices’ coming out to criticise a workable idea to liberalise the country’s oil and gas sector is unfortunate to say the least,” the statement said.

The Atiku group noted that while the operations and revenue of the Nigerian oil giant has been shrouded in secrecy for past years, it was worrisome that a group such as the BMO would employ cheap blackmail to cover up the operations of the NNPC, saying such tendencies were not in line with the change that Nigerians expected.

“What the BMO has done by its criticism of Atiku’s proposal is to further expose its lack of knowledge in the ways modern economies are run. As it is today, the NNPC is unprofitable, unwieldy and not accountable. “Compared to its contemporaries like Petronas of Malaysia and Petrobras of Brazil which have since liberalised and modernised its operations, the NNPC is still riddled by inefficiency and obvious lack of capacity.

“There are clearly good examples of how liberalisation of some sectors of the economy had benefitted Nigerians such as in the telecommunications industry and the banking industry. If the Obasanjo/Atiku administration had held on to NITEL, we wouldn’t have had the GSM revolution.
“If our commercial banks were not recapitalised, we still would be having failed banks. It is important to note that similar groups to the BMO had opposed the banking consolidation and telecoms revolution as anti-people, but history has shown that they were wrong.

“The trend the world over is for countries to liberalise the downstream sub-sector of the oil sector to improve efficiency and ensure product availability at all times. We are surprised that the BMO is ignorant of Saudi Arabia’s celebrated decision to privatise Aramco and raise needed cash to fund its social and economic services.

“We know exactly who the masquerades are: they are the very people who feed fat on the misfortune that has befallen the refineries – largely as a result of the inaction of the government.
“What will happen when the NNPC is liberalised is that the company will be more transparent and accountable and Nigerians can actually buy into the shares of the NNPC. Maybe, by that time too, we could have energy revolution.

“Tying the proposal for the liberalisation of NNPC to ‘amplifying the long condemned IMF recommendations’ smacks of illiteracy and a poor attempt to hoodwink Nigerians about the shadiness in the operations of the NNPC.

“Today, this administration pays over N1.4 trillion annually on subsidy on fuel consumption in Nigeria, a staggering 386% when compared to the figure of N774 million daily given in March this year. Till this day, ordinary Nigerians have no idea how much revenue the NNPC makes in crude sales and the NNPC continues to drench in corruption without transparency and accountability,” the group said.

In a related development, the PDP has described President Buhari’s assertion that his administration has performed better in governance than previous PDP administrations as the highest form of illusion.

The party said it was a ridiculous claim, adding that it is completely irreconcilable with the harrowing economic and security realities PDP said the claim has exposed President Buhari as the author of series of false performance indices and propaganda in the public space, designed to beguile Nigerians ahead of 2019 elections.

A statement issued wednesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said President Buhari has forgotten that despite the temporary setback of the PDP in the 2015 elections, Nigerians are still aware that during the PDP administration, with our people-oriented policies, our nation was a better place to live.

“Nigerians easily recall that during the PDP tenure, the standard of living and purchasing power of citizens were at their peaks; the private sector flourished; more businesses opened and blossomed thereby providing millions of jobs and Nigerians were more united and secure.

“Painfully, in the space of three years, the Buhari Presidency has reversed all these gains!
“It is also instructive to remind Mr. President that he inherited a robust economy, which was nurtured by the PDP to become the biggest in Africa and one of the fastest growing in the world, unfortunately, he has dragged us into the worst form of recession, starvation and hunger with his harsh and restrictive economic policies,” it said.

PDP also reminded President Buhari of his consistent global de-marketing of our nation that has led to the flight of Foreign Direct Investments, job losses and the tumbling of our naira from N165/1USD where the PDP left it in 2015 to N36 to $1 under his watch.

The opposition party said the harsh policies of President Buhari’s tenure have stifled the economy, leading to collapse of businesses, loss of over 24 million jobs in three years with another 27.44 million Nigerians refusing to work for reasons not unconnected to failure of governance.

According to PDP, under President Buhari’s suppressive rule, families have experienced the worst from of hardship with prices of food items, essential goods and services, skyrocketing beyond the reach of average citizens.

“Staple foods such as rice which sold at N7,500 per bag under the PDP now sells above N16,000, a measure (mudu) of garri and beans which sold at N150 and N200 now go for N400 and N500 respectively; a kilo of beef which sold for N700 now sells for N1,400; a bag of cement which sold at N1,500 now goes for N2,600, fuel price has been jerked up from N87 per liter to N145, cost of transport, medicare and other essential services have all soared by over 100 percent.

“Under President Buhari’s incompetent administration, bloodletting has become the order of the day, our nation has become a killing field where government cannot guarantee the safety of citizens.

“It is therefore a condemnable slap on the sensibilities of Nigerians that instead of being apologetic for the abysmal performance of his administration, President Buhari is rather engaged in unhelpful propaganda and cosmetic media stunts.

“The fact is that the Buhari-led APC government has overstretched the forbearance of Nigerians with its crass disdain to their suffering, for which they will deploy every legitimate measure to vote him out and return the PDP, come 2019,” it said.