*Describes action as bold initiative to move country forward
By Omololu Ogunmade
The presidency last night broke its silence over the removal of petroleum subsidy, saying current challenges confronting the country compelled President Muhammadu Buhari to take the decision.
The Petroleum Products’ Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) had last week introduced a new price regime, hiking the depot’s pump price of petrol to N151.
Consequently, independent marketers hiked the pump price of petrol in downstream sector from N148 to N162.
It was the second time that PPPRA would hike depot price of petrol in recent times. It had in July raised depot price to N138, prompting independent marketers to hike the pump price of fuel to N148.
Since the current hike of fuel price was done last week, condemnations had trailed the decision of the Buhari-led federal government from various segments of the society which described Buhari and his government as insensitive, particularly coming at the time that most Nigerians live from hand to mouth.
Reacting to the criticisms last night, the presidency in a statement, said Buhari as a leader had to summon courage to take difficult and unpopular decisions this time because the country was confronted with a myriad of economic challenges caused by COVID-19 pandemic.
The statement signed by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said history would be kind to Buhari because he would go down in history as a leader who contributed to the economy by eliminating petrol subsidy.
“There .is nothing new in the fact that the country is today fighting multiple challenges along with COVID-19, including low earnings, near-collapse of the oil market, floods, threats of terrorism and banditry but the challenges notwithstanding, a good government must take decisions for the people’s good.
“As President Muhammadu Buhari takes these difficult decisions, both popular and unpopular and as a leader because he is demonstrating the right courage to take such decisions as they become necessary in view of present circumstances.
“History will be kind to President Buhari because in addition to his amazing ability to command votes, he will be remembered as the President who made real contributions to economic and overall national development by eliminating the evils of corruption embedded in subsidies,” it said.
According to the statement, Buhari had taken a bold step in the overall interest of Nigerians and appealed for understanding of citizens including members of the opposition.
The statement which further said Buhari was pushing development goals in this challenging moment, insisted that contrary to insinuations by the opposition, history would be fair to him.
“President Buhari has shown a rare determination to carry out the bold initiatives as these ones driven by nothing other than the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In carrying out the reforms, the President needs the support and understanding of all citizens-inclusive of the opposition parties, the labour movement and civil society groups.
“In these challenging times, the President is pushing development goals not politics and history will judge him in favourable terms rather than his critics in the new media and the opposition,” the statement added.
Furthermore, the statement said even though the administration of Buhari had worked hard to meet the high expectations of the people on it, there are yet needs to take tough decisions that can put the country on track.
It further said successive administrations had mulled the idea of subsidy removal with a view to halting the mismanagement of the country’s resources but the courage to push it through was not there.
The presidency, therefore described the move, along with others, as necessary reforms in contrast to perception by critics that the action is ill-timed and ill-conceived.
It said, “The administration has worked hard to meet many expectations, but still, there are certain tough decisions which had to be taken to put back the country on the path of sustainable development.
“To stop the mismanagement of taxpayer money, eliminate corruption associated with subsidies on petroleum products, power, fertilizer among others, the administration took the decision to implement long-delayed reforms, withdraw and allow the market to determine their prices.
“Subsidy removal in these sectors had long been foreseen by successive administrations as game changers in search of solutions to move forward with the nation’s development.
“These are reforms that are necessary and overdue. Blueprint upon blueprint, timeline upon timeline had come and gone but courage to take bold decisions was not there.
“Over the last few days, one claim acquiring a potent resonance with the online community, sections of the labour movement and the opposition is that the actions are ill-timed and ill-advised”