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Emma Okonji and Nosa Alekhuogie
A former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday condemned the continuous payment of fuel subsidy by the federal government, insisting that the policy had been a huge source of fraud for a very long time.
Oshiomhole who spoke yesterday on the ‘Morning Show’ of Arise News Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, said when he was President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), he led a campaign that fought against the removal of fuel subsidy, saying that as at that time, the federal government, was subsidising petrol with between $20 billion and $30 billion per year. He however said as at today, fuel subsidy has risen to over $6 trillion per year.
He, therefore questioned how much of the fuel was being subsidised for small business owners, commercial drivers and the poor Nigerians, who buy fuel every day to run their small businesses.
Oshiomhole said: “As far as I am concerned, government is only dealing with fraud in the name of fuel subsidy. So government needs to eliminate fraud through the removal of fuel subsidy.
“There is the equalisation fund that ensures equal payment for fuel across different regions of the country, yet government could not control the prices of petrol in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt, Calabar and in other parts of the country, because marketers sell at different prices in different regions of the country.
“One thing that people should learn about leadership, is that if the leader lacks the capacity to enforce the ideal objective of government, then such leader will fail in his or her leadership position. A leader must be able to, within his or her limitations, enforce the law in order to succeed.”
Asked if the current yearly $6 trillion fuel subsidy was not an indictment on the APC that had continued to pay for fuel subsidy, despite several oppositions, Oshiomhole said: “I am part of APC, I chaired the APC for two years and now I am the deputy director general of Tinubu’s Campaign Group, but I have my views about fuel subsidy in Nigeria.
“No government, including the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan, has been able to give me satisfactory statistics that explain the continued subsidy on fuel, especially with the numbers that are coming out of NNPC. The challenge we have as a country is the abuse of public institutions. I am not indicting APC on fuel subsidy, because the APC government has tried all it could, but the gross abuse of public institutions, has remained one of our greatest challenges as a people.”
According to him, “some private fuel distributors get petroleum products from NNPC at reduced prices and in a clear breach of the understanding between them and the NNPC, they sell the petroleum products at higher prices in their regions and government does not have the executive capacity to monitor all the distributors.
“The question now is why should government allow such process to continue to thrive in the system?
Government therefore needs to take action to implement some of its policies to the letter.
“Again, the exchange rate poses a major challenge to the Nigerian economy, and not just the fuel subsidy. Former CBN Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, who is the current Governor of Anambra State, wanted to peg naira at N125 per dollar, when the exchange rate was between N116 and N120.
“Today, naira has jumped to about N800 in the parallel market, and this has further weakened the naira,” Oshiomhole said.
In spite of the tough economic situation in the country, the APC Presidential flag bearer, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, during the official presentation of the APC manifesto on Tuesday, promised a double-digit growth for the economy. In responding to a question, Oshiomhole said Tinubu only promised to ensure that the country’s monetary and fiscal policies are in harmony, in order to grow the Nigerian economy to double digits.
He said Tinubu would be able to put an end to corruption, oil theft, block financial leakages and recover the $6 trillion paid on fuel subsidy annually by the current government, if voted into power in the 2023 election.