*Insists no economic sense injecting cash in form of palliatives into economy already beset with inflationary pressure
The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has called on the federal government to prioritise fixing the country’s comatose refineries instead of the proposed sharing of $800 million World Bank support for the removal of petrol subsidy to 10 million households at N36,000 each.
This call was contained in a statement titled, “Fuel Subsidy Removal: NECA Urges a More Fundamental Action” that was issued by the Director General of NECA, Mr. Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde.
The association stressed that fixing the country’s refineries was the most important palliative the government could provide to Nigerians.
Oyerinde stated that while NECA supports the removal of the fuel subsidy and also commended the support of the World Bank, it believed that government should not shy away from the fundamental issues, which included the fixing of the refineries as a pre-condition for the removal of the subsidy.
He added: “Therefore, it makes no economic sense to inject cash in the form of palliatives into an economy that is already beset with unending inflationary pressures.
“The $800 million at best is equivalent to about N360 billion. When you divide this by the targeted 10 million households, that amounts to approximately N36,000.
“What significant or tangible effect would this have on anyone, irrespective of status? We will only end up adding more woes on our shrinking economy. What we request is a more all-encompassing institutional structure to manage the gradual removal of the subsidy after fixing the refineries and not the proposed palliatives.
“It is worthy of note that previous palliatives had proved not to palliate the economic woes of the citizens. In reality, and within the context of our current economic situation, majority of Nigerians are vulnerable, especially organised businesses.”
Speaking further, the NECA boss said: “We would, again, reiterate that the government must fix all the refineries. If the government is truly interested in doing this, which appears to be the most important palliative it can provide to the citizenry, then all those who have continued to sabotage every effort at fixing and having them function at optimal capacity must be held culpable.
“That is the first bit of it. As a matter of urgency, as the subsidy regime gradually comes to an end, accountability must be prioritised. All those who had any involvement in the subsidy regime directly or indirectly should be investigated. Our anti-graft agencies should brace up to the occasion and apprehend the situation with the view of recovering stolen funds.”
Oyerinde pointed out that the questions successive governments have refused to answer are: “why can’t the refineries work? If millions of dollars had been expended on Turn Around Maintenance (TAM), why are the refineries still not working? Why is it difficult to prosecute those that have collected money for the TAM and refused to fix the refineries? These questions beg for urgent answer.”
He noted that NECA, on several occasions, had called on the government to fix the refineries and be deliberate about establishing the right institutional and policy framework to keep them running. “We had hoped this would have been given attention first,” he said.