•Directs NEC to develop measures to cushion effects of petrol subsidy removal
•Govs pledge support for policies of new government
•Petroleum marketers back policy, to donate100 CNG-compliant buses for mass transportation
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President Bola Tinubu yesterday, held his maiden meeting with the 36 state governors where he sought their partnership to end extreme poverty in the country. The meeting took place on the aegis of the National Economic Council, NEC, following the removal of petroleum subsidy about 10 days ago.
He stressed the need for the governors to collaborate with the federal government in tackling the menace of poverty in the country, saying the level of impoverishment was unacceptable.
This was just as the president directed the National Economic Council (NEC) led by the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, to commence the process of working out intervention initiatives to ameliorate the impact of fuel subsidy removal on the citizens.
According to a statement issued by State House Director of Information, Mr. Abiodun Oladunjoye, the 36 state governors at the meeting with the president expressed strong support for his decision to end fuel subsidy payments in the country and other early policy initiatives of the administration.
The president advised the political leaders to downplay their differences and jointly focus on alleviating the sufferings and pains of the people.
“We can see the effects of poverty on the faces of our people. Poverty is not hereditary; it is from the society. Our position is to eliminate poverty. Set aside partisan politics, we are here to deliberate about Nigeria and nation-building,’’ he said.
Tinubu stated that the nation should be seen as one big family.
According to him: “We are a family occupying one house, and sleeping in different rooms. If we see it that way and push forward, we will get our people out of poverty. A determined mind is a fertile ground for delivering on results”.
The president said good governance would safeguard the future of democracy.
“Present in this room is our diversity in culture and politics, but we are one nation. The unity and stability of the country rest upon us.
“We are in a democracy and we have to nurture the democracy. It is a hard-earned system and not easy to manage. If anyone thinks it is easy, look at other nations who are over a hundred years in democracy.
“We have managed ourselves very well to have a democracy. We have campaigned and arrived at our present destination. We must work for our people,’’ Tinubu told the governors, while assuring them that he would maintain an open-door policy.
The president said he was prepared to share ideas, strengthen institutions, and create bottom-up frameworks that will improve the livelihood of Nigerians.
“What do we do in the face of crushing poverty? What do we do with our development goals? We took the bull by the horns by removing the elephant in the room, before the nation sinks.
“We need synergy to fight other vices like corruption. We are trying to get smugglers out of the way. How do we work together to galvanise the economy, and put resources in place. We must think and perform.
“After removing subsidy, there must be savings accruing to the Federation Account,’’ he noted.
Tinubu said the education sector must be improved as part of efforts to reduce poverty and penury, saying, “how do we address the unacceptable level of poverty? How much are we investing in education, which is the only tool against poverty? I am ready to collaborate with you.’’
He also drew attention to the security challenge in some states, admonishing the governors that all efforts should be put in place to tackle the security situation, without thinking it’s only for those facing it.
The governors, who took turns to speak when the President hosted members of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), led by its chairman, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State, at the State House, expressed happiness with the president’s subsidy-removal decision, all-inclusive leadership and statesmanship.
They congratulated Tinubu for tackling the fuel subsidy behemoth, promising to work with him to ameliorate the short-term impact of the decision.
NGF Chairman, AbdulRasaq, thanked the president for the invitation to deliberate on the challenges of poverty and security, promising that the governors would support the federal government in meeting the targets of human development.
“The NGF will follow the tradition of working constitutionally and harmoniously with you,’’ he said.
The governors made suggestions, highlighting the plight of citizens in their states, assuring the President of their support in proffering solutions through the National Economic Council.
The meeting, which was attended by Shettima and new Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume, had 22 governors and two deputy governors from Edo and Niger States, in attendance. Those present at the NGF’s maiden meeting with President Tinubu included the governors Dauda Lawal (Zamfara), Abba Yusuf (Kano), Agbu Kefas (Taraba), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa), Francis Nwifuru (Ebonyi), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Siminalayi Fubara (Rivers), Ademola Adeleke (Osun), Umar Namadi (Jigawa), Rev. Ft. Hyacinth Alia (Benue), Sheriff Oborevwori (Delta), Peter Mbah (Enugu), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Caleb Mutfwang (Plateau), Nasiru Idris (Kebbi), Alex Otti (Abia), Hope Uzodinma (Imo), and Bala Mohammed (Bauchi).
The deputy governors of Edo, Philip Shaibu and that of Niger, Yakubu Garba, represented their states at the meeting.
Those conspicuously absent at the meeting were governors of Dikko Radda (Katsina), Uba Sani (Kaduna), Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Prof. Babagana Zulum (Borno), Bassey Otu (Cross River), Umo Eno (Akwa Ibom), Prof. Charles Soludo (Anambra), Biodun Oyebanji (Ekiti), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe) and Ahmad Aliyu (Sokoto).
In a related development, Governor Abiodun, disclosed the directive to NEC to newsmen yesterday, after leading members of Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN) and Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), on courtesy visit to the President
He said the president has asked NEC led by the vice president to swing into action and come up with necessary interventions to mitigate hardship associated with petroleum subsidy removal.
He noted that Tinubu’s action showed his determination and courage to remove the hemorrhage that had bedeviled the country for decades.
The governor said while there would be some discomfort on the part of the people, the move would eventually pay off as there can be no gains without pains.
Commenting on the issue of government’s interventions to ease the hardship streaming from the removal of fuel subsidy, Abiodun said Tinubu instructed a coordinated approach between government, through the NEC and the economic team, and petroleum marketers to structure out a wholesome intervention.
His words: “Mr. President has announced today that NEC should immediately begin to sit, led by His Excellency, the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, and the committee of NEC, alongside with the economic team and the marketers should sit down and come up with a wholesome approach that will be beneficial to the common man and the generality of Nigerians.
“In completeness, like I said, whatever it is we do today, be it minimum wage increase, be it transport allowance, be it the provision of any form of intervention, are only stopgaps, what we need to begin to look at is energy transition for the whole country, where we haven’t appreciated the fact that we can no longer power our vehicles with either diesel at the prices or with petrol.
“We need to begin to look at what obtains in other countries like Egypt that’s, right here on the continent, where they have converted all their mass transit to run on Compressed Natural Gas, CNG. In some other countries, their vehicles are running on either CNG or running on electricity.
“These will be what will be sustainable that will allow us to transport people, goods and services at prices that are reasonable. That is the kind of thing that we are looking at, the kind of discussions that we’re having with Mr President and the kind of approach that this administration looking at in terms of sustainability.”
Meanwhile, DAPPMAN has expressed full support for the decision of the Tinubu-led administration to sustain the removal of petrol subsidy since its inauguration on May 29.
To demonstrate its support, DAPPMAN said it would donate Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)-compliant buses estimated to cost N10 billion, to boost Nigeria’s mass transportation network.
Chairman of the association, Mrs. Winifred Akpani, who made this known yesterday, while speaking with newsmen after she led a delegation of the body to the State House on courtesy visit to President Tinubu at the State House, Abuja.
Akpani, who is also the Managing Director of Northwest Petroleum and Gas Company Limited, also said this was an opportunity they had waited for a long time, praising Tinubu for having the courage and boldness to implement it.
She said: “That is borne out of the fact that we have desired, we have prayed for this day to come and we’re happy that the day is finally here.
“We did pledge that we are going to work at providing real mass transit buses that work. The ones that will work on the CNG and diesel interchangeably and hopefully we are going to start with about 50-100 and that is in a very short time.”
According to her, the scheme would help provide employment to a lot of Nigerians because the buses would be locally produced.
“These are locally produced vehicles so we are also providing jobs because we are using local assembly plants; we are not importing the buses and that is less pressure on our foreign exchange and more jobs for Nigerians,”
The DAPMAN leader said President Tinubu was happy with the development, as she expressed optimism that soon Nigerians would see that the removal of subsidy on petrol was a good move by the president.
She, therefore, urged all citizens to support the President in that direction in order to move the country forward.
Corroborating her claims, Abiodun, confirmed that each of the buses would cost N100 million and each would be 50 seater.
“They are all 50 seater buses and each is about N100 million each. So, they are donating 100 buses and that is N10 billion,” he said.
The governor said contrary to insinuations, petroleum marketers have never opposed the deregulation of petrol.
“I believe this singular step demonstrates the fact that they have keyed into this administration’s very laudable policy and they are in support of deregulation,” he added.
Abiodun called on other members of the organised private sector like the Bankers Committee to follow suit and do more to cushion the effects of the removal of subsidy on Nigerians.
Others on the entourage included Chairman of Ardova Plc, who was also representing Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), AbdulWasiu Sowami; Managing-Director of NIPCO P, Suresh Kumar; Group Managing Director of Rainoil Limited. Dr Gabriel Ogbechie; and the Financial Secretary of DAPPMAN and Managing Director of Mainland Oil and Gas Lmt, Chris Igwe.