…Orders MDAs to pay Jan. Salaries on 20th
BY DANIEL IDONOR
ABUJA – PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan and his cabinet members yesterday rose from an emergency session of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, saying that government would not reverse the increase in pump price of petrol from N65 to over N141 per litre.
The Federal Government however, approved the procurement of 1,600 mass transit buses on Monday, as part of the long term plans to cushion the harsh effects of the increase in pump price of petrol.
Addressing State House correspondents, at the end of the meeting, presided over by President Jonathan, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Mr Olusegun Aganga, Minister of Trade and Investment who was joined by Labaran Maku, Minister of Information and Idris Umar, Minister of Transportation, said the 1,600 mass transit buses formed part of the N10 billion revolving loan set aside by the government to address problems of the transport sector in the country.
The government decried the strike action ordered by the organised labour over the issue, saying, “We believe it will be of greater harm to Nigerians for labour to insist on strike because it will further compound the sufferings of the people, because if we do not support production and continue to support subsidy, one third of the budget will be used to support consumption, and this will spell doom” for the nation..
According to the Ministers, “there is on-going dialogue with the organised labour and no reasonable government will deliberately inflict suffering on the part of its citizens”.
He however said that FEC also directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, to pay the monthly salaries of workers by January 20 to ameliorate the harsh effect; consequently, FAAC meeting has been scheduled for January 15 to deliberate on the revenue sharing for the month.
The revolving loan according to him is payable over a five years period and attracts five per cent interest rate under the Urban Mass Transit Programme and would be made available to credible transporters, labour unions and other Nigerians involved in transport business.
According to him “we have a duty to turn short term pain to long term gains,” adding that “government has placed order for massive supply of decent diesel buses to solve transportation problem. In the next couple of weeks, there will be sufficient mass transit buses. It will go on for two years”.
Aganga further stated that “any moment from now, we should take delivery of these buses. As the FEC, we are not here to punish Nigerians.
”For the first time, we want to put in place a sustainable, robust mass transit programme to reduce the pains fellow Nigerians are going through now.
”We have been undertaking poverty and social impact analysis to see what impact this will have on Nigerians.
’’That is because we realised the pain it will cause; and today’s meeting gave us the opportunity to empathise and to know that it was a very painful decision.
”I think we will all agree that the economy case has been a case of how and when but we have a duty as government to cushion the temporary pains. We have a duty to convert the pain to long term gains for Nigerians and the economy,” he said.
On the outcome of the meeting, Maku said, “The meeting was called to deliberate on very crucial national issues particularly, the deregulation of the downstream sector of the Nigerian oil industry” adding that “Mr. President called the meeting to expedite action on the measures to cushion the effects of the removal of fuel subsidy”.
He regretted that because, “previous government had postponed deregulation, the intended benefits did not come through because as long as government continues to monopolise the sector, no private sector will come in and invest.
”Having taken this plunge, (increasing the pump price of petrol) to go back will be to cripple the economy; that is why we are calling on our citizens to bear with us.
’’In no time, the prices will come down unlike in the past where marketers used to hoard fuel because government was subsidising.
’’That would no longer be the case. The customer will be king now, because if they do not sell, they won’t recover their money,” he added.
The Information Minister then appealed for understanding saying: “Our country is in a difficult situation and we are appealing to the citizens to appreciate this difficulty.
’’With the measures we have taken, we are confident that we will correct the imbalance in the economy.
”There is no way a country will survive with N5 trillion debt that is being serviced with N500 billion.
“The entire capital budget is completely borrowed and if it continues, the economy will collapse and companies will be forced to cut work force.”
In his own contribution, Umar said government had completed the dredging of the lower Niger noting that the Lagos-Kano-Jebba rail rehabilitation project will be completed by the end of March .
The Minister added that depending on availability of passengers, the “Lagos to Ilorin rail transport will resume soon”.