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We didn’t promise April date to remove subsidy – Okonjo-Iweala

By Onochie Anibeze

THERE was never a time the president said the withdrawal of oil subsidy would be in April as published in some media. I did not say so either.

The April date was the handiwork of some mischief makers.”

With these words, Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, dismissed the claim that the Federal Government reneged on the promise to remove the subsidy on petrol in April 2012 as against January 1 when it did.

Okonjo-Iweala, who is also the Coordinating Minister on the Economy, added: “It was never to my knowledge that the president gave such a date (April 2012). There is no particular time one could say was best suited for the withdrawal. It is the prerogative of the president. The important thing is that we cannot carry on the way we did in the past. It would be plunging our future into crisis.”

The minister spoke yesterday on a Radio Nigeria current affairs programme.

In her opening remarks, she said the petrol subsidy removal was to safeguard the future of Nigeria and her children. According to her, if Nigeria did not take the measures, the country would be forced to experience such hardship “that would frustrate the future of our children and we will be like some countries like Greece which kept on borrowing until they got to the crisis situation that they have found themselves”.

Okonjo-Iweala said that if Nigeria continued to borrow to run government, then crisis was imminent and the best thing was to begin to arrest the situation.

The minister asked Nigerians to understand that withdrawal of oil subsidy was just one aspect of deregulation of the industry.

Two or three callers centred their questions on the misdeeds of the past and how it will be difficult to believe that there would be genuine changes this time. The minister assured that the Jonathan government would be transparent. She spoke on other aspects of the nation’s
economy.

ON JOBS
This exercise (fuel subsidy removal) will help in creating about 370,000 jobs and this will help the problem of unemployment.

ON INFRASTRUCTURE
Increase in fuel prices is not the only cause of increase in transportation costs. Bad roads are part of the problem because vehicles get easily damaged on bad roads and the costs are forced down on commuters. This withdrawal will help government source more money
to put our roads in better shape and therefore reduce transport fares.

The railways will also benefit and this will further reduce costs. The trains are generally cheaper means of transportation and something will be done in this respect.

ON HEALTH
Nigeria is one of the worst cases in maternal health care. Nigerian women record deaths in maternal cases more than many other countries and this sector will benefit from the money that will accrue from this withdrawal.

ON MISTRUST
I understand the pains Nigerians are going through. I personally do and so do other colleagues of mine. We plead for patience. The impact of this will begin to show
soon. We intend to start publishing the amount we are saving from this withdrawal of oil subsidy monthly and also where we are directing them. Nigerians will be participants in this process. In few months prices will begin to come down depending on market forces.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.