By FRANKLIN ALLI
The Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) has called on the Federal Government to douse the raging fuel subsidy removal protests across the country by adopting phased subsidy removal.
In a position statement, forwarded to the Presidency and made available to journalists in Lagos, NACCIMA said: “We agree with the Federal Government that fuel subsidy removal is inevitable with deregulation of the downstream sub-sector of the petroleum industry.
“However, we are convinced that the timing of this removal is wrong and did not address the immediate effect on the citizens and business and may not achieve the desired result.
“We, therefore, counsel as follows “Government should diligently re-consider the adoption of phased subsidy removal that relates closely with available local production
“The existing four refineries should be maintained to become fully functional within six (6) months, and thereafter made ready for privatisation under the Chairmanship of Mr. Vice President.
“Government should consider and revise its decision for an agreed period to enable the Belgore Committee to determine the true cost of the subsidy by first removing/extracting alleged corruption element
“The Government should urgently push for the speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, which has the capacity to generate more than US$5 billion in savings for the country annually. “All private operators previously granted licenses for refineries should be required to be re-invited to partner with Government and be assured of the supply of feed-stock of crude oil; the refusal of which NACCIMA understands aborted their intervention
*The importation and distribution of petroleum products should be considered sensitive enough to be made transparent at this early stage.”
“However, the true subsidy must first be determined before commencement of a phased removal, preferably after existing and new private refineries are enabled and assisted to meet nation’s demand. To avoid worsening corruption, inefficiency, leakages and waste associated with public utilities, Government should resist the temptation to build and operate new refineries, while existing ones should be privatised.
If Government had been more advisedly patient and allow for on-going apparently meaningful and effective consultations to be concluded, in addition to the awaited National Assembly conclusion, it would have been much easier to douse tensions, even as we accept the saying that “If a Leader would wait for everyone to changes, nothing would ever be accomplished.”