BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—Senate Minority Leader and erstwhile Governor of Benue State, Mr George Akume, yesterday called on President Goodluck Jonathan to have a change of mind on the removal of oil subsidy, saying without a comprehensive review of the transportation system in the country, the policy will occasion extreme hardship on the people.
In a statement, the Senate minority leader said it “will not be a sign of weakness but a sign of greatness”, if President Jonathan changed his mind on the question of subsidy.
It said: “Following announcement by the Federal Government on deregulation and subsequent removal of subsidy on petroleum products, there have been public outcry and demonstrations in most parts of the country.
“We however wish to point out that the issue of subsidy should be looked at beyond the limited scope of revenue generation”. Subsidy, in our view, is a good policy which is beneficial to all. What is bad in our case is its management. Rather than eliminate subsidy and punish the innocent, bad managers of subsidiary should be held accountable.
“We are aware that most Nigerians travel by road. Without a comprehensive review of the whole transportation system in Nigeria, the singular removal of subsidy on petroleum products will bring extreme hardship to the people. Already, as a result of the announcement, transport fares have been hiked beyond imagination. This hike will shoot up an inflationary trend that is neither healthy nor welcome to the economy.
“We call on H.E. President Jonathan to first and foremost revamp the collapsed rail system, repair the ill maintained roads and improve marine transportation even as he looks inwards to ensure fiscal discipline in Government expenditure profile. Government should also critically re-examine its policies on Joint Venture Cash-calls (JVCs), bunkering, and the ‘turn around maintenance’ of our local refineries to eliminate waste and inefficiency, promote transparency to ensure availability of more funds for productive purposes.
“Elimination of subsidy will not be injurious to us once the improvements and innovations in critical areas suggested above are put in place.
“It is to be noted that Nigeria is not the only oil producing country whose citizens enjoy subsidy on petroleum products. Major oil producers such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Venezuela, Libya, etcetera subsidize petroleum products for the benefit of their people.
“Finally, we wish to advice Mr. President that a great leader is the one that listens to the cries and concerns of his people and not the one that defies them. If he changes his mind on this question of subsidy, it will not be a sign of weakness but a sign of greatness.
Mr. President should immediately open dialogue with Labour in the purpose of bringing down the pump price of petroleum products in the country.
“Majority of Nigerians have spoken loud and clear on this issue. The President should listen to us so we can celebrate the New Year with smiles not sadness.”