By Paul Odenyi, Abuja
National Chairman of Labour Party, LP, Dan Nwanyanwu, speaks on why his party did not support removal of subsidy on petrol. He also laments that corruption in government is worse today than ever before
You shunned the meeting called by President Goodluck Jonathan with chairmen of political parties to discuss oil subsidy removal. Was your action based on the decision of the Labour Party or it was a personal decision?
First of all, we were invited to the meeting but since the agenda was to discuss the issue of the security of the nation and removal of oil subsidy, the president’s intention was to persuade or he attempted to seek the support of political parties for removal of fuel subsidy, there was no point going there. Our party’s position has been very clear; we are against the removal of fuel subsidy.
We knew ab nitio that it is one decision that will not fly.
This is predicated on the fact that Labour Party, as is a mass based organisation, as a political party that is representing truly the people of Nigeria. It will be irresponsible of the party to endorse the removal of petroleum subsidy.
But we must make this point clear: We gave alternative even as we are opposed to the removal. We do not want to accept that Nigerians are not in a position to run refineries effectively. We do not want to accept that government has no business in business. We should ask ourselves, how are they doing it in Saudi Arabia? How are they doing it in Qatar? How are they doing it in Vienna? How is Ghana that just joined the oil producing countries doing it?
The truth of the matter is that this so -called subsidy has been based on importation. As they are doing their calculation, even before the vessel arrives in Nigeria, they have already calculated all manner of things.
Things like what?
For instance, they have already calculated that there would be 10 days of demurrage; there will be this, there will be that. It is purely based on government’s inefficiency. Why can’t we get our refineries to perform optimally.
Labour Party believes that we need at least four oil refineries in Nigeria. Last year, the Federal Government spent about N240bn on subsidy. As at September 2011, it has spent N1.3trn without the approval of the National Assembly. That N1.3trn, if I go by what the managing director of NNPC told the Senate, is more that the cost of building standard refineries, at least four.
That will make government be in a position to refine all our domestic needs and then sell to our neighbouring countries. So, it is a question of throwing away money that would have given us four refineries that would have complemented the three we have to get seven refineries.
If we do that, there will not be a need for subsidy again.
What does Labour Party believe in within the context of this subsidy issue in simple terms?
LP believes that Nigeria should not buy petrol at more than N35 per litre. This is supposed to be a God-given resource but we cannot name one thing Nigerians are enjoying from successive administrations in the country. Petrol subsidy is the only one left and they’ve taken it away.
That is why we are opposed to it; we will continue to be opposed to it. We can never be persuaded or convinced to accept it because it is against the people, it is anti-Nigerian; it is unpatriotic for anybody to accept that fuel subsidy should be removed. It is to bury the people of Nigeria finally.
I think this is a booboo trap set for President Jonathan. We drew his attention to it; they are trying to force IMF pills down the throat of Nigerians. Mr. President must realise that whether we like it or not when this whole system is destroyed alongside the people of Nigeria, I mean their economic capacity, it is his administration that would be mentioned, not those who initiated the nefarious policies and got him to accept them.
Would it not have been better if you had attended the meeting to reaffirm LP’s position?
We have our own way of doing things; we endorsed Jonathan. It was the most critical and significant endorsement he got before the election. And that sealed victory for him, even those who had not made up their minds on him had to do so immediately LP endorsed him. It was so because we have integrity, we have credibility.
We discussed a lot of things with President Jonathan; we told him that time had come for us to build more rail tracks from Lagos to Abuja, Abuja to Sokoto, Abuja to Kano, Adamawa, Owerri etc. That we should have light rails within cities to ease the suffering of Nigerians.
If we have Abuja to Lagos for four hours, most people will have no business going to the airport, people can from any part of the country come to Abuja and return to their place of residence the same day. This is possible. We talked about education, revitalising our industries, Niger Delta, welfare of Nigerians. Those were the issues we took up with him one after the other. And we all agreed.
The issue of removal of fuel subsidy was not there. If he had introduced it during the electioneering, I bet you Nigerians wouldn’t have voted for him. This is a policy that only those in government today are singing. We have been told that the people are less than 20 and it is true because the Senate has released the names.
All they are trying to do now is to increase the number to 50 or 100. Those that are outside now want to come in. All this noise about removal of subsidy is to increase the number of those that will share from the trillion every year.
We have seen all the increases in prices of petroleum products in the past three, four administrations. Nigerians have been worse for it. There has been nothing to show for it. The only time we saw something good coming from petroleum proceeds was during the PTF era managed by Buhari. Till tomorrow, if you go to universities you see what PTF did, so also some of our roads.
What is the problem because government is saying that savings from the subsidy would be…?
(Cuts in) Nigerians have no trust that the revenue that will accrue from the subsidy removal will be managed as government is claiming, so this is a deadly pill that the people of this country have refused to swallow. I advise Mr. President to drop it and use the plan B which is building more refineries and running them effectively.
Before, they said it was not possible to run a national carrier. I became very happy with the minister of aviation when I read that it is doable. I said in my mind,’ thank you madam, I have been an advocate of Nigeria having its own carrier because that is a good source of revenue.
We should run it professionally like a business. Why is Arik making money? Why has Aero not gone down? Why is ChanChangi still flying? Why is Dana progressing? Yet they will say that government cannot run one. Ethiopia has no mineral resource; the only strong source of revenue is through Ethiopian Airline which comes to Nigeria.
Yet somebody will sit down in the ministry and tell us that Nigeria has no business running a national carrier. If I had my way I’ll tell FG that I need N10bn and with that I will run an effective airline and return the money to government in five years. There are people in this country that can run it professionally.
Those in government don’t look for free ticket in British Airways or Lufthansa, they pay up front yet they would want a free ticket in our own national carrier. We have to change; the time has come for us to go past all this confusion and claims, that nothing works in Nigeria. We have people that can effectively run this country.