Friday, 28 January 2022 06:09

Despite FG’s repeated vow to stop petrol subsidy, Buhari suddenly backtracked. This is what happened

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Details have emerged on how  security advice forced President Muhammadu Buhari to make a U-turn on the decision to remove fuel subsidy.

An impeccable security source told one of our correspondents that intelligence handed over to the president by security officials showed that the protests that would have accompanied the subsidy removal might have been far worse than the #EndSARS demonstrations, mass protests against police brutality that grounded many parts of the country in 2020.

The official, who spoke on strict condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak with the press, said the president was eager to implement the Petroleum Industry Act which would have ensured that subsidy was removed by June and investments in the oil sector increased.

He further stated that the government was afraid that such protests would have easily been hijacked by the opposition and affected the chances of the All Progressives Congress in next year’s election.

The official added, “The police, DSS, the National Intelligence Agency and the Office of the National Security Adviser usually send security reports to the president on the impact of sensitive issues like fuel subsidy. Reports given to the president showed that the protests being planned by unions would have been 10 times bigger than the #EndSARS protests.

“Petrol price was projected to increase to about N350 if the international price of oil continues to rise. This would have increased the cost of everything and encouraged everyone to take to the streets.

“They also drew the president’s attention to the coups sweeping many African countries and how the protests could have been hijacked by the opposition. This was why the president not only delayed subsidy removal but transferred the responsibility to the next government.”

Former President Goodluck Jonathan had in 2012 faced a similar challenge when he removed petrol subsidy forcing the price to rise from N65 per litre to N140.

The incident sparked protests in several parts of the country especially in Lagos where thousands converged on Ojota for over a week, grounding commercial activities in the country’s commercial capital.

“Some ministers actually advised the president to go ahead with subsidy removal because of the potential investments that deregulation would bring. But the president could not have taken such advice. The country is currently facing insecurity in several states, people are hungry. Outright removal of subsidy would have led to a rise in the cost of goods and protests. The alternative given to the president is to increase fuel price slightly. This could be done gradually by adding N3 or N5 periodically,” he said.

When one of our correspondents called the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on the phone on Thursday for a reaction, he declined making any comments on the issue.

But, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had in an interview on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise Daily’ programme on Wednesday, said subsidy removal would have forced Nigeria into a tailspin.

Adesina added, “If that subsidy had been removed, it would have been a show of will that we want to solve this problem (oil fraud). There was a will but if you have a will and what you want to do will upturn the system, throw the country into a tailspin, then you would have to reconsider, you will weigh it. That is why further consultations will still happen.”

Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union had last year said it would on Thursday (yesterday) and February 2 embarked on nationwide protests against government’s plan to remove fuel subsidy.

But on Tuesday, the union shelved the protests following government’s decision to shift fuel subsidy removal by 18 months and amend the Petroleum Act, whose implementation was earlier scheduled to start in June.

 

Punch


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