In a scathing rebuke, Nigeria’s main opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Tuesday criticized the federal government over January’s fuel price hike, and asked President Goodluck Jonathan to apologize to his compatriots for ‘swindling’ them under the guise of fuel subsidy removal.
The party said nothing short of an apology and a reversal to the old fuel price of 65 kobo per litre would assuage the anger of Nigerians, after a parliamentary probe panel discovered a US$ 6 billion fraud in the government’s subsidy management.
The government increased the price of fuel from 65 kobo (US$0.4) to 141 Naira per litre (US$0.9) on 1 January, 2012, but a debilitating nationwide strike called by organized labour forced the government to backpedal and slash the price to 97 naira (US$0.6) per litre.
The House of Representatives subsequently set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the government’s claims that huge subsidy payments are threatening the well-being of the economy.
The report of the panel, which is being debated Tuesday, showed a massive fraud allegedly perpetrated by the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the regulatory Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and many oil marketers. They were asked to refund over 1 trillion naira to the federal government.(US$1=155 Naira).
Calling the subsidy removal an ”egregious error of judgement”, ACN said in a statement, made available to PANA here Tuesday, that only a presidential apology and the implementation of the panel’s recommendations would satisfy Nigerians.
”Against all informed pieces of advice, even from well-informed industry insiders and analysts, President Jonathan approved the removal of fuel subsidy and went ahead to defend it. Well, the President is human and therefore can also be wrong. But when he is, as it has now been proved, he should be humble enough to admit it and apologise,” the party said.
It said after the apology, the President should then revert the fuel price to the pre-January price of 65 kobo per litre and then proceed to implement the recommendations of the committee without delay, especially the prosecution of all indicted persons and companies.
ACN also asked the President to fire the top advisers who convinced him to approve the fuel subsidy removal, in an apparent reference to Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Petroleum Resources Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke and Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Lamido Sanusi, who were vehement in defending the fuel subsidy removal.
”In more-civilized climes, those who bandied spurious figures to Nigerians and hinted that the economy would collapse if the subsidy was not removed, would by now have tendered their resignations – with apologies – over the discovery that what the government has been subsidizing over the years are corruption and inefficiency, not fuel.
”Since honour is in short supply here, and these people are ready to carry on as if nothing has happened, the President should show rare courage by sacking all those he has the power to sack, and recommending the removal of those he cannot single-handedly remove. Any action short of the above will be a joke which Nigerians are not ready to accept,” the party said.