Statement By Civil Society Organizations On The Removal Of Fuel Subsidy
The decision of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to remove the subsidy on petroleum products on New Year Day is insensitive, callous and a declaration of war of starvation on the Nigerian people.
The decision has left thousands of Nigerians who travelled home for the Christmas and New Year holidays stranded in their hometowns and villages in different parts of the country. This is because most of them cannot afford the increase in rates being charged by motorists. It has also left the Nigerian people despondent, afraid and nervous at what the future holds for them given the irresponsibility of the political elite and their penchant for aggravated mismanagement of the Nigerian economy.
Since the President has in the face of massive opposition gone ahead to implement a policy that he knows will lead to the destitution and death of thousands of the Nigerian people it has become urgent and imperative for us as leaders in our various organizations, representing broad spectrum of the national civil society movement, to issue this statement restating our position on the issue.
The Nigerian economy has been in a continuous crisis for years now. This crisis is the result of a number of factors, including the poor management of the economy by the government, corruption and the unfavourable positioning of the economy in the global space. Rather than tackling the economic crisis in a holist manner the government has instead focused on tinkering with the economy through its fixation on the removal of fuel subsidy. We note that:
1. Government has not been transparent and honest in its disclosure about the determinants, management and utilization of previous fuel subsidy funds and cannot be trusted with the management of the present one.
2. Government has, while acknowledging that subsidy fund has been cornered and misused by a cabal has failed to bring those guilty of misusing and misappropriating the fund to face anti-corruption laws due to the fact that a large number of those in government are part of the cabal and complicit in the mismanagement of the funds and the Nigerian economy.
3. Government has been and continues to be insensitive to the plight of the ordinary people of Nigeria by asking citizens who have been groaning under increased and increasing hardship to make additional and back breaking sacrifices while government officials wallow in obscene opulence and are not called upon to make similar sacrifices in the form of reduction in their salaries, allowance and other perquisites of office.
4. The sense of lack of money that has gripped the government is the result of unbridled and unconstitutional juggling of the commonwealth of the Nigerian people for electioneering purposes and the lack lustre fight against corruption. It is noteworthy that the Federal and State Governments started talking about the collapse of the Nigerian economy shortly after using public funds to fund their elections and re-elections.
5. The nebulous, illegal and unconstitutional structure put in place by the government for the management of the fund to accrue from subsidy removal would only create new cabals and new avenues for corruption. It will also serve to give new visibility to those whose actions and inactions in government led Nigeria to the present sorrow state.
6. The obscene amount budgeted for security in the appropriation bill is a clear manifestation of the fact that the government is bent on using public resources to fight dissent and in the process subvert the sovereign right of the people to peace and society.
7. In a democratic system of government based on the will of the people government is expected and in fact required to consult citizens through a referendum on major decision that will alter their ways of life.
We oppose subsidy remove because:
1. Quick cash access through subsidy removal is not a solution to the structural problems of the economy.
2. Fuel subsidy removal will trigger huge general prices increase that will increase hardships on the citizens of Nigeria who have been going through untold hardship accentuated by poor leadership and the institutionalisation of corruption as government policy.
3. In the context of the failure of the government to control corruption, the projected money that could accrue to governments from the removal of subsidy would simply empower a new cabal and recycle corruption to new players.
4. There are alternatives to mobilising the sort of money that government needs to finance the budget but government is fixated on removal of fuel subsidy because it wants quick fixes and easy money to continue to recycle corruption and bad governance.
5. The removal of oil subsidy can unleash a crisis that may lead to generalised lawlessness and threaten the foundation of the Nigerian society and its democracy.
6. Governments deliberately ran down the refineries and have been using the issue of turn around maintenance to create new avenues of corruption and empower the same cabal engaged in fuel import racketeering.
In place of subsidy removal we insist that the government can finance the budget and make life more meaningful for the Nigerian people by:
1. Tapping from alternative sources such as marine transport, genuine attention to agriculture, genuine collection of taxes and revenue, awarding genuine contracts and proceeding against those that collect monies for no job done, cutting avenues of waste and keeping a lid on ostentatious living by public office holders and increased diversification of the economy.
2. Repairing and reactivating the refineries while facilitating the establishment of new and efficient ones
3. Refocusing the anti-corruption fight to make it more effective such that leaks in public funds could be stopped and channelled to projects and programmes for which the funds are appropriated.
4. Cutting to the barest minimum the obscene amount of money allocated in the Federal Budget for security and getting the States and Local Governments to do the same.
5. Reassessing the huge amounts spent on subsidising Christian and Muslim pilgrimages and the fraud and corrupt perpetrated by a few people using such pilgrimages as a cover.
6. Re-assessing the viability of some States and Local Governments and maximizing the funds used for the maintenance of states and Local Governments that cannot generate 5% of its internal revenue.
7. Closing down white elephant liaison offices belonging to state governments that are in Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu and in other major State capitals and channelling the funds to other developmental activities.
1. That the unilateral decision of the President to remove the subsidy on Petroleum products on New Year day and at a period when he claimed he was still consulting Nigerians is the political and social equivalent of a declaration of war on the Nigerian people.
2. That the decision of the President to remove the subsidy on Petroleum products can lead to generalized lawlessness and endanger democracy and a democratic Nigeria.
3. That civil society groups and the Nigerian people will hold the President, his kitchen cabinet and the cabal around him personally responsible and accountable for the current deaths and destruction of properties across the country.
4. That civil society groups and organisations will join forces with all democratic forces to make sure that the imposition of the death penalty on the Nigerian people through the withdrawal of subsidy on petroleum products does not stand.
5. We call on organised labour to take the lead and organise the Nigerian people to massively resist the current imposition of hardship and death on the Nigerian people.
6. We also call on organised labour to resist the present bait of endless negotiations and insist that any negotiation with the government must start with the reversal of the fuel subsidy removal and a return to the status quo.
7. We urge civil society groups to reject its membership of the so called re-investment committee as civil society groups and organisations cannot be part of a committee that will preside over the proceeds of a policy aimed at destabilizing Nigerian democracy and pauperizing the Nigerian people.
Festus Okoye, Human Rights Monitor
Y.Z Yau, CITAD
Anyakwee Nsirimovu, Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
Innocent Chukwuma, CLEEN Foundation
Funke Aluko , Centre for Genders Rights Protection
Emma Ezeazu, Alliance for Credible Elections
Daviour Akpan, Community Policing Partners
Faruk Umar, Secretary, Transparency in Nigeria