THE Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPC) of fraud and unclear intentions over federal government’s intention to total remove subsidy on petrol.
The Forum disclosed this at a meeting with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Tuesday in Abuja to dialogue on the plan by the federal government to totally remove petrol subsidy.
While the NGF supports the removal of subsidy alongside the National Economic Council (NEC) and had actually backed a proposed price band of between N302 to N306 per litre post-subsidy removal, organised labour, led by the NLC, resisted the increment and had scheduled to embark on a nationwide protest today (January 27, 2022) and Tuesday, February 1, 2022 in Abuja) to resist the policy.
The protests were called off when the federal government indefinitely suspended the subsidy removal. The Minister of Finance, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, had surprisingly announced that removing fuel subsidy will worsen the situation and impose more difficulties on Nigerians. She had noted that will explore ways of reaching an agreement with organised labour to ensure that when the subsidy is eventually removed, there will be minimal negative impact on Nigerians.
The National Economic Council (NEC) had in November 2021 recommended that the government increase the price of petrol to N302 per litre in February 2022. Petrol price is currently between N162 and N165 per litre.
While pro-government policy advocates say the policy will help lower the cost of living and support millions who live below the poverty line, organised labour and progressive intellectuals are of the view that subsidies must be maintained to cushion the economic hardship that has ravaged the poor masses.
Allegations of fraud against NNPC
During the dialogue with organised labour, the leaderships of the NGF and NLC are of the opinion that there exist challenges in the management or mismanagement of the subsidy especially by the NNPC.
NGF chairperson, and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said it has become necessary for the NGF and organised labour to prudently verify all of NNPC’s estimates to ensure that any action taken on subsidy is geared towards directly benefiting the target population and not a few wealthy individuals. He said the NGF and the NLC in particular can work together to proffer solutions that will heal the economy and provide succour to the Nigerian people.
“There is a lot of fraud in the consumption and distribution figures that the country is getting and we can only move forward if the NLC engages all those who are knowledgeable in the field like PENGASSAN to conduct a thorough research into the sector before any further action is taken on subsidy.
“Only about eight states are benefitting directly from the subsidy while all the others have to contend with the situation on their own. The partnership with the NLC must confront the perennial issue of palliatives for the common man towards cushioning the effects of subsidy removal on the citizenry stating that not tackling the problem now is tantamount to postponing the evil day. Finding succour for the ordinary Nigerian at this time is absolutely imperative and necessary now more than ever,” said Dr Fayemi.
At the meeting which held at the NGF secretariat shortly after a virtual meeting of NLC’s NEC called off the nationwide protests, both Comrades Ayuba Wabba, Quadri Olaleye, presidents of NLC and TUC respectively, emphasised their lack of faith in the promises of the country’s political leadership in view of their failure to abide by agreements of previous negotiations. They questioned why the subsidy issue had always been shrouded in lack of transparency on the part of the government.
They objected to what they described as conflicting figures that always come from the NNPC and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and other managers in the petroleum sector, a situation they argued portrays inefficiency and lack of accountability in the sector.