In a sudden volte face likely to have been influenced by political expediency, the presidency Thursday said there was no plan by the federal government to increase the pump price of petrol or remove the subsidy on petrol, as it is not part of the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.
About over two weeks ago, Jonathan had at an Economist magazine conference in Lagos said the federal government was considering the removal of subsidy on petrol but only after it had held consultations with the Nigerian people.
The president’s statement was reiterated two days later by the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, during a press briefing at the end of a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
In a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, the presidency said the provision for fuel subsidy was already contained in the 2013 Budget.
According to the statement, the presidency said: “Contrary to speculations in the media and assumption by certain groups within the polity, the presidency has stated that the removal of oil subsidy is not on the table of the Transformation Agenda of the President”.
The president’s aide explained that the statement made by Jonathan at the Economist magazine conference was a frank, intellectual and well-articulated contribution by him to the discussions on the Nigerian economy and not an indication that government was planning to remove subsidy from petroleum products.
Okupe in the statement said: “While noting that Nigeria spends about N1 trillion, the equivalent of about 20 per cent of the national budget on fuel subsidy, government remains committed to the welfare of the common man who unfortunately does not benefit optimally from the subsidy regime.”
The statement added that it was an incontrovertible fact that sufficient allocation for fuel subsidy has already been made in the 2013 budget, hence “there is no cause to assume that the president will act against the budget he presented to the National Assembly.
“The president and this administration are not insensitive to the plight of the Nigerian masses and will continue to pursue and execute policies and programmes that are in the overall interest of majority of Nigerians and that will bring the greatest good to the greatest number of our teeming population.”
Okupe added: “For the avoidance of doubt and at the risk of being repetitive, this administration is not considering the removal of fuel subsidy in the nearest future and will continue to dialogue with all stakeholders with a view to reaching a sustainable consensus on all issues involved in the proper management of the nation’s oil and gas industry.”
JD:A quick turnaround,pray thee,do these people know what they are doing?