In spite of opposition from members of the National Assembly on the proposed removal of subsidies on petroleum products, President Goodluck Jonathan declared yesterday that the lawmakers would endorse subsidy removal.
President Jonathan stated this yesterday during his second media chat at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said: “This is not just Jonathan’s project. The governors and National Assembly members are also involved. We are talking to all the stakeholders. I had a meeting with the NASS members and I believe that, before they finish deliberating on the budget proposal, they will see reasons why they should support fuel subsidy removal.
“I do not think NASS will be against subsidy removal as long as they get the correct explanations. The minister of finance and others will engage them and I don’t think they will take any contrary position.”
After an earlier meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly, lawmakers had objected to the removal of subsidy, noting that it could trigger off social unrest.
President Jonathan had also hinged his conviction on the fact that the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) controls two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly.
Speaking on the controversial tollgate issue, the president said that deregulating the downstream sector of the oil industry and introducing tollgates in 2012 will place heavy burdens on Nigerians.
“The federal government has no intention to introduce the tollgate system in 2012. No sane government will deregulate and introduce tollgate system at the same time,” President Jonathan stated.
He also promised Nigerians that alternative routes would be created for road users who might not want to ply the tolled roads. Government will encourage public-private partnership to develop road infrastructure, he said.
Speaking on the issue of the long-term benefits of fuel subsidy removal, the president said that the use of generators by Nigerians as a means of generating power will be phased out before the end of his administration in 2015.
“The government will eradicate the use of generators before May 29, 2015. As we deregulate, funds will be diverted into the provision of basic social infrastructure like electricity, quality health and education,” he said.
President Jonathan exonerated cabal members published by the Nigerian Senate earlier in the month. He said, “Oil cabal members are genuine businessmen. They are just like GSM service providers who are in business to make profit. They are not necessarily corrupt people and Nigerians must not perceive them as such.”
The president also likened the rot in the fuel subsidy debate to other sectors of the economy and emphasised on the need to strengthen anti-graft agencies.
“Corruption is not restricted to fuel subsidy alone. Government is reviewing and reconstituting anti-graft agencies to combat corruption in the system. We must show our seriousness and determination to punish corrupt public officials so that Nigerians will begin to take the government more seriously,” the President said.
He also promised that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that was jettisoned by the 6th National Assembly would be re-submitted to the legislature before mid 2012.