Although Buhari is in the opposition, he does not politicise the issue of fuel subsidy because he knows the country will benefit from it. It is strange that those who should know better have turned to criticising government and are ever waiting at every turn to vilify whatever it is doing -- JONATHAN
Most of what they call subsidy is the cause of corruption. When the product gets to Nigeria, they allow it to stay at the ports for 14 days so that they can pay demurrage. It stays at the jetty where charges are paid -- BUHARI
President Goodluck Jonathan and the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday expressed divergent views over the proposal of the federal government to withdraw the petroleum subsidy in January, 2012.
Jonathan and the former Head of State spoke at separate functions in Abuja.
First to fire the first salvo was the president who used the forum of the 17th Nigerian Economic Summit, organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) to inform the audience that unlike other opposition leaders, Buhari had backed the subsidy removal.
Jonathan also lambasted those who for their selfish interest were politicising what he said was a good policy that would benefit Nigerians in the long run.
The president said: “Although Buhari is in the opposition, he does not politicise the issue of fuel subsidy because he knows the country will benefit from it. It is strange that those who should know better have turned to criticising government and are ever waiting at every turn to vilify whatever it is doing.
“If the fuel subsidy is not removed now, Nigeria will begin to import petroleum products from Ghana, Chad, and Niger, among other countries in the next 10 years.”
According to Jonathan, those criticising the decision to remove the subsidy are out to misinform the Nigerian masses, saying that, “It (fuel subsidy removal) is the best thing that will happen to the country”.
In a report submitted to the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Appropriation and Finance, investigating the management of Petroleum Support Fund (PSF), otherwise known as fuel subsidy recently, the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) disclosed that the federal government spent N3.7 trillion on fuel subsidy between 2006 and this year.
Buhari, who served the country as federal commissioner of petroleum and natural resources during the military regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, was said to have stated that fuel subsidy had been an opportunity through which those controlling the country have been stealing resources out of the country’s coffers.
President Jonathan said whatever he is doing now is not for his person, but for the good of the country tomorrow.
In that vein, Shamsudeen Usman, minister of national planning said the federal government has already sent a bill on continuity to the National Assembly for consideration.
According to him, growth is all about continuity and consistency, without which there would always be policy summersault. He said a situation like that will scare away investors.
If the bill passes through the National Assembly, whatever policies (particularly the issue of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) put into place would not be changed by future government without regard to law.
But Buhari has faulted the claim of Jonathan, saying that he has never supported the plan to remove the fuel subsidy on the grounds that there is no subsidy in the first place.
Contradicting the position of Jonathan who commended him for backing the removal of the subsidy, Buhari said the president quoted him out of context by suggesting he was in support of the removal of the subsidy.
Speaking through his spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Buhari said what he meant was that the existence of the subsidy was a scam and an avenue for marketers and government officials involved in the importation of petroleum products to corruptly enrich themselves.
Acknowledging that Buhari’s position had been completely misrepresented by the president, Odumakin said, “Gen Buhari does not support the fuel subsidy removal. All that he said was that there was no subsidy and the government should fix the refineries and stop the importation of petroleum products.”
He said: “Most of what they call subsidy is the cause of corruption. When the product gets to Nigeria, they allow it to stay at the ports for 14 days so that they can pay demurrage. It stays at the jetty where charges are paid.
“Government should build new refineries, fix existing ones and should not be involved in the importation of petroleum products. And if the products should be imported, it should be left strictly to the oil marketers.”