SENIOR Pastor of Latter Rain Assembly, Tunde Bakare, has said the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) was not under any influence beyond the protection of interest of an average Nigerian in doing what it did during 2012 protest, tagged ‘Occupy Nigeria.’
Bakare, who appealed to the labour unions and Nigerian people to come together to engage the government intelligently, in finding solutions to the subsidy conundrum, made the plea on Sunday, in the state of nation address themed: “The Courage To Do The Right Thing” which he delivered during the service in Lagos.
The Save Nigeria Group convener said what Nigeria was subsidising then was laziness and an entrenched corrupt order by which the government, in connivance with crony capitalists, fleeced Nigerians.
The cleric, who said he felt much concerned with the fuel price hike, which news, he recalled came to him while he was on a delegation of President Muhammadu Buhari outside the country, however, contended that contrary to charges that the SNG had kept silent over the issue, the reason that led to the group joining the protest in 2012 fuel saga was far beyond the removal of fuel subsidy.
According to him, it also included call for elimination of corruption in the oil sector through alleged payment of subsidies running into trillions of naira and the prosecution of those that might have been indicted prosecuted.
“I appeal also to civil society, Labour and the Nigerian people to come together to engage the government intelligently in finding solutions to the subsidy conundrum.
“We believe it is more productive for us to engage the government at the level of policy dialogue, with a view to detecting subsisting cracks in the system, proffering sustainable interventions and identifying the vestiges of the corrupt order who are resisting the clean-up of the system,” he said.
Bakare, while maintaining that the SNG was not under any influence beyond the protection of interest of an average Nigerian in doing what it did in 2012 protest, said the then Federal Government was not subsidising the cost of production of refined oil in our nation, but subsidising the alternative cost of importation, which he said was a pointer to the fact that Nigerian leaders had allowed their laziness to envelope the entire nation to the extent that Nigeria had corporately become a lazy nation.
“I recall stating on this platform, in a message entitled: “The simple arithmetic of fuel subsidy,” that the Federal Government is not subsidising the cost of production of refined oil in our nation. What the government is subsidising is the alternative cost of importation. This shows clearly that our leaders have allowed their laziness to envelope the entire nation so that we have corporately become a lazy nation according to the biblical definition.
“On this premise, mindful of the sufferings of the Nigerian people, even though critical of the subsidy regime, I added that: By removing the subsidy – if we ever allow this to take place – Nigerians will be made to pay for the ineptitude of their leaders and the kleptomania of government functionaries. Like other nations, some less endowed, we have the opportunity to set up our own refineries, refine our products, sell and export refined products, and make money.
“Instead of doing that, both NNPC and the government ‘explore sleaze, refine roguery and market sharp practices.’ They cannot complain that they import at a high price. It is their idiotic choice and Nigerians should not be made scapegoats for their poor choices.
“On the heels of this position, when the government suddenly removed the fuel subsidy without admitting to its complicit and compromised involvement in the maladministration of petroleum resources in Nigeria, the SNG rose to the occasion in defence of truth and justice. Maximising the moment created by the strike called by the labour unions, we mobilised the Nigerian people to stand up against oppression.
“However, we made it clear to our allies that the SNG was raising the bar beyond mere removal of fuel subsidy to the fight against corruption in the system. So, while the rallying cry of our allies was ‘N65 or nothing,’ we wore branded T-shirts with the inscription ‘Kill corruption, not Nigerians’.
“Even though we identified with the sufferings of the Nigerian people that would be occasioned and intensified by subsidy removal, our position was that subsidisation was not sustainable in the longrun and would have been utterly unnecessary if the rot in the sector was confronted. We, therefore, insisted that if the government dealt with corruption and sanitised the system, there would be no need for a subsidy,” he said.
Speaking on the current hike, which he said was borne out of global economic recession leading to fall in crude price at international market, the drop in foreign reserve, just as OPEC members were also adjusting petroleum products prices locally, Bakare called for certain proactive actions on the part of the government to totally address the fuel subsidy saga in the country.
He urged the government to rework its communication strategy to ensure that Nigerians were carried along prior to, during and following the implementation of new policies.
According to him, the government must communicate clearly and transparently to Nigerians on the current petrol price policy as to whether or not the latest move is merely a hike in price or an actual deregulation.
“Even if it is the first step in the process of deregulation, Nigerians would want to know what happens if market conditions, in particular, foreign exchange realities mandate a further increase in pump price. Would we, at that point, revert to subsidising? These matters transcend mere ‘grammatical nomenclatures’ as the Minister of State for Petroleum has termed them. They are very important issues and Nigerians deserve clarity,” he said.
Bakare also called for good and effective governance at the federal, state and local levels, saying such must become the pivot for all palliative measures to alleviate and, indeed, end, the sufferings of the masses.
The founder of Latter Rain Assembly also enjoined the President Buhari led government to extend the anti-corruption war beyond the misappropriated defence funds generally referred to as ‘Dasukigate’ to include the 2010-2011 fuel subsidy regime that had been linked to the theft of over N1 trillion of public fund in an election year.
“Indicted firms and persons should be investigated and stolen funds recovered, and these recovered funds should be injected, by way of a supplementary budget, into mitigating our infrastructural decay as well as the social welfare programme.
“Nothing short of a complete deregulation of the sector, characterised by adequate local refining, will salvage the petrol crisis in Nigeria;
“A Downstream Sector Bill should be sent to the National Assembly to pave the way for a completely deregulated regime. In the absence of a Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which is being delayed due to, among other factors, its extensive coverage, such a bill would replace the archaic regime provided by such laws as the Petroleum Act 1969 in terms of downstream sector administration. This is important because the average Nigerian is more directly affected by the downstream sector.
“It is instructive to note that, by the provisions of Sections 7(a) and (b) of the PPPRA Act 2003, regulation of petroleum pricing is a statutory responsibility.
“This must be changed such that, in a deregulated downstream sector, the PPPRA would operate as a price observatory agency alerting the public of reasonable price ranges so that consumers can tell if and when a certain fuel dispensing station is over-billing in relation to the market price, enabling customers to make informed decisions,” Pastor Bakare demanded.
“Having stated these propositions, our warning at the beginning of the year bears repeating. On January 1, 2016, we said: “The year 2016 is a year of global upheavals, characterised by extreme uncertainties, intense political suspense, accelerated global terror and mounting economic pressure due to dwindling resources that will drive nations to the precipice and activate the rage of the poor.
“I appeal to the government to take these and other pro-people ideas into consideration and to do all that must be done to alleviate the sufferings of our people and assuage the rage of the poor,” he pleaded.