Why Buhari could not remove petrol subsidy – Garba Shehu

Posted by Timige, On 26 Jun, 2023 | Updated On 27 Jun, 2023 No Comments »



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Ex-President Muhammadu Buhari failed to remove subsidy on petrol as directed in the Petroleum Industry Act because, among other reasons, doing so would have cost his party the 2023 general elections, an aide has said.

Mr Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, in a statement on Monday, said taking such an action close to the general election could have been detrimental to the ruling party, APC.

“The Buhari administration in its last days could not have gone the whole way because the APC had an election to win. And that would have been the case with any political party that was seeking election for another term with a new principal at its head.

“Poll after poll showed that the party would have been thrown out of office if the decision as envisaged by the new Petroleum Industry Act was made,” Mr Shehu wrote in a statement defending his principal from criticisms following the prompt removal of petrol subsidy by Mr Buhari’s successor, Bola Tinubu.

Mr Tinubu announced the removal of the subsidy on petrol during his inaugural speech on 29 May, leading to the increase in petrol prices by almost 200 per cent, from about N200 to over N500.

The government and many analysts have defended the subsidy removal saying the country lacks the resources to continue to do so amidst dwindling economic fortunes. Nigeria spent over N4 trillion subsidizing petrol in 2022.

However, critics say the removal of petrol subsidy has further impoverished Nigerians, raising the price of goods and services, in a country where about half of the population lives in poverty.

In his Monday statement, Mr Shehu also said the decision to remove subsidy by the immediate past administration was “cued and put on a hold” for a better time.

“Removing subsidies for the Naira and PMS was cued and put on hold. Look for example in the Petroleum Industry Act. The important decision was kept for a better time,” he said.

The former presidential spokesperson emphasised that the decision to remove fuel subsidy could not have come at a time when tensions were high in the country.

“…no responsible leader would have added fuel to the fire,” he said.

Mr Shehu said the Buhari administration believed in the removal of subsidies and had done so in other areas such as subsidy on fertiliser.

“That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves – and all those who have conveniently forgotten – that the Buhari administration had been on this pathway from the very beginning in 2015,” he said.

Although the Buhari administration did not remove the subsidy on petrol, it only made provision for subsidy in the 2023 budget until June 30; thus leaving its successor to decide whether to extend it or not. However, Mr Tinubu did not allow the subsidy to continue until June ending as provided in the budget, terminating promptly after his inauguration.

Read Mr Shehu’s full statement below.

BUHARI DIDN’T FAIL TO REMOVE SUBSIDY.

Why did it take the new Tinubu/ Shettima presidency weeks to remove the petrol subsidy when Buhari didn’t do so for years fails to ask the right question.

The massive electricity subsidy. The fraudulent fertiliser subsidy. Hajj/Christian Pilgrim subsidies. Remember them?

The diesel subsidy. The aviation fuel subsidy. LPFO. Kerosene. Cooking gas and the other subsidy policies we found in place, and put them firmly on the ground. Remember them?

For those with short memories, many of those subsidies were all in place when president Buhari was elected to office in 2015: all those in place were gone by May 2023 – including the annual fertilizer subsidy that weighed 60-100 billion Naira (that’s trillion naira in about 10 years – yes you read that right) heavy on the federal budget each year.

So no, Buhari didn’t remove the petrol subsidy – but in vitally important stages he removed every other budget-busting, egregious, economic-growth-crushing subsidy along the way.

So far I have refrained from answering these repeated questions on the removal in Nigeria of subsidies on Premium Motor Spirit, PMS and that arising from the dual rates of the Naira in the Central Bank and the parallel market: Why did Buhari “fail” to do these?

First of all, my thinking is that instead of the former President answering this question, it is the Party, the All Progressives Congress, APC that is best suited to speak and failing to do this, we are forced to say what will follow here.

Secondly, we are mindful of the fact that with a Tinubu/Shettima presidency now in place and for which there is a “New Sheriff in Town.”

We do not want to distract them from the onerous tasks facing them and the nation. Neither is it our wish to take the spotlight away from them in any way.

In terms of the timing of the decisions to remove fuel subsidies and unify the currency, the Tinubu/Shettima administration has done overwhelmingly well. Even more importantly, they have been most dexterous in managing the aftermath of the decisions by successfully avoiding any crisis.

To this extent, our wish and prayers are that fellow countrymen will continue to support the new leadership in these very laudable decisions and, in particular, for the Labour leadership and civil society to work with them to ensure that the palliative efforts as promised are successfully implemented.

The decision to remove subsidies, as in our case – and we believe in all situations – was not for the President to take all by himself.

That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves – and all those who have conveniently forgotten – that the Buhari administration had been on this pathway from the very beginning in 2015.

Removing subsidies for the Naira and PMS was cued and put on hold. Look for example in the Petroleum Industry Act. The important decision was kept for a better time.

It could not have come at a time when tensions were high in the country and no responsible leader would have added fuel to the fire.

In the view of many-including those in the security circles- only a new administration with a goodwill that fills a warehouse can attempt this, and here now comes in the wit and grit of the Tinubu government.

Finally, we must be politically honest with ourselves. The Buhari administration in its last days could not have gone the whole way because the APC had an election to win. And that would have been the case with any political party that was seeking election for another term with a new principal at its head.

Poll after poll showed that the party would have been thrown out of office if the decision as envisaged by the new Petroleum Industry Act was made.

Source: State Cross River - Premium Time

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