By Elizabeth Chukwuma
In spite of the fact that Pesident Muhammadu Buhari, has barely 70 days, in office, he wants to ensure that all discussions about fuel subsidy removal are settled before he hands over to the Nigerian President, in May 29, 2023.
The Katsina state born Nigerian President is working according to the government agenda to remove fuel subsidy at all cost, to forestall smuggling of the imported product from Nigeria to neighbouring West African countries of Benin Republic, Niger, TChad and the Central African country of Cameroun.
The Nigerian President has never hidden his intention to see to the removal of fuel. He was said to have used Hajia Zainab Ahmed, minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to pass the message across to Nigerians over the last seven years.
The minister has made it clear to those that cares to listen to prepare to pay more per litre of fuel, in June , 2023, stating that the Committees mandated to make the necessary recommendation to cushion its negative effect on the public when it is eventually removed next June are working relentlessly ‘’to harmonise discussions on the palliative measures.
Giving an insider information, in her capacity as the minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, who is directly involved, she disclosed that the stage the two parties are recently which is ‘’to finalise the suggestions that have been put out from both the Federal government and state governors, side, it will be difficult to go back on the decision.
Last January, the minister , at the public presentation of the 2023, Federal government , 2023 , Fiscal Budget, had said that the government has made provisions of N3.36 trillion for fuel subsidy payment to cover the cover between January and June 2023. She had said that the decision was in line with the 18-month extension earlier announced by the government in 2022.
The government may have come out forcefully to announce that there will be nothing like fuel subsidy any longer in Nigeria from June 2023. This because the Leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, who are not happy over the lingering fuel crisis in the country over the last three months had given the Federal government seven day –ultimatum, starting from Monday, March 13, 2023, to address the fuel scarcity and cash crunch problems in the country or they will call their members on a nationwide industrial action at the expiration of the ultimatums, on Monday, March 20, 2023, that might ground the economy , already gasping for breath.
Joe Ajero, the NLC, President was said to have given the strike notice , to Chris Ngige, a former governor of Anambra state and minister of Labour and Employment , in order for him to pass the information to the Nigerian President after the meeting of the Central Working Committee of the Congress, CWC, o the said Monday.
An aggrieved Ajero, who could not hide his feelings, bemoaned the hadship faced by Nigerian workers over the last couple of months owing to the lingering fuel crisis and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, under the close watch of Godwin Emiefele, defective implementation of the naira redesign and naira swap policies. The NLC , helmsman, may have made he minister to understand that the union has been pushed to the wall and can no longer keep quiet to this perennial problem of fuel scarcity and arbitrary increase on the price of Petroleum Products , per litre.
He had made it clear to the policy makes that if at the expiration of the seven –day ultimatum and nothing was done to address the twin problems of fuel scarcity and cash crunch, Congress will not hesitate to call out workers in the country to stay at home because it has become extremely difficult to access the nairato board vehicles to workplace.
The government m ay have known that Labour will keep to its strike threat that it has come out to tell Nigerians that from June, 2023, that there will nothing like fuel subsidy and to give a matching order to Emefiele , the CBN , governor, and Abubakar Malami, minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, to obey the Supreme Court ruling of March 3, 2023 and March 8, 2023, in a case brought it by 16 aggrieved governors that the old N200, N500 and N1000, should concurrently be used with the newly designed ban Notes, until December 31, 2023. The government may have taken the monetary decision to appease Union, but not much has changed as the cash crunch problem remains. Many believe that the apex governor who believes that he has been arm-twisted by the governors is still determined to keep to his cashless policy. This is because neither the new Notes nor the old bank Notes have been available to the Money Deposit Banks in sufficient quantities, as the crowd found in the banks , since the new bank Notes were introduced , are yet to disappear, forcing most of the bank branches ,to shut their doors to Customers before closing hour on a daily basis. In some of the bank , branches, particular, UBA plc, and the staff lock themselves in the office, to keep away from the angry Customers whose anger appear to have reached the boiling point waiting to explode.
While Labour is taking on government over the hardship in the country caused by the lingering fuel scarcity and crunch, Peter Obi , a former governor of Anambra state and Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, LP, and his All Progressive Congress, APC, Counterpart, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who incidentally was a former governor of Lagos state and who has been declared President-elect, in the February 25,2023, Presidential election, are yet to agree on formation of government of National Unity.
The former Anambra state governor, who do not want to hear about it, had said that they can talk of government of National Unity ‘’if the process that led his being declared President-elect is right’’. It is not surprising why he is election challenging the process and INEC, declaration of Tinubu, the APC, flag bearer as the President- elect’’ after the February 25, 2023, Presidential election.
Obi has every reason to challenge Tinubu’s declaration as the next Nigerian President by INEC, because of the huge amount spent during the election. Hear him: Until we get it right, we can’t talk about government of national unity. He was said to have asked those urging him to allow the government of national unity to be formed by the next government,what it means ‘’ to spend over $1 billion on technology to conduct the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections by INEC, but nothing was achieved as the Commission still went back to what it used to be’’, describing it as ‘’devastating’’.