A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) under the aegis of Civil Society Group for Good Governance (CSGGG) at the weekend kicked against the proposed N3 trillion to be budgeted for payment of fuel subsidies this year.
In a joint briefing organised by President of the Group, Mr. Dominic Ogakwu, in Abuja, the civil society representatives called on the federal government to immediately work towards fixing the country’s porous borders, which have become avenues for smuggling the product outside the country.
The coalition stated, “A key area of concern is Nigeria’s fuel subsidy bill, which is growing faster and bigger than what our country’s economy can carry. If you will all recall, it was stated recently that the country needs to spend a princely N3 trillion on subsidy in 2022.
“In the light of this humongous sum, we join well-meaning Nigerians in calling on the federal government to speed up the rehabilitation of the refineries to improve availability of products locally and reduce importation.”
The group urged the government to ensure that the right policies were put in place to improve the country’s domestic refining capacity and meet local demand before subsidy removal was implemented.
It stressed that if there was no subsidy, organised labour would not threaten fire and brimstone whenever government took steps to remove under-recovery. It said the operations of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) were hindered by payment of fuel subsidy.
According to the coalition, “One urgent measure that needs to be addressed is our country’s borders which have remained largely porous. Without a doubt, some unpatriotic elements are cashing on this gap to divert and smuggle our subsidy-coated fuel to neighbouring countries.
“This ugly trade is putting unnecessary burden on government’s scare resource. It is still unbelievable that we are consuming over 65 million litres of petrol every day.
“Only the existence of subsidy can explain this. Nigeria has one of the cheapest fuels per litre in the entire West African sub-region. Our cheaper fuel is very attractive to smugglers and something drastic needs to be done to address this ugly trend and hopefully crash the quantity consumed daily, hence a cost reduction of subsidy claims.”
It called on the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other relevant security agencies to pay special attention to the land borders in order to mitigate the smuggling of Nigeria’s petroleum products to neighbouring countries.
In addition, the group called on those aiding and abetting the smuggling of petroleum products to desist from sabotaging the country, as Nigeria continued to bleed from the openings.
With the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and the transitioning of NNPC to a limited liability company, the group noted that it expected nothing less than more transparency, more accountability, and more performance and more value to Nigerians.
“Nigerians can no longer tolerate the inefficiencies of the old NNPC in this new dispensation,” it maintained.
However, the coalition commended NNPC and its leadership, especially Chief Executive Officer, Mallam Mele Kyari, for sustaining what it said was a hitch free supply and distribution of petroleum products over the past four years, despite the difficult operating environment attributable to the activities of pipeline vandals and smugglers. It noted that NNPC’s sustained commitment to transparency, as evident in the monthly publication of its operations and financials, was highly commendable.
Specifically, it stated that the publication of the annual financial statements for 2019 and 2020 also showed that NNPC had improved her performance in delivering value to Nigeria.
The coalition stated, “We look forward to the publication of the 2021 financial statement as well. It is in the light of the corporation’s transparency and accountability that we urge other public institutions to emulate the openness the NNPC has adopted.
“Despite the modest progress achieved by the NNPC, which include among other things, attracting of new investors and investments in gas infrastructural projects to increase availability of gas across the country and declaration of profit for the first time in more than 44 years, there are a few areas where we are persuaded that improvements can be achieved and government’s intervention will bring more value.”
Culled from THISDAY