The Nigerian Governor’ Forum (NGF) and the organised labour yesterday blamed the controversy over the petroleum subsidy on what they termed insincerity of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other managers of the policy.
They however, agreed to work together to end the controvery in the interest of the country.
The NGF, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress(TUC) made the accusation against the NNPC and the subsidy administrators during their meeting in Abuja yesterday.
Although they differed on whether or not the scheme should remain or go, they agreed that it was necessary to address all underlying issues associated with the scheme before further steps could be taken.
While the governors argued that it was better for subsidy to be addressed and rested as quickly as possible, organised labour maintained that its removal would further inflict hardship on the masses.
The NGF, in a statement in Abuja, said agreed with labour that “the subsidy removal agenda was hidden in untruths bandied by the NNPC and other administrators” of the scheme.”
The NGF Chairman, Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi said there is ”a lot of fraud in the consumption and distribution figures” that the subsidy administrators push out to the public.
He added: “Both parties agreed that the lacuna in the subsidy removal agenda was hidden in the untruths bandied by the administrators of the subsidy, particularly the NNPC, which both groups identify to be at the forefront of the mismanagement of the proceeds accrued therein.”
Fayemi, who noted that the nation’s economy was at the precipice, argued that it had become necessary for the NGF and the organised labour to carefully verify all NNPC’s estimates.
According to him, it is only when the verification is carried out that any action is taken on subsidy, would be in the interest of the people and not a few wealthy individuals and their cronies.
He said governors cannot but be a part of the solution providers “in this onerous task that is confronting the nation.”
Fayemi added: “There are raging questions of accountability associated with subsidy removal in the country. The NGF and the NLC can jointly work together to proffer solutions that heal the economy and provide succour to the Nigerian people.”
He said governors cannot ignore the economics of petroleum, arguing that all the countries surrounding Nigeria, including Niger, Mali, Cameroun and Ghana have their fuel pump prices at the equivalent of a US dollar.
He stated that even though governors are aware that Nigeria has a pump price that is far less than a dollar, they are uncomfortable with the removal of subsidy until the challenge of what the NNPC is telling the country is confronted frontally.
“We need a partnership with the NLC to confront the challenges of what the NNPC is about because there is a lot of fraud in the consumption and distribution figures that the country is getting,” the governor said.
He, therefore, challenged the organised labour to engage all knowledgeable groups, including the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), to “conduct a thorough research on the sector before any further action is taken on subsidy..” .
Fayemi also advised that the partnership with the labour should confront the perennial issue of palliatives for the common man in the event of subsidy removal.
Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong, who also attended the meeting, spoke in favour of subsidy removal. He recalled that the NGF had spent three years discussing the issue.
The NGF statement quoted him as saying;” We cannot continue with subsidising petroleum products. We must find options and create opportunities that address the hardships that stare our people in the face.
“The teams from the two groups (NGF and organised labour) should immediately set out to work to find the light at the end of the tunnel.”
According to the statement, NLC President Ayuba Waba and the TUC leadership wondered why the subsidy issue had always been shrouded in a lack of transparency on the part of the government.
“The unionists argued that the conflicting figures that always came from the managers of the petroleum sector had always tended towards inefficiency which has remained, to labour people, completely objectionable,” it added.