By Tordue Salem, Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party caucus of the House of Representatives has lambasted the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, for its policy flip flops, demanding for an immediate reversal the hike in prices of petrol and electricity.
The Caucus leader Rep. Kingsley Chinda (PDP-Rivers) spoke on behalf of the Caucus after a resolution at its 18th virtual meeting, where issues of national interest particularly, the recent cost increases by FG were reviewed.
Other issues the Caucus wants to be reviewed by the government, include Stamp duties, telecommunication charges and Implementation of 7.5% Value Added Tax (VAT).
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The caucus noted that “The COVID-19 pandemic has no doubted inflicted great hardship globally and have seen most economies fluttering. Most if not all responsive governments have devised innovative people-oriented interventions and opening new frontiers to reducing tax burdens on their citizens to stimulate their economies and cushion the unfortunate effect of the pandemic.”
According to them, “Conversely, the Nigerian Federal government led by President Muhammadu Buhari has found this inauspicious time to implement what can only be described as strangle-hold economic policies on the lives of perceived helpless Nigerian citizens”
“More disturbing is the fact that the review in electricity tariffs and fuel prices is not
Commensurate with an increase in salary or income of the people”
on the issue of increase in pump price, it said that the increase inflicted on Nigerians will be the third hike since the advent of this administration.
” From an inherited pump price of N85 per litre, they have systematically increased it to an exorbitant, strangulating cost of N162 per litre. All these have been achieved without consultation or engagement with the Nigerian people, at whose pleasure he serves”, the Caucus opined.
Rep Chinda further said that “Recall that in 2015 when this government took over the mantle of leadership, cost of crude was 93.17 to 48.66 USD; pump price of fuel in Nigeria was N85 per litre and about N500 Billion was said to be paid as subsidy annually”
” In 2020, crude sells for 39.68USD the pump price of fuel is N162. Ordinarily, lower cost of crude should entail a lower cost of fuel; At every increase, Nigerians are told that subsidy payment has been removed and that price of fuel will be determined by market forces.”
“Paradoxically, in 2020 the government budgeted 450B for a subsidy, whilst PPRA gave a realistic estimate of 750.81B to be spent by NNPC as subsidy in 2020, higher than N500 Billion even with almost 95% increase in pump price.”
The statement went further than, President Buhari also promised to “Revive and reactivate our minimally performing refineries to optimum capacity and stabilise oil price. This is a promise far taller than his imagined economic prowess. The state-owned refineries are operating at a ridiculous fraction of their capacities. Nigeria (an oil-producing country) continues to import more than 90% of her finished products.
“Information Minister, Lai Mohammed in his attempt to defend the increase in the pump price of petrol said that “Despite the recent increase in the price of fuel to N162 per litre, petrol price in Nigeria remains the lowest in the west/central African sub-region.”
The caucus said that “What Minister Lai Mohammed conveniently left out is the “general rule that richer countries have a higher price for gasoline, while poorer countries and countries that produce and export oil have significantly lower prices. The difference in prices across countries is due to various taxes and subsidies they decide to impose”.
“Hon. Minister didn’t take into consideration the fact that most of these other countries with higher cost have functional and reliable systems in place – public transportation, power and social security for its citizens; their standard of living and minimum wage are far above Nigeria’s; have a constant and affordable power supply, and their citizens do not depend on alternative power generation as Nigerians do with generators.”
He said “Again, the Honourable Minister failed to draw a comparison between the cost of PMS in Nigeria and other traditional oil-producing but poor countries. Nigeria sells at 0.39USD, higher than Algeria (0.36USD), Angola (0.26USD) and Sudan (0.14USD)
“On what basis then, is the comparison made by Minister Lai?
“More worrisome is that this increase is coming at such a time when, the masses are also faced with a hike in the prices of food, especially the most basic staple food items (rice. garri and yam) yet the Government continues to live in self-denial claiming that there is a reduction in the cost of food items.” The Government rather than alleviate the suffering of citizens chose to gift Nigerians a pre-October 1 gift with an increase in the prices of fuel, electricity tariff and full implementation of 7.5% VAT.
On electricity, the caucus recalled that the President on May 29, 2015, said thus:
“No single cause can be identified to explain the Nigerian poor economic performance over the years than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of over 180 million generates only 4000 MW, and distributes even less. We will not allow this to go on.”
CEIC data states that “Electricity production in Nigeria reached 7,720 GWh in March 2020. Electricity production data of Nigeria is updated quarterly, averaging at 6,901 GWh from March 2015 to March 2020. The data reached an all-time high 9,936 GWh in Sep 2015 and a record low of 3,247 GWh in June 2009.”
“President Buhari unequivocally and unconditionally promised to increase the Megawatts generated and make power steady, available and affordable. However, power supply remains epileptic. Even in the face of the poor delivery, he increased the tariff, despite the resolution of the National Assembly that any contemplated increase should be put on hold, consequent upon the unprecedented hardship in the country, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The hike in electricity tariff particularly pushes Nigeria up the cost radar as one of the African countries with the most expensive energy cost. While the average global cost of electricity is between N55.36 and N49.71 for KWh, Nigerians are paying as high as N62.00 KWh. More worrisome is that the adjustment, does not guarantee efficient power supply, neither is it cost-reflective as most Nigerians continue to pay more for power not consumed through estimated billing. This is in spite of the fact that the President had said that “the hike will be based on the improved power supply.”
“Despite its capacity to generate approximately, 13000MW of power, Nigeria’s actual distribution has hovered around 3,000mw and 4,500mw in the past few years.”
On the issue of insecurity, the caucus also reminded the president of his promises when he said that “I will ensure that under my watch, no force, external or internal, will occupy even an inch of Nigerian soil.”
“These were comforting words belted by president Buhari to Nigerians during the 2015 election campaigns.”
According to the Caucus, “Six years after President Buhari took over the leadership of this country, insecurity is at an all-time high, with insurgent activities, banditry and herdsmen attacks which were localised in the North-East and kidnapping in the South-South, have all today assumed a national dimension and prevalent in every part of the country. Over half of the Local Government Areas in Bornu is under the effective control of insurgents.”
“As if in keeping with this government’s determination to increase everything; by a recent report by Global Terrorism Index (GTI), Nigeria ranks the third in the overall global list of most terrorised countries in the world and is the most terrorised country in Africa, yet we are told that terrorism has been technically defeated.”
On the economy, the caucus also recalled that “In 2015, President Buhari promised to deliver annual economic growth of 10% and that the naira will exchange for one naira to a dollar. Ironically, one year under his watch, the country slipped into a deep recession that lasted for more than a year, the second recession ever experienced by Nigeria. Coincidentally both were under President Buhari’s leadership as Military and civilian President, we are gradually dovetailing into the third recession still under his watch. The naira that was exchanging at 160 to a dollar in 2015 went all-time low to 470 to a dollar today.”
It noted that “a government that has the interest of its people at heart ought to know that the best response to the current economic uncertainties exacerbated by the pandemic is to stimulate its economy by introducing some waivers and sincerely encouraging SMEs and skills development.”
“Alas, the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration thinks otherwise, and is most irresponsive to the suffering of the masses”
“We strongly condemn these incessant increases and over-taxation of Nigerians and demand an IMMEDIATE REVERSAL of Electricity Tariff; Fuel Price and implementation of the 7.5
“We remind the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal government the provisions of Section 14 sub-section 2(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that “the security and welfare of the people SHALL be the primary purpose of government”.
“We urge Mr President to (in the immediate) consider a review of his strategies in view of the present realities. He should in words and in actions truly “belong to everybody and belong to nobody, an original phrase of late Charles de Gaulle of France and borrowed by President Buhari, without an acknowledgement of de Gaulle”
“The effect of these unsavoury economic policies is hyperinflation which has affected even the most basic food items and services in the market. The compound negative effect on security, physical and mental health and wellbeing cannot be overemphasised”
“Nigerians have gotten to the end of their tenders and will resist further draconian and non-people oriented policies, as the Federal Government has consistently flouted the contract of good governance entered with the people as enshrined in Chapter Two of the Constitution”
“The Federal government is hereby, advised to focus on working out modalities to ameliorate the pains and sufferings of an already hardworking, but traumatized people of Nigeria”
In addition to this call for a reversal, we also demand the following:
“That the four Refineries (PH I & II, Warri and Kaduna) be revamped to function optimally before any subsidy removal is considered after proper consultations with all stakeholders, including the National Assembly that holds the people’s mandate.
The Caucus conclude that the government, should “Stay the increase of electricity tariff, pending the provision of proper metering in all homes with regular and constant electricity to the populace. Stay the further implementation of a 7.5% VAT increase to allow Nigerians to recover from the effects of the COVIC- 19 pandemic”.