Sunday, October 30, 2011

Syria's Assad warns Western powers

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Western powers risk causing an "earthquake" across the Middle East if they intervene in SyriaPresident Bashar al-Assad said, after protesters called for foreign protection from a crackdown in which 3,000 people have been killed.
Assad's warning came ahead of Syrian government talks on Sunday with the Arab League aimed at starting a dialogue between the government and opposition and ending violence which has escalated across Syria in recent days.
Activists said Syrian forces killed more than 50 civilians in the last 48 hours and one activist group said suspected army deserters killed 30 soldiers in clashes in the city of Homs and in an ambush in the northern province of Idlib on Saturday.
Assad's suppression of the seven-month uprising has drawn criticism from the United Nations and Arab League. Western governments have called on him to step down and imposed sanctions on Syrian oil exports and state businesses.
Western countries "are going to ratchet up the pressure, definitely," Assad told Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
"But Syria is different in every respect from Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen. The history is different. The politics is different."
"Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake."
NATO military intervention in Libya played a decisive role in toppling Muammar Gaddafi, the third Arab leader to be overthrown after the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.
Western nations have shown no appetite to repeat their Libyan operation in Syria, but demonstrators are increasingly calling for a "no-fly zone" over their country.
"Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans?" Assad said. "Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. If the plan is to divide Syria, that is to divide the whole region."
Since the start of protests in March, Syrian authorities have blamed the violence on foreign-backed gunmen and religious extremists they say have killed 1,100 soldiers and police.
Syria has barred most international media, making it hard to verify accounts from activists and authorities.
But the resilience of the protesters, the determination of authorities to crush dissent and the emerging armed insurgency have combined to make Syria's turmoil one of the most intractable confrontations of this year's Arab uprisings.
Assad, whose father put down an armed Muslim Brotherhood uprising in the city of Hama in 1982, killing many thousands, said the latest crisis was part of the same conflict.
"We've been fighting the Muslim Brotherhood since the 1950s and we are still fighting with them," he said.
Authorities had made "many mistakes" in the early part of the uprising, but he said the situation had now improved and that he had started implementing reform within a week of the troubles erupting in mid-March.
"The pace of reform is not too slow. The vision needs to be mature. It would take only 15 seconds to sign a law, but if it doesn't fit your society, you'll have division," he said.
Assad's opponents say although he lifted emergency law and gave citizenship to thousands of stateless Kurds, his promises of reform ring hollow while security forces kill protesters and arrest thousands of people. They also say protests are driven by a desire for greater freedoms, not by an Islamist agenda.
Friday's shooting of demonstrators prompted Arab ministers to issue their strongest call yet on Assad to end the killing of civilians.
The Arab League's committee on the Syrian crisis sent an "urgent message to the Syrian government expressing its severe discontent over the continued killing of Syrian civilians."
A source at Syria's Foreign Ministry, quoted by state media, said the Arab League statement was "based on media lies" and urged the committee to "help restore stability in Syria instead of stirring sedition."
An Arab League ministerial group is due to meet Syrian officials on Sunday in Qatar to press for dialogue between the government and opposition.
Syria, a majority Sunni Muslim nation of 20 million people, is dominated by Assad's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
Aware of potentially seismic geopolitical implications if Assad were to fall, leaders in the mostly Sunni Arab world have been cautious about criticising the Syrian president as they struggle with domestic challenges to their own rule.
Sunni ascendancy in Syria could affect Israel and shake up regional alliances. Assad strengthened ties with Shi'ite Iran while also upholding his father's policy of avoiding conflict with Israel on the occupied Golan Heights frontier.
Syria has barred most international media, making it hard to verify accounts from activists and authorities.
(Additional reporting by David Milliken in London; Editing by Ralph Gowling)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nigeria’s population projected @ 433 million by 2050

IN less than a week, precisely  October 31, 2011, Nigeria’s population will hit the 166 million mark. This figure implies that the country  will be contributing about 2.4 per cent of the world’s population and at the same time, about five million people are added to Nigeria’s population on a yearly basis.
According to a recent population report,Nigeria’s population would overtake that of the US by 2050. What does this portend for Africa’s most populous nation. CHARLES KUMOLU writes.
THE event was not convened to raise fears about Nigeria’s population growth, neither was it held to highlight the adverse effects of the county’s growing population.
But the aftermath of the 2011 World Population Day has continued to caused fears within concerned circles.
Not even assurances from the Chairman of the National Population Commission, Sumaila Makama, who noted that increase in Nigeria’s population signifies a positive development, calm fray nerves at the event.
Rather, many have continued to ponder on some revelations about Nigeria’s population.
Said he:“A cursory look at the data on our population growth rate of 3.2 per cent creates some fear of the consequences of rapid population increase. The challenge, however, is for government, civil society organisations and individuals’ responsibility to use data provided for informed policies relative to the population of Nigeria.”
Massive population
A picture taken on February 6, 2006 shows people struggling for space between public transport buses and trucks at the burstling Oshodi bus stop in Lagos. The world's population of seven billion is set to rise to at least 10 billion by 2100, but could top 15 billion if birth rates are just slightly higher than expected, the United Nations said on October 26, 2011.AFP PHOTO
Although, massive population can be an advantage, but if not well controlled and planned for, it becomes a problem. And given Nigeria’s attitude towards planning and control has raised eye brows in may quarters. But more worrisome in recent times is the US based Population Reference Bearue,PRB, report on Nigeria.
The Washington based agency, revealed in its 2011 World Population Data Sheet that the country’s population would be 433 million by 2050.
This implies that Nigeria would be the third largest country in the world, behind India and China, bigger even than the United States of America (USA) and with only a 10 per cent of the land mass.
The report further indicated thus: “today’s world population is double the population in 1967. But while the overall growth rate has slowed, the population is still growing, and growth rates in some countries show little if any decline.”
Continuing, it said, “”Even though the annual population growth rate has declined to 1.2 percent per year, world population grows by about 83 million annually. If the late 1960s population growth rate of 2.1 percent—the highest in history—had held steady, world population would have grown by 117 million annually, and today’s population would have been 8.6 billion.
“The world added the sixth billion and the seventh billion in a record 12 years for each,” says Carl Haub, PRB’s senior demographer and co-author of this year’s data sheet. “The eighth billion may also take about 12 years, but only if birth rates in all developing countries follow projections that assume a smooth decline to two children or fewer.”
However, many do not believe the statistics are scary, particularly for Nigeria.
For the average man on the street, it is a call for government to wake up to its responsibilities.But government sees this as a positive development.
But, whichever way it is viewed, the situation calls for positive attitude from the government.
This is hinged on the believe that rapid population growth, is usually accompanied with high fertility rates, high childhood mortality rates, high crime rates, increased deaths and diseases, among others.
Founder of Odua Peoples Congress,OPC, Dr. Fredrk Fasheun belongs to the group that has expressed fears about our increasing population rate.
“ I think Nigeria should take the report serious. Remember that the US also warned that Nigeria is going to break up by 2015. Hunger and poverty are things that would emerge in the event of that. I can assure that this population explosion might lead to death because there is hunger and poverty in the land,” he stated.
Fasheun also told Vanguard Features, VF that apart from his fears for hunger and poverty that would ravege the country, the situation might spill over to other West African countries in the sub region.
He explained how this can come about.
“There is need for the government to prepare the country for any eventuality. It will be very unfortunate for the West African sub region if the population becomes a bit explosive because Nigerians will just spill over to the neighbouring West African countries and it will affect the integrity of the country,” he responded.
Accordingly, he said, “I know Nigeria does not have ways of managing things like this and the scenario I have painted says much about it. Nigerians will spill over to these countries and become refugees in these countries. But to be forewarned is to be forearmed. If the US based agency has warned of such explosion, it must be taken serious.”
This position, however was also supported by an African Development Bank Report on Nigeria’s population growth.
“ Nigeria’s large population has development implications.To begin with, it does not augur well for planning purposes. Plans only succeed when the implementation is pursued with reliable data. But in the Nigerian experience, the unreliability of demographic data makes plan implementation a futile exercise in the country,” ADB observed.
Another Federal Government report, says: “rapid population growth in Nigeria is equally associated with unemployment with figures ranging from 17 per cent per annum for the entire population to 60 per cent for the youths because job opportunities are fewer than the number seeking for them, and stagnating economic performance because a larger proportion of available resources is consumed instead of invested to generate growth,” also corroborated the ADB position.
Consequently, the question begging for answer presently is: What is be responsible for this population rise?
Population growth
Population growth rate is influenced by the interplay of the three main demographic processes of fertility, mortality and migration, VF gathered.
In addition, President of Akaikenga, Dr. Sylva Ebigwie told this reporter that: “People believe that the more children they have, the better off they are. I can say generally, that because of our traditional beliefs and religious teachings, it would be difficult to control population growth in the country,”
He further added that, “Most Nigerians are not educated and they still believe in their primordial practices, until you get them educated, there is no way we can talk about controlling it. We need education too, in order to make a headway, but the education is not forth coming. Many of our children go to school but the school do es not go through them. A lot of Nigerians are illiterate and there is no way to change an illiterate mind.”
Continuing along a similiar line, the President of the Pan Igbo Socio-Cultural organisation said: “ Many people procreate in this country and they can not train their children.. Some of these children become criminals and constitute nuisance to the society.
They have no education because they have no access to education. They have no job because they have no access to jobs, they have no money because they have no access to money. To have money, they have to take to crime, which to them is the easiest way to make money. These are the issues that affect our nation today.
Planning for the populace
“The more the population grows, the more criminality and other ills will grow, because we don’t have the habit of planning for the populace. It also affects the environment, because there is no adequate housing; even in agriculture we will have few land for farming. Every thing negative would come to Nigeria in the event of this projected population explosion.”
Despite this, Ebigwei disagreed with the PRB report, noting that it is impossible for Nigeria’s population to overtake that of the United States of America.
He based his argument on reasons such as life expectancy and health care delivery.
“It is not possible for Nigeria’s population to overtake that of the US. We have a lot of factors in Nigeria that would not allow that to happen.
In the US, the average life span for a man is 75 years, while that of a woman is about 77 years. So anybody saying that due to impending population explosion, Nigeria would overtake the US may not be right, because our healthcare delivery is not as good as that of America. On the other hand, the problem with Nigeria today is that things are not done rightly,” Ebigwie added.
Nonetheless, the Executive Director of Centre for Population Control and Regulation,CPCR, Dr. Godspower Tonye disagreed with Ebigwie, stressing that the PRB account is in order, given the pattern of the nation’s population increase.
“Yes, I agree with them. The projection is correct. Why won’t we have that kind of overpopulation. Looking at the figures whereby the current yearly growth rate of 3.2 per cent, as indicated by the 2006 census you will have no option than to believe the report.”
When prodded on what the government is expected to do in the face of this report, he said: “What is expected of any reasonable government is to start planning and take family planning serious. That is what we are preaching and working on in CPCR”
Perhaps, that why Ebigwie insisted that , “Unless Nigeria engages in what China did by pegging two children to one man, we will not get it right in our efforts to control population. Already the Federal government recognises four as the official number of children but its not working.”
Continuing he said, “the rate of population growth constitutes a number of problems, because it puts pressure on the country, especially in housing, environment, education, economy, unemployment among others.
Population controversies in Nigeria
In spite this, VF gathered that the issue of population, has remained contentious in Nigeria because again and again population issues have been politicised to favour some parts of the country.
Perhaps, this informed the views of some who spoke to VF. They argued that the population may not hit the 433 million mark as projected by PRB. In 1996 for instance, a BBC report on Nigeria’s 1996 Census titled: ‘Nigeria’s counting controversy’ provides a glimpse of population controversy in Nigeria since 1963.
“No-one knows how many Nigerians there are – and till date, the authorities have been too afraid to find out. It is believed that one out of every five black people on earth is a Nigerian.
But that can only be an assumption, for every headcount held in Nigeria in the past 30 years has ended in national controversy and with strong allegations of population inflation.
The last census was carried out in 1991. Its figures which are regarded only as being marginally less manipulated than the others – put the total population at 88.9 million, almost equally divided between the two sexes,”the report stated.
It also said, “Since then the population has been projected on an annual growth rate of about 2.9 percent. The official projected figure for 2003 was 126 million.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Zuma sacks two cabinet ministers over graft

Lead Image

South African President Jacob Zuma on Monday fired two cabinet ministers implicated in graft in an attempt to dispel criticism that he is soft on corruption in his government.
Zuma told reporters that Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka and Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu Nkabinde will leave cabinet.                                        

Shiceka was suspected of spending 600,000 rand on un-sanctioned luxury travel including overseas visits to a girlfriend imprisoned in Switzerland for drug smuggling.
Nkabinde and police commissioner Bheki Cele, who is not in the cabinet, were named in a government-sanctioned report for suspected illegal conduct in property rental deals.

Zuma sacks two cabinet ministers over graft


Monday, October 24, 2011

"OCCUPY WARRI"-Unemployed Youths And Students Stop Gov. Uduaghan Birthday Party In Warri

Youth groups in Warri, Delta state yesterday took to the streets to protest mass unemployment in the state. The unemployed graduates led by a youth activist and leader of the "unemployed Graduates Association of Nigeria, Progress Omo-Agege forced the governor of the state, Mr. Emmanuel Uduaghan to abandon his birthday party scheduled for the city.
Mr. Uduaghan and his guests fled the city after the protesters blocked major streets and highway leading to Warri metropolis chanting revolutionanry songs.

Omo-Agege told SaharaReporters today that the protests which was sparked off by the recent resignation of the governor's special assistant on student affairs, Fredrick Mosheshe, would likely continue until some of their grievances are addressed.


Rush for Libya goldmine as £200bn comes up for grabs

Jim Armitage
21 Oct 2011 

Libya could be one of the world's biggest growth areas for UK firms, as the Government here calculated £200 billion of contracts are expected to go up for grabs there over the next 10 years.
Companies in sectors ranging from oil and gas to medical equipment are now aiming to win a share of that.
UK Trade & Investment, the government department which promotes business abroad, said it is working with the National Transitional Council in Libya to ascertain how British firms can help with the reconstruction of the country. A spokesman said no state contracts could be awarded until after elections in the country, which should be held within 80 days of liberation being declared. "There are big opportunities out there," a UKTI spokesman said, referring both to the rebuilding which is required after the damage from the conflict and the development the country would have needed anyway.
The UKTI said areas around Benghazi had been starved of investment by Muammar Gadaffi for years. UKTI is despatching staff to the town soon.
Although oil and gas are the biggest areas of opportunity, Libya urgently needs help in construction, education, IT, telecoms, civil engineering and sanitation. Financial services and banking should also be growth areas.
"A priority for the NTC is getting healthcare to help those wounded in the conflict. Hospitals need to be rebuilt and equipment is in short supply," said the UKTI. The NTC has said existing contracts signed by the old regime would be honoured if they had been "obtained legally".
The Libyan British Business Council cautioned that there would be "significant new challenges" to doing business in the country. However, it stressed that Libya, before the conflict, had consistently been ranked as North Africa's top performing economy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

FCT Minister’s N1 Million 'Gift' Causes Row Amongst State House Reporters

Rueben Abati holds a microphone to Jonathan during visit to 
bombed UN house

A cash donation of N1 million by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed to journalists covering the State House in Abuja, Nigeria is generating controversies among the reporters.

The receiver of the money, Mr. Horatius Egwa of BusinessDay Newspaper had declared N400, 000.00 upon returning from a trip to receive the "gift" from the minister claiming that he was given N500, 000.00 out of which he was asked to take N100,000 for himself.

However, his colleagues did not believe him. This made them to call for emergency meeting to probe the transaction. The reporters then set up a  committee to investigate him. The report of the committee, which though indicted him, however showed that Egwa was actually given N500, 000.00, but was not asked to deduct N100, 000.00 for his personal use.

SaharaReporters sources said the reporters decided to share the rest of the money after the committee submitted its report.

See the committee’s report:
Subject: Report Of Committee: Strictly Confidential For Only State House Correspondents.

Pls find below report to members as directed by committee chairman:
Report Of The State House Press Corps Committee On Investigation Of Alleged Corruption Case Against Mr. Horatius Egwa of BusinesDay Newspaper. 6th October, 2011.

1. The State House Press Corps precisely on 4th October, 2011 after an emergency congress meeting held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, constituted a three-man committee to investigate corruption allegation leveled against Mr. Huratius Egwa of BusinesDay Newspaper.

2.  Alhaji Sadiq Aliyu of New Nigeria Newspaper had raised serious concern that he was reliably informed by the FCT Permanent Secretary that Mr. Egwa was handed over the sum of N1million after an assignment for the Press Corps. 

According to Alhaji Sadiq, instead of N1million, only the sum of N400,000 was handed to the Treasurer, Mr. Tunde by Mr. Egwa.
The committee on 4th October, 2011 met with the FCT Director of Treasury. The following issues were established;

1. Members found out from the FCT Director of Treasury that only the sum of N500,000 cash, was handed over to Mr. Egwa on the same day that assignment held.

2. The FCT Director of Treasury told members of the committee that there was a mix-up from the Permanent Secretary. According to him, a total of N1million was actually approved but for two separate groups. That is, N500,000 for Villa Protocol and N500,000 for the Press Corps.

3. After its meeting with the DOT, the committee proceeded the following day, 6th October, 2011 and met with the Permanent Secretary.

4. The Permanent Secretary confirmed to the committee that he had actually spoken to Alhaji Sadiq and informed him that the sum of N1million was released to Mr. Egwa for the Press Corps. The Permanent Secretary also said that it was a mistake from him since he had intended that the total of N1million be shared between the Press Corps and the Villa Protocol.

5. Haven(sic) heard from the Permanent Secretary himself, Committee members then persuaded him to augment the approval since the already received amount would not be enough for the large Press Corps.

6. The Permanent Secretary agreed with the committee members that he will work on the request and asked that we should meet again with FCT Director of Treasury for possible augmentation.

7. Committee members same day proceeded after meeting with the Permanent Secretary to meet with FCT Director of Treasury to sort out possibility of additional funds.

8. Members of the committee have rescheduled to meet the FCT Director of Treasury.

Based on the findings, the committee makes the following recommendations.

a.  That Mr. Egwa attempted to short-change the Press Corps by deducting  the sum of N100,000 from the amount released with the excuse that he was acting on the directive of the Permanent Secretary where as there was no such directive from the Permanent Secretary according to explanation given to the committee by the Permanent Secretary.

b. Haven (sic)returned the N100,000, Mr. Egwa should however be warned to desist from collecting monies on behalf of the Press Corps without the knowledge of the house since he is not an executive member. If any member collects monies on behalf of the Corps, deductions must not be made off front without the conscent(sic) of those concerned if it is the case of an assignment.

c. That Mr. Horatius Egwa has however not been found wanting in relation to the N1million allegation.

d. That Alhaji Sadiq's allegations were based on confirmed information provided by the permanent secretary.

e. That Alhaji Sadiq also did not err in the long run.

f. The committee also recommends that the money in question should be shared by those who were present at the assignment. It is wrong for the chairman to take a unilateral decision that the money be shared by the whole house when there is a standing rule of 'Shoot At Sight' endorsed by him and the executive.

g. Press Corps should therefore take steps necessary to erase any acrimony that this issue may have generated for the unity and peace of the association.

1 Felix Onuah -Chairman
2.Anule Emmanuel-Secretary
3. Alhaji Sadiq Aliyu-Member


Saturday, October 22, 2011

We only subsidise interest of the cartel – Kokori; Sulaiman

The prices of petroleum products in Nigeria have been a source of contention and controversy. This is because for an economy that is almost singularly hinged on crude oil export and therefore, highly sensitive to internal market shocks. A fractional rise in the cost of fuel will have unmitigated ripple effects on the industrial sector and key components of the basic needs such as food, housing and health.
Since the last few weeks when government dropped the hint, technocrats, businessmen, politicians, trade union leaders, individuals have lashed out on government over the planned removal.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that there is a strong resolve by Nigerians to resist governement attempt to finally remove the subsidy. Most of them hinged their argument on the poor state of infrastructure in an already downtrodden economy where people are exposed, not only to poverty but other forms of social exclusion and where several promises have been made and none fulfilled.
We only subsidise interest of the cartel – Kokori; Sulaiman
Government’s position therefore, seems a hard sell. But with its insistence on going ahead to withdraw subsidy on petroleum products, it ma
y well be another anarchy to happen.
Chief Kokori
Former Secretary General of Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori, said the proposed withdrawal of petroleum subsidy may usher in another terrible period for Nigerians. “It may be a tragedy to happen at this stage of the pauperised situation of Nigerian populace.
This will translate into hike in transport fares, the supply of foods and other services connected with human existence. The people can only tighten their belt more than they have done. Obviously the people will either be crushed, or after being pushed to the wall, bounce back to face the government and from there anything could happen.”
Kokori stated that the reasons adduced by government for this action are a ruse. “For those of us who are familiar with the situation, we are convinced that government’s reasons are just a facade. They have said it from 1999 and we followed them. Obasanjo said more than three times that he needed money to build infrastructure, but the country is getting poorer and poorer. Unemployment is on the rise. I know at a point in 1994 when I went to prison, we left it at N2.70k and I know for 10 years, it rose slightly and Nigeria was better off.
“Nobody should tell us that when they increase it, it will mean abundant life for the people. No! Until the leakages are blocked and the rampant corruption in the country checked, until people who are corrupt are punished to serve as deterrent to others, then the government will be playing a game of chess with the entire 140 million Nigerians.”
The former chairman of Lagos Chapter of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Comrade Abubakar Sulaiman opined that those who are in the industry know that it is a fraud, adding that the most important issue now is that there must be palliative meassures put in place.
“We at PENGASSON have told government that before they deregulate, there must be palliatives. They should make the existing refineries work so that we can start local production first to full capacity. With that, we can be sure of about 50 per cent of our consuption and if there is need for importation, then it will be minimal, the private sector can handle that and there will be true competition.”
He noted that over the years, what has been happening was a delibrate attempt to render the refineries ineffective. “They delibrately grounded the refineries and at the same time some crooks in NNPC and the Marketers are the ones reaping this money. So, corruption is number one issue that must be handled. Secondly, bearing in mind that none of the refineries is working, if you now deregulate, there will be what we call price parity. The landing cost for PMS for example will be about N140, so it will pose a huge problem not only on the people but even on the economy. This is because many industries that use generators will have the challenge of cost. If we are going to deregulate something must be given back to the people,” he said.
Government seems to be more obsessed with its deregulation policy than the transparency of its process. If not, what has it done to crush the cartel that has been subjecting the Nigerian people to untold hardship or what has it done to uncover and deal with the huge theft going on in the industry?
Government said it spent N1.3trillion on subsidy. It had bugeted N240billion. As it is now, nobody is sure of the actual amount of what subsidy on petroleum takes. Chief Kokori said the country only subsidised the interest of the cartel. “Nothing is being subsidised.
I think only the cartel is being subsidised. When you don’t produce your own fuel which we are capable of doing, it becomes a problem. In 1980/81, the Warri and Kaduna refineries were opened, and the newest was 2nd Port-Harcourt refinery which came about two or three years later.”
“So, for a period of 28 years, no one refinery was good, and for a period of about five years, three new refineries were built and for 28 years, no new refinery came on board. Is that a good situation for a good country? One of the biggest producers of oil in the world! You now sacrificed the people for failing to refine our own product here.
Honestly, how much do you pay the workers? Labour is so cheap in Nigeria and our crude is one of the best in the world. Look at what they are bringing into the country, these are the most inferior products around. I know the type of Kerosene we produced in Warri refinery and not this rubblish that goes up in flames and dries up in few minutes.
These are the kind of infereior products these cartel brings into the country. This is the problem we have. So, a country that could not fix its refineries and discipline the thieves turn…Mondy is holding the cartel. It is a disgrace and a big shame that they allow these people to rid the country dry.”
“The government only says there is a cartel without doing anything. I dont think any serious government will do that. They keep giving the people this rubbish year in year out. The people are just helpless. You are now saying you want to subsidise because you say you use N1.3trillion. Why not build two refineries with that? You could build two good refienries with that. So, to me it does not make sense. There is no subsidy,” he opined.
“If we have our own refineries and we are producing, the hightest we would have been paying is about N35 per liter and we will export and gain foreign exchange. The insistence of government to take these products out for refining and sell them to you at a price six times more than what it should have been, and you buy it with your currency as a few cartel rakes in billions of dollars, the people are suffereing and you are now coming again saying you are removing subsidy, it is senseless.”
On the ability of labour unions to save the situation, he said: “If the Nigeria Labour Congress and other trade unions allow them, then it is a shame. Let me also say the union themselves are not what they used to be in my own time but I know we still have that solidarity, just like the media has its own problem.
It used to be very strong in those days and I know they make sacrificice and put their lives on the line. These days, it is if you can’t beat them, then join them. I still believe in the union because they have the mechanism of checking the trend.”
Comrade Sulaiman also holds the same view, saying, “Nobody knows the actual amount. The whole thing is a fraud. But what I can tell you is that according to NNPC officials, they say they say they are consuming close to 52million liters of PMS per day. To me, it is a fraud.” “We don’t even know what we consume per day.
That is the area they have to investigate. Nobody knows the actual amount we are using in servicing the subsidy and you will be surprised that if we deregulate we might not be consuming up to half of what they claim we are consuming because what they are packaging together is just inflated figures.”
He however suggested that if there is proper deregulation, industries will thrive and will work to full capacity. “You will see the full potentials of our industries, we will eventually be exporters of crude oil bye products. But the building of the refineries should come first because this is what we have been telling them for more than five years now. What they do is to call for turn around maintenance and at the end of the day it will not work.
But now, look at Iran, it deregulated recently. It focused on its working class and injected the gains of subsidy into the finances of the people. That will be alright if they can work out that. In Ghana, despite the fact that they have not got crude oil, the refineries function effectively and that has great impact on the economy of the nation.
“The issue of deregulation has been on for more than 10 years now, we have been saying they should not deregulate but we realise people capitalise on that stand and have been exorting the nation. Labour is discussing, but for us in PENGASSON, it is going to be a very serious issue.
The downstream sector of oil and gas is dying, but we also realise that there is no way government will deregulate without its consequences on the people. So, we are looking for a win-win situation. Part of these is that if there must be deregulation, there must be palliatives. We are ready to work with gvernment to see how it will be resolved. We are not saying total ‘no’ to deregulation but it must come with human face,” the former union leader said.