Thursday, October 20, 2011
There’s no fuel subsidy in Nigeria, says David-West
Former Petroleum Minister, Prof Tam David- West, yesterday added a new dimension to festering controversies on attempt by the Federal Government to remove subsidy on petroleum products.
He said there had never been petroleum subsidy in Nigeria and that the term was only coined to deceive Nigerians into believing that government is subsidising prices of petroleum products, which ought to be higher than what they are. David-West, who served under the military government of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari and Major-General Ibrahim Babangida respectively, as such cautioned President Goodluck Jonathan “never to contemplate increasing petroleum prices. “He should resist all pressure from all sides.
The mere thought of increasing petroleum prices is an irresponsible thought. There is no subsidy. The concept of petroleum subsidy is fraudulent. General Buhari was Petroleum Minister under Generals Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo respectively, before he later became Head of State. I was also Petroleum Minister under him. And both of us independently addressed the congress of the world that any form of petroleum subsidy is fraudulent. “During the time of Obasanjo, he unilaterally increased fuel prices.
The poor people are suffering while people in government are getting fatter. They are under the burden of bad governance. I know somebody in the Senate who in 1984 could not service his car. Now, he is so fat, earning N34 million and government cannot pay N18,000 minimum wage,” he bemoaned.
David-West lampooned “government negligence and sabotage by its officials in crippling the country’s refineries which, he said, had the capacity to meet both domestic and international demands, to the relief of the ordinary Nigerian. “While the poor man is suffering, the government is telling him, ‘tighten your belt’. He keeps tightening his belt until his hip is broken. Contrarily, those in government are increasing the size of their belt, every month. “
When Obasanjo was in power, I told him, ‘go on national television and announce that petroleum price has been reduced to N50 per litre and see if NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) will close down. It will never close down. So, the concept of subsidy is made to deceive the people. “We have four refineries in this country; the contract for the Kaduna Refinery was signed by me in 1984.
The refinery was rated as one of the best the world over. Years later, they deliberately damaged it. They have to sabotage the refineries so as to import fuel from abroad. And for every barrel sabotaged, they make millions the year round. “I, Tam David-West, can afford to pay N100 for petrol per litre. But what of the ordinary man in the street?
If you increase petroleum price, other things, commodity goods will increase.” He also condemned the position of the state governors who at their recent Forum agreed to pay the new minimum wage provided the fuel subsidy goes and what is recouped is pumped into the federation accounts to buoy monthly allocations to the states.
Expressing disgust, David-West said, “The comment by governors that they can pay N18, 000 minimum wage, contingent on removal of petroleum subsidy is an irresponsible thing to say. “If governors stop stealing of public funds, paying the new minimum wage will not be difficult. For all I know, N18,000 is cheap. The Nigeria Labour Congress should stop talking; they should take action, they should go to the streets. “
These governors are riding in cars free of charge; they are not paying for petrol, they eat free food, live in free accommodation and don’t have to buy their clothes or pay the tailors to sew them. Why must the poor people suffer, why?” He asked rhetorically.