The Presidency, yesterday, justified the recent increase in the pump price of premium motor spirit (PMS) popularly called petrol, as well as the hike in electricity tariff, describing both as outcomes of the removal of subsidies in the energy sector.
The government had a week ago pegged the exdepot price of petrol for September at N151.56k. This has pushed the product’s price to between N158 and N162 per litre, while electricity tariff went up by 150 per cent.
Many Nigerians have expressed outrage over these price hike and regarded them as insensitive actions on the part of the government considering the poor state of the economy and the low standard of living of the citizenry.
However, the Presidency has described the price hike as tough decisions which had to be taken to put back the economy on the path of sustainable development.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, who made the assertion on behalf of the government, said the administration took a decision to implement some long-delayed reforms, by withdrawing subsidies on petroleum products and consummating privatisation of the power sector in order to allow market forces to determine their prices. The presidential aide said that in the last five years, the Buhari administration had worked hard to stop the mismanagement of taxpayers’ money, eliminate corruption associated with subsidies on petroleum products, power, and fertilizer among others.
These moves, he said, were part of the administration’s efforts to meet the many expectations of the people. He blamed previous administrations for not having the courage to take the tough decisions even when they knew it was the right way to go for the survival of the country.
“Subsidy removal in these sectors had long been foreseen by successive administrations as game changers in search of solutions to move forward with the nation’s development. These are reforms that are necessary and overdue. Blueprint upon blueprint, timeline upon timeline had come and gone but courage to take bold decisions was not there.
“Over the last few days, one claim acquiring a potent resonance with the online community, sections of the labour movement and the opposition is that the actions are ill-timed and ill-advised.
“There is nothing new in the fact that the country is today fighting multiple challenges along with COVID- 19, including low earnings, near-collapse of the oil market, floods, threats of terrorism and banditry but the challenges notwithstanding, a good government must take decisions for the people’s good.
“As President, Muhammadu Buhari takes these difficult decisions, both popular and unpopular and as a leader because he is demonstrating the right courage to take such decisions as they become necessary in view of present circumstances,” he said.
Shehu said that history will be kind to Buhari because in addition to his ability to command votes, he has made real contributions to economic growth and overall national development by eliminating the corruption embedded in subsidies.
“In any democracy, the most important certificate in governance is acceptance by the people and, with the support of ordinary Nigerians, President Buhari has shown a rare determination to carry out the bold initiatives as these ones driven by nothing other than the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
“In carrying out the reforms, the President needs the support and understanding of all citizens – inclusive of the opposition parties, the labour movement and civil society groups.
“In these challenging times, the President is pushing development goals not politics and history will judge him in favourable terms rather than his critics in the new media and the opposition,” Shehu said.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its affiliate unions, had, in the wake of the price increment, threatened to embark on a nationwide mass protests to demonstrate public disapproval of these policies and their impacts on the masses