Richard Ginika Izuora
The National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, on Friday said it will shut down the country if the Federal Government removes petrol subsidy.
The Students body called on Nigerians and all its allied structures to be on the alert for further directives on the next action.
The President of NANS, Sunday Asefon, issued the threat during a press conference held in Abuja.
According to him, although NANS was not totally against deregulation, the conditions for such already agreed upon must be out in place before deregulation.
Asefon said, “None of those conditions is in place at the moment. It is therefore very strange that the Federal Government could contemplate the removal of fuel subsidy now.
“The four refineries are not functioning, and if they are functioning at all, it is at a near-zero level. There is zero consultation with stakeholders to even consider issues around deregulation and why it should or should not be. The survival of Nigerian workers and their wards is yet to be discussed, yet a date that may take lives out of them have been fixed.
“Furthermore, inflation is already passing a skyrocketing level. So we may need to find a word to describe the kind of inflation that will be experienced if the pump price of PMS goes above 200 per cent.
“In fact, we are very convinced that the Federal Government is acting impulsively on a matter as sensitive as this.
“NANS is rudely shocked by the statement credited to the Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari to the effect that Premium Motor Spirit could sell as much as three hundred and forty N340 by February 2022. This is said to be due to the plan of the Federal Government to remove fuel subsidy and usher in an era of so-called deregulation.
“Even more absurd is the proposal announced by the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajia Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed that N5,000 will be paid to 40 million vulnerable Nigerians to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal.
“NANS is still trying hard to make an iota of good sense out of this strange proposal. We shall return to this particular point.
“But let us first of all categorically state that on behalf of the suffering millions of Nigerian students and on behalf of the millions of the frustrated masses of the Nigerian people who are our parents, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, friends and neighbours, we reject this socio-economic evil proposal and we shall resist it.
“Nigerians are really suffering. We are in dire socio-economic straits. We are weeping in our hearts and souls. We are dying in silence. We feel the agony and anguish because we are practically involved. Therefore, any attempt to aggravate the social woes and economic manacles that we already face and wear will not only be unconscionable but reckless. It will amount to testing the patience of Nigerians too far. And we wish to warn against it.
“The country is very stretched and tensed. In case the government is not aware, we are passing them this intelligence free of charge now. Again we advise, let the government not stretch it further. The consequences will be dire. The people are already flamed. Mendacity will beget mendacity. NANS is happy that the organised labour and civil society groups have all rejected the proposal.
“We shall ensure that the entire country is shut down and paralysed should the Federal Government proceed with its insensitive plan of deregulation, or even any further increase in the pump price of fuel. We have had enough.
“We know that neo-liberal and imperial economists will soon emerge to confuse themselves with some well-rehearsed stale analysis and commentaries. Let us tell them already that nothing can change except the practical reality of the socio-economic condition of Nigerians changes.
“No deregulation can happen on the basis of import-driven deregulation. We are aware of our reality with all the ones already deregulated, including Kerosene, diesel and cooking gas (which price has gone totally out of control).”
Beyond the issues already raised, NANS said that in the 2022 Appropriation Bill, the Federal Government already provided for fuel subsidy.
NANS, therefore, wondered why government would provide for what it plans to eliminate.
Asefon said, “Upon which data did the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning determine that only 40 million Nigerians are vulnerable? And what is the definition of vulnerability in our socio-economic context? Where does she intend to generate the money which will be paid to those 40 million Nigerians since there is no provision for it in the 2022 Appropriation Bill?
“Is it not very strange economics to rob the poor to pay the poor even lower?
“On which economic sense or theory does five thousand Naira (5,000) per month ‘cushion the inflationary effect of 200 per cent increment on the central economic item of a country?
“It is really sad that government can contemplate something as critical as deregulating the petroleum sector without thinking it through, without consultation and without a robust debate.
“As far as we are concerned, this sinister plan is the quest of government to get money at all costs to squander and finance the ostentatious lifestyles of public officers and senior civil servants. And for these selfish reasons, Nigerians much suffer to breaking limits for it. Again, we reiterate that it is a total no, never.
“We, therefore, call on the Federal Government to rescind the plan till adequate arrangements like refining at home and utilising our petrochemical by-products are made. Then after that, there will be a robust discussion by all stakeholders to deal with associated socio-economic issues and discuss the details of the new regime. It is only on this condition that there can be a corresponding social equilibrium, economic prosperity, job and wealth creation for Nigerians.
“And while we hope that Federal Government will heed this patriotic advice, we call on all our comrades, allies and all structures of NANS to be on the alert. Nobody should be swayed or distracted. Because freedom comes by struggle, we shall struggle to free ourselves from further socio-economic chains.”