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Oodua People’s Congress, OPC, has lampooned the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government’s ‘change’ mantra, which it said had headed downhill, “with Nigeria having her domestic issues amplified and magnified negatively.”
Addressing the press in Lagos yesterday, founder of OPC, Dr. Frederick Fasehun said if truth be told, the last one year of the regime of President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress, APC, has witnessed unprecedented “change,” with the naira at its all-time low and inflation has spiralled to an all-time high.
Fasehun, who is also the national chairman of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, said that Buhari should not be deceived as Nigeria had degenerated since he took over and the lives of Nigerians were harder with living standards fallen.
According to him, “When Buhari took over last year, a sachet of pure water went for N5, but now it sells for between N10 and N15. The Nigerian naira has diminished among world currencies.
“As against N205 in the parallel market when Buhari took over on May 29, 2015, the naira today exchanges for N385 against $1 and N505 against £1. Importers are starved of foreign exchange. Nigeria has never had it this bad. Worse still is that the petroleum industry/commodity which supplies the available foreign exchange is on the official counter being starved of foreign exchange to import products for local consumption.
“There is famine in the land! How can tomato sell at N100 per fruit, 1,000 percent rise above its price last year? How can rice jump from N10,000 last year to N14,000 currently? N200 paint-bucket measure of garri is now N600? Yet our leaders pretend that all is well.”
On the recent hike in pump price of petrol, he said, “ Recently, the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, jolted the country when he announced a new base price for PMS or petrol. Instead of the pump price of N86.50 per litre that government fixed last year, the minister informed that government had jacked up the price to N145 per litre. That price differential of N58.50 represents a 67 percent increase.
“The excuse is that government can no longer subsidise the product in the face of the dwindling naira value. With a naira whose fall has become the butt of stand-up comedy, it means that the fuel price will further sky-rocket.
“Coming only after months of domestic fuel shortage at the fuel stations, the price increment not only smacks of a mischievous begging of the question of government solving the headache of epileptic fuel supply, it is uncharitable. Prior to that satanic announcement, Nigerians had endured endless and daily queuing at fuel stations. And instead of facing the issue, the government sent police after ‘black market’ youths with jerry-cans, who are only seizing the opportunity of the shortage to make quick money.
“People were told to bring their generators all the way to fuel stations in order to purchase fuel to power businesses and home appliances, a practice that is utterly dehumanising.
“And then Kachikwu dropped the bombshell of a fuel price increase. Not only is the increase in pump price of fuel a dangerous and illegal step, it is wicked, insensitive, reckless, irresponsible, ill-advised and evil. In some countries, it is enough to cause a social upheaval. In a parliamentary system, it is enough reason to pass a vote-of-no-confidence on the government and call for early elections. In some places it is enough to call for the president to resign.
He pushed that the government should reverse the announced price as a matter of urgency, noting that petroleum pump price must revert to N86.50 or the president should resign immediately.
“The increment shows a hollow lack of understanding of basic Nigerian economics. Nigerian life revolves on the price of petrol. The price of fuel dictates the price of transportation, which dictates the price of all commodities, rents, bills, fees, etc.
“How will the government justify an increase of N58.50 when it has always maintained that the subsidy on imported PMS is N12? Nigerians should do the maths. N86.50 plus N12 is N98.50. Or has a petroleum tax of N46.50 been illegally and brazenly imposed on Nigerians? Nigerians demand to know.
“And how do you permit NNPC to import at the official exchange rate of N199 to the dollar and you force independent marketers to source their funds at the black market rate, currently N385; and yet both parties compete and operate in the same market, and then NNPC is allowed to dispense at the same pump price of N145?
“Such a price regime shows that government has completely lost touch with the reality of Nigerian life,” Fasheun averred
The OPC leader was equally of the opinion that it was a wron step for the federal government to wholly free the nation’s most critical sector to market forces.
“No country hands over its core and base commodity to be dictated by so-called ‘market forces.’ America subsidises agricultural products heavily; the US buys off excess crops from farmers and sometimes dumps them into the sea. Through such a system, the US puts money into farmers’ hands and regulates food prices, making food the cheapest item in US. The European Union and China subsidise their rail system. Britain and Australia subsidise coal and gas exploration. The US subsidises football and ethanol production.
“Like other nations of the world, Nigeria must subsidise a product common to all citizens, and today that product is petrol, along with diesel, kerosene and gas.
“And it remains a shame that Nigeria, the largest crude oil producer in Africa and the 12th in the world, should suffer any type of hiccups for domestic consumption of petroleum products. The fact is that Nigeria is blessed with vast rich oil resources, yet the giant of Africa fails to produce for its local consumption and shamelessly resorts to imports. No nation runs such a vagabond and prodigal economy.
“In the last one year, President Buhari has continued to follow the footsteps of his predecessors and refused to revamp the refineries. The government has been elected to manage the assets and liabilities of Nigeria. Those assets include the ailing refineries. Government must bring the country’s four refineries into full production capacity before inviting all stakeholders to renegotiate the price of petrol; and ultimately, local production (devoid of foreign exchange contents) will make the pump price of petrol cheaper, the Naira stronger and inflation lower,” he posited.
Reviewing the government’s economic team, he called for a quick draft into its economic management people like Chief Olu Falae, Malam Adamu Ciroma, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Mrs. Nenadi Esther Usman, Chief Isiaka Adeleke, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, Professor Pat Utomi, Dr. Chukwuma Soludo, Chief Frank Kokori, and the likes.