Governors: Subsidy Removal’ll Create Jobs, Growth
For the first time since the federal government removed the petroleum subsidy, the 36 governors of the federation have thrown their weight behind the government’s decision.
They said the removal of the subsidy would help generate employment in the country and grow the economy.
After a three-hour meeting, the governors in a two-paragraph communiqué signed by the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, said the governors appreciated the decision to deregulate the oil sector.
“It is a sacrifice that we must make as a nation for the country to move forward. The forum reassures Nigerians that the proceeds from subsidy will be utilized to develop the nation and the different states, create employment and grow the economy in the areas of power, infrastructure, security, education and agriculture,” the forum said.
The governors appealed to Labour not to go on strike but to dialogue with government to find a lasting solution to this situation.
On security situation in the country, the governors said, “In view of the threat by some unpatriotic elements, we urge all Nigerians to remain in any part of the country and go about their legitimate business.
“We reassure Nigerians that the Federal Government of Nigeria and the different states have the capacity to protect all Nigerians. We condemn the current spate of bombings and shootings that paint the picture of secretarian violence and urge the Federal Government to prosecute all those who are perpetrating these heinous crimes”.
President Jonathan entered into the closed door meeting with the Governors at 9pm.
The meeting which had been slated for the morning hours was rescheduled for 8.30pm but did not start untill 9pm when about 16 governors or their deputies, Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu, and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, arrived at the meeting.
President Goodluck Jonathan, however, said for any meaningful progress that will impact positively on the lives of the people to be made in the country, the subsidy on petrol would have to be removed. Jonathan spoke at the Presidential Villa when Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, visited him to discuss issues of rural development under the Millennium Development Goals.
Jonathan said the burden of the subsidy was becoming unwieldy to the extent that the government had to fund the capital budget which was the equivalent of the money used to subsidise fuel with borrowed funds.
He told Sachs that “no meaningful infrastructural development is possible in such an environment” and restated the resolve of his administration to make enduring interventions in power generation and supply, roads, railways, capacity-building and health which have been opened to the private sector.
Sachs had earlier commended Jonathan's MDG drive as “one of the most innovative schemes of using national resources for local government development,” which every Nigerian should support since it will free more funds for critical areas of need.
While commending the fuel subsidy removal policy as “a bold and correct policy”, he described the government’s intervention programmes in rural development in the past 24 months as innovatively ingenious.
"The grant scheme for the local government areas has been in preparation for the past 18 to 24 months. It is a highly innovative programme. The question is how will a big country like Nigeria with 155 million people and a federal structure use resources like the debt relief gains that were achieved by this country to reach the local people in the local villages, that is a great effort.”
Meanwhile, later last night, President Jonathan and the govermors agreed to press ahead with the removal of fuel subsidy but empower private transporters to run intra and inter state mass transit scheme.
Briefing newsmen after the meeting, Amaechi said the policy of deregulation has come to stay but they would collectively work to cushion the effects and apply the proceeds in the interest of the people.
“The governors agreed with the president that we are going carry. On with the removal of subsidy and confirm yes there is crises and observe that people are demonstrating about it but this is a sacrifice we have to make as a country to ensure that the oil industry is deregulated so that we can save money for other development.
“If we need to create employment then you must be able to focus on agriculture, education and others. We are trying to save money in that regard. What we at the State level is that Nigeria s should be able to ask the States and federal government what is accrues and what they intend to with the savings from fuel subsidy.
“Well we looked at mass transit because that is the first place oil subsidy has affected tremendously because cost of transportation has sky rocketed and we are looking at the possibility of ensuring that both the federal and State government get private operators to operate. Mass transit vehicles not these small small buses that can move people from one place to the other, intra city and inter city.
“Government intervene with the cost but not in terms of subsidy but in terms of the fact that we can guarantee loans that the operators can take from the banks so they can provide transport for the people.”