Worried by the dwindling fortunes of the average Nigerian under the democratic system and the constitutional challenges confronting the country since it gained independence in 1960, the Convener of Save Nigeria Group (SNG), Pastor Tunde Bakare has reiterated the call for the Nigerian system and structure to be completely overhauled.
Insisting that the present political situation in the country, where about 27 states in the federation were broke and unable to pay salaries, the cleric said such a system of dependent, non-viable federating units was unsustainable.
Speaking on the recent fuel price hike from N86, 50 to N1.45k in a message titled: ‘The courage to do the right thing’ in Lagos yesterday, Bakare who was also the running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2011 Presidential election posited that the present political imbroglio and economic challenges demanded self-examination beyond the subsidy question “they are a call for a new geo-economic order. The call towards restructuring must be embraced while ensuring, through intelligent engagement, that the government is kept on its toes in delivering its promises to Nigerians.”
He however urged that the civil society, labour and the Nigerian people should collaborate and engage the government intelligently in finding solutions to the subsidy conundrum among other crises confronting the Nigerian nation.
Bakare further appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on the need to implement pro-people ideas and to do all that must be done to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians and assuage the rage of the poor.
The cleric, who championed the mass protest against the January 2012 fuel price hike by former Presidential Goodluck Jonathan, which led to the occupation of the Freedom Park, Lagos urged that this moment was not for the mobilisation of the citizenry in mass protest against an oppressive government “but for all hands to be on deck to help a government that apparently genuinely seeks the welfare of the Nigerian but is faced with overwhelming challenges.”
He however recommended as follows: that the government should rework its communication strategy to ensure that Nigerians were carried along prior to, during and following the implementation of new policies, which must be communicated clearly and transparently to Nigerians on the current petrol price policy as to whether or not the latest move was merely a hike in price or an actual deregulation.
According to him, “Even if it is the first step in the process of deregulation, Nigerians would want to know what happens if market conditions, in particular, foreign exchange realities, mandate a further increase in pump price? Would we, at that point, revert to subsidising? These matters transcend mere ‘grammatical nomenclatures’ as the Minister of State for Petroleum has termed them. They are very important issues and Nigerians deserve clarity.”
He also suggested that good and effective governance at the federal, state and local levels must become the pivot of all palliative measures to alleviate and, indeed, end, the sufferings of the masses. “To this end, we demand effective, efficient and transparent implementation of the 2016 budget, particularly the capital expenditure provisions and the social welfare programme.”
The cleric also wanted the government to extend the anti-corruption war beyond the misappropriated defense funds generally referred to as Dasuki Gate saying, “It should include the 2010-2011 fuel subsidy regime that has been linked to the theft of over one trillion naira of public funds in an election year. Indicted firms and persons should be investigated and stolen funds recovered, and these recovered funds should be injected, by way of a supplementary budget, into mitigating our infrastructural decay as well as the social welfare programme.” He added that nothing short of a complete deregulation of the sector, characterised by adequate local refining, would salvage the petrol crisis in Nigeria.
To him a Downstream Sector Bill should be sent to the National Assembly to pave the way for a completely deregulated regime, saying: “In the absence of a Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which is being delayed due to, among other factors, its extensive coverage, such a bill would replace the archaic regime provided by such laws as the Petroleum Act 1969 in terms of downstream sector administration. This is important because the average Nigerian is more directly affected by the downstream sector.”
He said the proposed Downstream Sector Bill would recognise the need for small businesses and households to access PMS for generator usage until the power sector stabilises, and should make adequate provision for it. The current situation, where well-meaning Nigerians seeking fuel to power their generators are clamped down along with black marketers, is unacceptable.”
Bakare suggested that the proposed bill should be made to empower the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), in conjunction with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), to locate and dismantle cartel-pricing syndicates in the liberalised era.
Pointing out the difference between the Buhari 2016 subsidy crisis and that of his immediate predecessor, Jonathan, the Senior Pastor of Latter Rain Assembly said, “Those who accuse us of keeping silent ignore the salient facts that the current situation differs significantly from the corruption-ridden 2012 subsidy crisis which we rose against.”
According to him, “In 2012, we were not against the economic arguments behind fuel subsidy removal, instead, we wanted the government to investigate the subsidy regime, bring culprits in the maladministration of that regime to book and recover stolen funds before commencing the policy discourse around subsidy removal’’.