SUBSIDY REMOVAL: FG NEEDS TO WIN TRUST OF NIGERIANS — TUC PRESIDENT
Mr Festus Osifo, president, Trade Union Congress (TUC), says Nigerians are not averse to the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) but waiting for the government to win their trust over the issue.
Osifo spoke during a panel session at the Association of Energy Correspondents of Nigeria (NAEC) Strategic International Conference in Lagos.
The topic of the session was “Energy Transition, PIA, Petroleum Pricing and the Way Forward for the Downstream Sector.”
He noted that majority of Nigerians were not really interested in energy transition but were only concerned about affordable and reliable energy.
Osifo, who is also the president of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), noted that the downstream sector had not achieved its potential due to the thorny issue of PMS subsidy.
He said apart from communicating with the people to create an attitudinal change, the government must lead by example by cutting out wastage and making sacrifices that would help Nigeria overcome its economic challenges.
“The Presidency should come out and say that they are reducing their budget. The National Assembly also needs to do so. That is leading by example.
“Nigerians are not really averse to the subsidy removal but the government must be ready to demonstrate not just by talking but by doing and by acting.
“The government must demonstrate that if subsidy must go, this must reflect in our education, it must reflect in our healthcare and also our level of infrastructure.
“So, the trust deficit that Nigerians have must be addressed before we can make any progress,” Osifo said.
However, Mr Olumide Adeosun, Chairman, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), called for a phased removal of PMS subsidy to mitigate its impact on ordinary Nigerians.
Adeosun, who was represented by Mr Clement Isong, Executive Secretary, MOMAN, said the N5 trillion subsidy payment by the government was unsustainable and putting a huge strain on the nation’s forex reserves.
He said the best option was to fully deregulate the sector and allow market forces to determine the price while also investing the subsidy gains in other critical areas such as mass transportation, healthcare and education.
Similarly, Dr Gabriel Ogbechie, Group Managing Director, Rainoil Ltd., said the global average price currently for PMS was N516 per litre, which was way higher than the N175 per litre it was being sold in Nigeria.
Ogbechie said the government should not only deregulate but also initiate a petrol tax to fund maintenance and construction of critical infrastructure across the country.