Fuel subsidy to remain in 2013 – Jonathan

20 November 2012, Sweetcrude, Abuja – President Goodluck Jonathan said on Sunday night that Nigerians would continue to enjoy subsidy on petrol in 2013, thereby debunking insinuations that the Federal Government had planned to scrap the subsidy regime completely by the end of this year.

Jonathan said in Abuja during the Presidential Media chat that there was no provision for total removal of subsidy in 2013 budget which is before the National Assembly. “If we are going to remove subsidy from January, as you are afraid we will do, we couldn’t have made provisions for it in the 2013 budget. We have made provisions from January till December,” Jonathan said during the Presidential Media Chat aired live on network television and radio.

“I did not say we are deregulating. But all what we are saying is that if we are to get to that level of Canada, the policy that existed in January, which is public-private sector driven, we have to adopt that in Nigeria.”

The President also spoke on a range of burning national issues, including the convocation of a Sovereign national Conference, the 2015 election, and  constitution amendment. On the shortage of fuel and the return of queues at filling stations, the President said Nigerians should bear with his government.

He said, “This situation can manifest in different areas, some people may have the product and decide to manipulate the system so that they can get more money.

“I am asking Nigerians to bear with us. I got the report from the ( Aig) Imokhuede committee on Friday, an advanced copy of the report. The arguments by the marketers is that it is government that is owing them. But the preliminary report we have indicates that they owe the government.

“They (oil marketers) are businessmen; they could decide to manipulate the system to get more money. I got a copy of the report. We will look into it. Experts are being brought in to do forensic audit. The human element is there, and we have our own challenges. I believe that by the time we finish sanitizing the oil sector, the issue of fuel queue will be put behind us for good.”

Jonathan, however, said Nigerians would have to wait till 2014 to know whether he would contest in the 2015 presidential race or not. He nonetheless noted that four years was too short to make an impact.

“Four years is a very short time for a person to make an impact. Immediately you start talking about elections. Give us time. Before you start asking Mr. President whether he will contest elections, wait until 2014. Give us some time to make sure that myself and my cabinet work,” he said.

He said it was too early to ask “a sitting President whether he will contest elections or not.” The President added, “This is one of the reasons we agitated for this single tenure issue. If a President tells you today that I am contesting it will generate a lot of issues; I am not contesting will also generate a lot of issues.

“If I say I am not contesting some of my cabinet ministers will even resign and go because most of them, if not all of them, are qualified to contest the position. So we have a four year tenure which is quite short, because if you look at the African scenario, it ranges from 4 years to seven.

“Some countries have five years, like South Africa, some seven years, others six years of double tenures, but we operate what we copied from the United States of America.” President Goodluck Jonathan also made a barely veiled reply to former President Olusegun Obasanjo who criticised his handling of the Boko Haram crisis as “slow”.

Obasanjo had said Boko Haram would have been nipped in the bud, if the government had been fast as, according to him, he did about Odi in 1999 when he deployed troops in the Bayelsa community. Jonathan said the deployment of troops did not solve any problem.

The President said innocent people, including women and children, were killed. Jonathan said: “It was old men and women and children that were killed. None of the militants was killed.

“Bombarding Odi was meant to solve a problem but it never solved any. The attack on Odi never solved the militancy problem.”

The President said there was no negotiation going on with the Boko Haram sect because it remains a faceless group.

“There is no dialogue that is going on anywhere,” he said.
“Presently, government is not dialoguing with Boko Haram. There is no dialoguing between Boko Haram and government. Though there was a news item talking about dialogue, but Boko Haram is still operating under cover; they wear masks; there is no face. So, we do not have anybody to discuss with.”

The President said a sovereign national conference could not be convened now. He said, “When you mention the word sovereign, people get frightened. The basic thing I believe, as a President who has taken an oath to defend the constitution of Nigeria, is that whatever we do, we should keep in line with the constitution, and the citizens should send their views on the constitution to the National Assembly.

“If today we jettison the provision of the constitution, we will run into anarchy and the best option is to keep in line with the provision of the constitution.”

Commending the constitution review by the National Assembly, he said that Nigerians were being allowed to debate all issues. Jonathan said “You expose issues to all Nigerians, individual groups, religious groups, social cultural groups, ethnic groups, youth groups and all other patriotic groups have the opportunity to make inputs to the constitution.”

On the call for referendum, the President said that what the National Assembly was doing had the elements of a referendum. He said, “What we are doing has satisfied the issue of referendum. Because in a referendum we would want to know the opinion of people, the thinking of the people on a particular subject matter.

“What the National Assembly is doing is that they are going from state to state, from constituency to constituency, from zone to zone to collate the thinking of the people, in terms of the provisions of the constitution in the areas that
affect them.”

The President also said that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), had been working on the report of the Justice Belgore Committee on constitution review. Jonathan said that he would not comment on issues that were being discussed in the ongoing constitution review.

The President acknowledged that Nigerians had rejected the single tenure he suggested given their reactions to the idea. “I made that statement on a single tenure, just to solve that problem of the overheating of the polity. But I believe from the reactions so far that Nigerians feel that the best thing to do is to maintain the double-tenure (system). That is why we made sure that we sanitise our electoral system. Of course you can agree with me that, that is one area where we have done very well,” he said.

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