Osinbajo: Buhari resisted subsidy removal

*Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

*Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

…As NNPC drops petrol price to N143 per litre at own stations

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

19 May 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has sought to defend his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari over last week’s increase in fuel price, saying the president had no choice but to approve it.

Osinbajo also tried to explain the thinking within the Federal Executive Council as the nation roiled under an intractable and prolonged fuel scarcity, that was beginning to threaten the legitimacy of the year-old Federal government.

In a statement issued by his media aide, Mr. Laolu Akande, Osinbajo, who spoke at the public presentation of a collection of essays edited by Mr. Yusuf O. Ali (SAN), said the president was left with no choice but to act in the face of a disorderly downstream sector, a flailing naira and a volatile national economy.

The vice-president said the president did not want the fuel price to go up. “He was left with no choice; what can we do if we don’t have foreign currency? We have to import fuel. If there is one person in Nigeria that believes that the petrol price should not go up by one naira, it is President Buhari,” he noted.

Osinbajo said that even if all the refineries were working, the country would only be able to produce 40 percent of domestic demand and would still have to import.

“In the absence of foreign exchange and you have to import your refined petroleum products, what are you left with?” he asked.

He said that a lot of the problems associated with the refineries were corruption-related, and also blamed corruption for the non-payment of salaries by many states in the country.

“When we look at corruption and its deleterious consequences, we must relate it directly to what we are experiencing at this time,” he added.

He noted that the nation’s foreign reserves stood at $27 billion at a time the country has to investigate the alleged diversion of $15 billion from one sector (defence sector) of the country alone.

According to him, “That is over half of the entire reserves of the country. We are investigating cases, which show that over $15 billion was lost in one type of contract alone. We are not talking of oil contracts costing billions; we are only talking of security-related contracts alone. This is not just stealing the resources of the country, it is stealing the future as well.”

The vice president warned that corruption poses an existential threat to the country, adding that, “Corruption has no label, it is not just a social evil, it is an existential threat to our country. There is no doubt at all that what we have is unlike other countries, (where) people say that there is corruption everywhere, which is true.

“But I think the one distinguishing feature for Nigeria and for many other countries like ours is that it is a threat that directly affects the lives and livelihoods of everyone.

“It is not just an evil, it is not just an immorality, it is an existential threat because it could truly destroy lives and it has destroyed many lives and has continued to destroy the Nigerian economy.”

Osinbajo’s remarks coincided with the directive by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to its retail stations located in city centres across the country to sell petrol at N143 per litre, N2 below the maximum price approved by PPPRA.

The N143 pump price would apply to NNPC stations in city centres across the country while a lower price would apply at its stations in semi-urban and rural parts of the country.

However, other stations owned by independent and major oil marketers would still dispense petrol at N145 per litre.

When contacted to clarify this development, the Group General Manager, Public Affairs of the NNPC, Mallam Garba Deen Muhammad, confirmed the revised price for NNPC stations and price disparity.

Muhammad explained that the N143 price would apply to the corporation’s retail stations in towns and cities in the country while a lower price would be used by its stations located in semi-urban and rural centres.

Giving reasons for the disparity, he said the corporation wants to keep the price gap with other marketers very slim in the cities, but significantly different in the hinterland where demand is much lower.

He said: “If the gap is too wide in the cities, then you will find that all NNPC retail stations will be jam-packed and in most cases they will cause traffic build-ups.

“But outside the cities, the price will be much lower. If the gap in the city is not too wide between other marketers and NNPC, you will find that the situation will be better managed.”

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