In a statement made available to journalists in Ibadan, the priests, comprising of Ibadan, Ondo, Oyo, Ilorin, Ekiti, and Osogbo dioceses, described the action of the governmnet as “inappropriate”.
Their statement read: “Having carefully examined the political and economic reasons advanced by the Federal Government to justify the removal of petroleum subsidy, we wish to express our regrets and reservations.
“We feel that economic considerations were prioritised over moral implications and immediate public interests in the timing of this subsidy removal.”
The statement by signed by Most Rev. Felix Alaba Job on behalf of the Ibadan Ecclesiatical Province, said before removing the subsidy, the Federal Government alluded to huge irregularities and corruption associated with the provision of petroleum products in Nigeria, while expressing regrets that the government failed to prosecute the culprits in the aftermath of its discovery.
The statement continued: “The Federal Government did not allay palpable fears of harsher economic effects on the average Nigerian nor did it take any action to protect or support the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians. The harsh consequences of the eventual removal of subsidy have been instantaneous. Many Nigerians who went to their hometowns and villages to celebrate Christmas and the New Year could not even afford the cost of returning to their places of work.
“The first duty of government is to guarantee the security of lives and property. Therefore, to simply allude to fraudulent practices in the petroleum sector without any serious effort to sanction its perpetrators, and to go on instead to remove subsidy as a way of forestalling fraud is to punish the already vulnerable and victimized Nigerian consumer. This action, taken at this most inauspicious period of national grief and emergency is tantamount to what we have referred to in the past as governance by ambush.”
The Catholic priests further added that the FG merely penalized the ordinary citizens for the sins of those who practiced fraud and noted that the country had a tradition of making the poor to suffer in the selfish interest of a few, while observing that there were too many political appointees, ministries and committees at federal, state and local levels.
“We consider it immoral to run a government of such dysfunctional dimension and cost. We declare that it is immoral to impose removal of petroleum subsidy on economically weakened Nigerians while political office holders continue to live in embarrassing opulence.
“It is, therefore, our strong opinion that the debate on subsidy was presented, a fait accompli to veil the fact that the issues involved are far more complex. The powers of state should never have been used to impose removal of petroleum subsidy without putting in place concrete definable measures to cushion the emasculating effects of such an action on the most vulnerable segments of the Nigerian population.”