By Hassan Haruna Ginsau
A delegate at the national conference gave a solution to the debate on whether or not to remove the subsidy on fuel yesterday at the floor of the conference during the deliberations on the report of the conference’s committee on public finance and revenue.
Professor Anya. O. Anya, a delegate representing the Federal government told delegates that the debate on subsidy wasn’t about supporting or rejecting the committee’s proposal to remove the fuel subsidy, but rather for Nigeria to refine all of its crude oil by fixing its ailing refineries and building new ones.
In his address to delegates that was met by enormous applause, Anya told delegates they had reduced the argument to supporting or opposing subsidy, which in his view was “an oversimplification of a more complex issue”, while the issue really is how a country producing crude oil can be importing refined oil?
He went on to say that Nigeria “must have a comprehensive national plan with a timeline of how you will withdraw the subsidy. But that money is not for the government to put in its pocket, it will be tied to the development of the refining capacity of Nigeria. You take an insurance policy by putting the subsidy as a venture capital. Those who can and have the opportunity to develop a refinery will have access to that money but not free. When they have developed the refinery and it is running, they return the money, that’s how countries develop.
He noted that refining of petroleum products is the simplest procedure, that’s why in the Niger-Delta there are illegal oil refineries. “Any country that produces anything owes it to itself to refine whatever the product is. So what we ought to do really is to say what is the road map for us to refine all the crude that Nigeria produces, not some of it. Because as you do so you increase the value by 700%, and that’s wealth for the 170 million Nigerians. So that’s the solution,” said Anya.
In a session that was almost entirely dominated by the issue, delegates that were in support of the removal of the subsidy argued that the masses that the subsidy was supposed to aide were not benefitting from it as most Nigerians living outside Abuja and Lagos were not buying fuel at the controlled price of N97, but rather were fuelling their vehicles for as much as N140.
In support of the removal of the subsidy, Senator Aniete Okon, a delegate representing Akwa Ibom noted that subsidy payments have generated a catalogue of criminal investigations and were payments essentially funding non-existent and non-delivered services to the country.
“If you look at the horrendous sums paid out in the name of subsidy, they have no reflection on the pump price of petrol in reality, so I think we must stop living in denial and face the facts that subsidy payments are an institutionalized scam.”
Those against the removal of the subsidy however argued that the removal of the subsidy would negatively impact the already suffering masses, as the removal would increase the prices of other goods and services, thereby “compounding the already poor situation of the average Nigerian” according to Dr Magdalene Dura, a delegate representing Benue State.