By Diana Omueza
Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has expressed support for fuel subsidy removal, even as it called for immediate palliatives to cushion the effects of the removal on Nigerians.
National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Mr Ken Robinson, said this on Thursday at a virtual news conference.
Robinson urged President Bola Tinubu not to be swayed by sentiments being expressed in some quarters but to immediately roll out the palliatives to cushion the hardship which the removal might have on the people.
He said that there was no need for phased subsidy removal, saying that the subsidy regime itself was marred with fraud.“Fuel subsidy is a serious issue.
It has been abused and there is an expression that extreme disease requires extreme cure.“Fuel subsidy is Nigeria’s economic disease that needs to be eradicated.
“We at PANDEF support the fuel subsidy removal. We advise the Federal Government not to shift ground or postpone its implementation.
“It will just be an evil day postponed because subsidy is a draining pipe of the nation’s resources.
“We understand that the president’s statement during his inauguration that subsidy was gone was not timely, as it should have been announced at a later time after engaging the stakeholders.
“However, we urge the president to stand strong and maintain his position, but create situations that will cushion the effects of the subsidy removal.
“We know there are known things that will follow the removal. For instance, transport cost has risen, food prices will rise and government must immediately bring some initiatives to cushion the hardship,” he said.
Robinson, however, said that the palliatives should be different from those that used to be selective.
“Government should engage stakeholders to put in place palliatives, not the usual palliative that used to be grossly selective in distribution.
“Government should look into sectional interventions; transportation is key and it will affect the prices of food. So government needs to meet with the leadership of road transport workers to stabilise transportation cost.
“Mass transit buses have to come in to convey workers to and fro their places of work. The initiatives that will complement agriculture should also be looked into,” he said.
According to him, subsidy removal is for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians.
Robinson said that the un-unified pump prices of fuel across the nation was as expected due to the location of the functional port in the country and the cost of transportation to other parts.
He, however, advised government to reactivate the non-functional ports across the country, especially in the southern part, to further stabilise pump prices of petroleum products.
Robinson stated that the removal of subsidy wad not any kind of payback by the president to Nigerians, but an extreme measure that must be taken to revive the country’s economy.
“There are a lot of sentiment and ssensational talks around it, but we must be careful and address the issue well.
“We cannot say that subsidy removal is a payback by the president to Nigerians for the outcome of the elections, no it has nothing to do with it.
“Everybody is affected, both APC members, PDP members, Labour party members, none party members, Muslims, Christians, everybody in the country including the family members of the president will be affected.
“It is an extreme measure that is needed to be taken because fuel subsidy cannot be sustained,” he said.
He called for the removal of the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) for heightening the needless hardship of Nigerians through the release of reviewed upward prices of pumps.