Return fuel subsidy or account for proceeds — Arewa Economic Forum tells Tinubu, governors

A file photo of an attendant filling the fuel tank of a car.

 

The Arewa Economic Forum (AEF), an economic think-tank of intellectuals and business entrepreneurs of Northern Nigeria, has reacted to the financial situation in the country and called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to consider reversing the fuel subsidy removal policy and halt the disbursement of excess allocations to state governors.

The Forum Chairman, Alhaji Shehu Ibrahim Dandakata, who addressed a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, said lack of accountability and misplacement of priorities by governors is why poverty and hunger have hit an all-time low in the country.

As an alternative to resuming payment for the fuel subsidy, the Forum called on the President to find a way to make the state governors accountable for the excess allocations they have been getting so that the people can feel the impact.

Dandakata also urged the federal government to look at the country’s forex situation and query why the worth of dollars always goes up immediately after every Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting.

“Today’s address is coming at an auspicious time for the people of our great nation as they can hardly feed once a day, buy drugs and other essentials. Due to hyperinflation caused by fuel subsidy removal and the free fall of the Naira, our people have to pay more for everything with money that is not even there.

“At the risk of sounding alarmist, things are assuming the Hobbesian State of Nature in Nigeria where “Life is Brutish, Nasty and Short.” In line with our tradition at the Arewa Economic Forum (AEF), we are here to proffer solutions, not to heat up the polity or add to the tension already brewing in the land.

“To be fair to him, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu made it unambiguously clear during the electioneering campaign that he would remove fuel subsidy if he won the election. What he didn’t however warn Nigerians of is the unprecedented hardship this singular decision will cause for our people. But fuel subsidy removal is not all about bad news. It has at least caused massive increase in the monies shared at the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meetings with states going away with humongous figures on a monthly basis. But how has more money for governors to play with affected the lives of the masses? How?

“We at the AEF have found out that the huge sums of money available to state governors are not trickling down because the governors are not investing in areas that will reflate the state economy and are not committed to providing palliatives for the people.

“We are therefore calling on President Tinubu to reverse the subsidy removal policy and use the extra money FAAC has been giving to the states to resume paying subsidy on PMS. The President should do this urgently if he knows he can’t find a way within the limit of his constitutional powers and political influence to make the governors more accountable to the people.

“A check we conducted on recent FAAC allocations has shown that some of the states have had their allocations increased by up to 90 percent with little or no improvement in the lives of the people. The percentage increase in the allocations to states after fuel subsidy removal is humongous.

“We are also calling on the government to put together a proper social register that can be used to distribute food items to Nigerians without the involvement of the state governments. If the government can put together a voter register, it can also give us a credible social register,” he said.

On the forex crisis, the forum urged the the federal government to summon political will to arrest the free fall of the Naira by banning the practice of keeping dollars at home or in offices, and clampdown on all hoarders of dollars.

“The government should investigate why dollars go up after every FAAC meeting. Relevant government agencies should also ban the practice of paying for goods and services online in dollars.

“Dollar is not a legal tender in Nigeria. Every transaction must be in Naira as far as it is the country. If we don’t stop our obsession with the dollar, our Naira will never rise.”

The Forum also kicked against the idea of a State Police, which it said can be abused by governors for political advantage, saying the state government should rather empower the existing Police Constabulary with funds and logistics to be able to assist the security agencies in arresting the rising spate of insecurity in the country.

While urging state governments to work on making irrigation facilities accessible to farmers, the Forum urged the federal government to emphasise semi-mechanised farming that creates job opportunities for the unemployed and not fully merchandised farming that will just render our people jobless and redundant.

Dandakata said on mining: “The present administration has yet to come up with any clear-cut plan on artisanal mining, which is an untapped area for real, massive job creation. The government should concentrate on developing artisanal miners and not just the big companies.”

On education, the Forum called for emphasis “on teaching our young ones both the hard and soft skills that can give them real sustenance and make them useful to the economy. Skills rather than mere certificates should be the priority.”

By PRNigeria

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