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Political Intrigues Of Subsidy Removal

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In the past, several

attempts have been made to deregulate the downstream sector of the oil industry and this date back to the military era in the governance of Nigeria.

The former military President, General Ibrahim Badamesi Babaginda in 1986 engaged Nigerians in an elaborate debate over proposal for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan and the deregulation of the Petroleum Sector. The debate coordinated by the then Minister of Finance Kalu Idika Kalu generated interest among Nigerians as they argued for and against the intention of the government.

Like the President Goodluck Jonathan’s New Year’s gift to Nigerians, the idea which was absolutely rejected by majority of Nigerians inspite of government’s persuasion. Unfortunately the nationwide disapproval could not stop the Federal government from accessing the loan while the heat on deregulation defiled the Khaki, boot and gun to subsist with resultant increase in the pump price of petroleum products.

That was the scenario by successive administrations and even the born again democratic Olusegun Obasanjo merely settled for an increase in the pump price until the advent of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who took the bull by the horn and on January 1,2012; announced the total removal of petroleum subsidy.

As expected the pronouncement made the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to issue an ultimatum to the Federal government to revert to the old pump price regime of N65,00 per litre or face industrial dispute beginning from January 9.

The Federal government quickly constituted the Alfa Belgore Committee to dialogue with the organised labour in addition to a court injunction to stop the strike, but Labour leaders ignored the moves and went ahead with the strike which paralysed economic activities throughout the country for one week, putting government business to a halt.

However, Nigerians expressed mixed feelings over the large heart of the president in venturing to tread where others scared  particularly coming after his speech at the Inter denominational service organized to mark the nation’s 51st independence anniversary at the National Christian Centre, Abuja, in October 2011.

President Jonathan told Nigerians, who had been expecting more drastic measures in the process of addressing the nation’s numerous problems such as the insecurity challenges posed by the Boko Haram religious sect to hold their breadth.

According to him, “some Nigerians still want the president to be a lion or a tiger; somebody that has that kind of strength, force and agility to make things happen the way they think. Some others will want the President to operate like an army general, like  Chief of Army Staff commanding his troops.

Incidentally, I’m not a lion; I’m  also not a general. Somebody will want the president to operate like the Kings of Syria, Babylon, Egypt and King Pharaoh – all powerful people that we all read about in the Bible”.

Surprisely, President Jonathan mustered enough political sagacity to announce subsidy removal that ultimately took the organised labour and civil society organisations to the streets to protest the action of the government.

Sensing that politicians had hijacked the process to vent their political misfortune on the ruling government, the organized labour leaders demonstrated their commitment to the corporate existence of Nigeria by accepting to engage the authorities in further dialogue with the pegging of pump price of petrol at N97 per litre from the deregulated pump price of N141.00 per litre. The one week national strike adversely affected every sector of the Nigerian society hampering all forms of business transactions.

President Jonathan  acted in the best interest of the nation but what was probably lacking in the subsidy issue was the timing of the implementation of the policy as enough sensitisation had not taken place. This is exemplified in his broadcast to the nation on Saturday January 7, when he announced 25 per cent cut in the salaries of government officials including his in addition to reduction in the number of oversea travels.

As a show of patriotism, and the zeal to make a difference in the governance of the country must have motivated him as well as the need to fulfil his electioneering campaign promises, to the people when he said “we must act in the public interest no matter how tough, for the pains of today cannot be compared to the benefit of tomorrow”.

Realizing that the continued subsidy regime, was benefitting a few rich persons to the detriment of the common people with the attendant paucity of resources to provide essential basic infrastructure in the critical sectors of power, health, education, transport and so on, the president introduced palliatives to cushion the effect of the stark realities of the policy direction in repositioning the country for growth.

President Jonathan, being the first Niger Delta indigene to occupy such exalted office has vowed not to disappoint the region, the party and indeed Nigerians for electing him in April 2011.

Analyst believe that no political party as presently constituted in Nigeria is capable of giving the people a new lease of life if the current high level of corruption, insecurity and ethnic milieu continue to play out. The promised land Nigerians longed for will remain elusive, a mere mirage, unless the unity that has kept us together is incontrovertibly expressed in action.

History does not only teach about past events, it equally teaches that at every key moment in life, people must rise to position their collective destiny in proper perspective.

It is often said that a day makes a difference in politics and the agents of anarchy having failed to use the subsidy removal protest to destabilise the nation, have resumed the bombing and killing of innocent Nigerians.

No doubt, the insecurity created by the activities of Boko Haram religious sect is perilous, perfidious and dangerously bringing Nigeria close to disintegration if nothing is done fast. The rising incidents of religious intolerance and inter ethnic hatred as well as discrimination have challenged the age long notion that Nigeria is a united, multi-religious, multi ethnic and multi cultural country enjoying unity in diversity.

There is no gainsaying the fact that no nation can advance economically and politically on the platform of instability. President Jonathan in reacting to the several bombings in the country, promise that the perpetrators would be brought to book but he appears to be helpless when he admitted that members of the Boko Haram sect had infiltrated his government. Consequently, the escape of top Boko Haram suspect, Kabir Sokoto alleged to be the mastermind of the Christmas Day bombing in St Theresa’s Catholic Church Madalla, Niger State from Police detention collaborates the President’s position.

It is alleged that those against Jonathan’s Presidency are seriously at work doing all within their reach to create disaffection. The President did not realise the move when his first proposal for a single tenure term to reduce cost and crisis associated with second tenure described largely as selfish and self-serving in some quarters and no sooner the idea was tabled in public domain than it was put in the cooler.

The proposed constitutional review before the National Assembly is another issue attracting wide and divergent views. They include those calling for sovereign national conference, true fiscal federalism, constitutional reform, ethnic nationality conference and even a Referendum – irked by the menace of Boko Haram activities, the National President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum Alhaji Yerima Shettima on Wednesday last week blamed the “Northern oligarchy” for the recurring cases of Boko Haram and called for an urgent convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to avoid disintegration of the country.

Obviously, the sentiments expressed by the Northern Youth Leader confirms the agitation of the Niger Delta people in calling for a fiscal federalism and the holding of a sovereign national conference of all ethnic nationalities as the panacea to the problems of Nigeria because it would afford everyone the opportunity to state the terms of coming together as a nation.

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Senate Wades Into CJN, S’Court Justices’ Feud

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The Senate has waded into the disagreement between the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, and justices of the Supreme Court.
Fourteen aggrieved justices of the apex court had, in a widely circulated letter to the CJN, accused him of neglecting their welfare, not carrying them along in managing the affairs of the court, the deteriorating condition of services generally, and the state of the litigation department.
Speaking at plenary on Wednesday, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the legislature must be interested in what is happening in the judiciary with a view to finding solution to any of its issues.
He therefore mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters led by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti) to wade into the issue.
He said: “We must have interest in what is happening in the judicial arm of government with a view to bringing solution to the issue.
“Our Standing Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters should get involved and find out what the real issue is so that the National Assembly can help out.”

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Voter Registration: INEC Insists On June 30 Deadline, Denies Extension

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has denied extending the deadline of the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), describing the report that it has agreed to extend the deadline by 60 days as false.
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters, Aishatu Jibril Dukku, had while briefing lawmakers told members during a plenary session on Wednesday that the Commission had agreed to extend the CVR by 60 days.
“The Committee held a meeting with INEC yesterday (Tuesday) and they agreed to extend the CVR, all our resolutions were approved,” she said.
But responding, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, clarified that the Commission has not announced an extension of the CVR deadline.
The exercise, which was meant to end on June 30, has been greeted by calls for an extension. Also, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had stopped INEC from ending the exercise until all eligible voters had been registered.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has faulted media reports associating it with the extension of the ongoing CVR.
The House spokesperson, Benjamin Kalu, said it was untrue that the shift of the INEC voter registration was announced on the floor of the House on Wednesday.
Flanked by the chairman of the House Committee on INEC, Hajia Aisha Dukku, he said the decision on the shift is left to Prof Mahmoud Yakubu-led INEC to take.
Kalu acknowledged that INEC may not be able to adhere to the recently adopted motion of the House, which demanded an extension of the exercise by two additional months in view of the extant provision of the electoral amendment Act and the 1999 Constitution as amended.
He reiterated the resolve of the House to ensure that eligible voters are not disenfranchised in the 2023 poll.
Dukku expressed optimism that INEC would heed the call for an extension.

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Fear Grips APC Over Gale Of Defections, Adamu Runs To NASS

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Following the primary elections conducted in different parts of the country by political parties, a gale of defections has hit the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), causing the party serious concern.
APC national chairman, Sen Abdullahi Adamu, on Wednesday described the mass defection of members of the party to other political parties as unfortunate and worrisome.
Adamu made this comment to newsmen after he met with the APC Senate Caucus at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja.
He said: “It is an unfortunate development when it happens, but this is the season for all manner of behaviour in the political space. And Nigeria is not an exception.
“In every election year, this kind of thing gives cause for stakeholders to sneeze. This is what we are experiencing. Nigeria is no exception and the APC is no exception.
“I don’t give a damn what is happening in other parties. I care about what is happening in our party, but you and I know that it’s not just in the APC that is having this experience; because we are the ruling party, yes our problems are more prominent in the public glare.”
He stated that every responsible leader will be concerned worry about losing one member, not to talk of two. At the moment, we are faced with the stark reality of that problem and we are committed with my colleagues in the National Working Committee (NWC) to face the problems squarely and see the problems are solvable, and we will solve them,” he said.
But despite the defection the party has been suffering  in recent weeks, yesterday  three senators belonging to the APC resigned their membership.
The lawmakers are Senators Ahmad Babba Kaita (Katsina North), Lawal Yahaya Gumau (Bauchi South), and Francis Alimikhena (Edo North).
Whilst Babba Kaita and Alimikhena defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, Gumau, on the other hand, defected to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
Two senators from Bauchi and Imo States have resigned their membership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) respectively.
The lawmakers are Senator Dauda Jika – representing Bauchi Central and elected on the platform of the APC, and Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi – representing Imo East Senatorial District, who was elected on the platform of the PDP.
Both senators, in separate letters addressed to Senate President Ahmad Lawan, conveyed their decision to resign their membership of the APC and PDP,  and to join the Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), respectively.
The APC lawmaker, Dauda Jika, said he was moving to the NNPP whose ideals are in line with his political aspirations.
Onyewuchi, on his part, said defecting to Labour Party would nable him to participate fully in the “movement for a new Nigeria.”
Wednesday’s defections bring the number of APC Senators to 66, with members of the minority parties standing at 43.
The minority parties in the Senate at present are five in number as of Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022.
They are the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Young People’s Party (YPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), and Labour Party (LP).
Meanwhile, A former Minister of Aviation and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, has raised the alarm that 22 Senators of the ruling party were at the verge of leaving the party for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over their inability to secure re-election tickets in the just-concluded APC primaries.
The Tide source reports that the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had at separate sittings of the Houses lamented the inability of many lawmakers to secure their return tickets for the 2023 elections.
Chief Fani-Kayode, however, on Wednesday took to his verified social  media handles, saying the threat by the aggrieved Senators was a serious matter and something must be done to avert the mass defection.
He added that many party members have expressed concerns over the development even as he called on the national chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and national secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore, to quickly wade in by reaching out to the affected lawmakers.
The former Minister wrote: “22 APC Senators are threatening to decamp to PDP because they have been denied the tickets to return to the Senate.
“This is serious and something must be done to prevent it.
“Many are concerned and we urge our able National Chairman and National Secretary to reach them. We cannot afford to lose them.”

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