The founder and President of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and National Chairman of the Unity Party Of Nigeria (UPN), Dr Frederick Fasehun has addressed the press concerning the state of the country especially on the increase of petrol. Fasehun who didn’t mince words told the President it has never been this worse.
Gentlemen of the Press: It is out of the depth of concern for our beloved country that we have invited you to this Press Conference.
THIS PAST ONE YEAR
Dr Frederick Fasehun If truth be told, the last one year of the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All People’s Congress (APC), has witnessed unprecedented change, in line with the CHANGE mantra of the current ruling party that used to be the opposition party.
Unfortunately, the change so far has headed downhill, with Nigeria having her domestic issues amplified and magnified negatively. The Naira is at its all-time low. Inflation has spiralled to an all-time high. When Buhari took over last year, a sachet of pure water went for N5, but now it sells for between N10 and N15. The Nigerian Naira has diminished among world currencies. As against N205 in the parallel market when Buhari took over on May 29, 2015, the Naira today exchanges for N385 against $1, and N505 against £1. Importers are starved of foreign exchange.
Nigeria has never had it this bad. Worse still is that the petroleum industry/commodity which supplies the available foreign exchange is on the official counter being starved of foreign exchange to import products for local consumption. There is famine in the land. How can tomato sell at N100 per fruit, 1,000 percent rise above its price last year? How can rice jump from N10,000 last year to N14,000 currently? N200 paint-bucket measure of garri is now N600? Yet our leaders pretend that all is well. Mr. President, don’t let your advisers deceive you; Nigeria has degenerated since you took over; the lives of Nigerians are harder; living standards have fallen. Slowly and gradually, we have witnessed the expansion of the theatre of violence beyond Boko Haram in the North-East to the rampant Fulani herdsmen attacks in the Middle-Belt, South-South, South-West and South-East. Militants have staged a resurgence of hostilities and pipeline vandalism in the Niger-Delta. From nowhere less than the Presidency comes the startling revelation that Nigeria is suffering invasion from mercenaries displaced from war-torn Libya. The fact that the President is a Fulani by birth therefore no one will begrudge him if he shows some tilt towards his Fulani background, but not at the expense of other Nigerians. That Fulani herdsmen carrying AK47 rifles will openly brandish their weapons in the midst of innocent Nigerians sends a signal of the superiority of a class of people not authorised to bear weapons. So will any suggestion of special grazing reserves being created for Fulani herdsmen; it will amount to promoting inequity and ethnic chauvinism. We say no to this evil suggestion.
By the way, is creating grazing lands in every state a synonym for annexation of our Fatherland? Categorically, OPC disagrees with the creation of grazing reserves in the South-West. Ranches should be created in areas that occupationally and traditionally breed cattle with owners going to purchase grass and feeds for their animals in other zones. Don’t disturb the hornet’s nest.
On the international scene, Nigeria has been dressed with the toga of FANTASTICALLY CORRUPT COUNTRY and our President has officially agreed. Everyone knows that corruption in Nigeria defies partisanship; yet the impression one gets is that APC is a safe haven for corrupt politicians. Everyone in APC is being sheltered from prosecution despite extant investigations indicting APC chieftains, some of whom are in the President’s cabinet. Meanwhile, Mr. President is playing cowboy, riding his anti-corruption horse against one part of the field, showing interest in roping and silencing members of the opposition. But every democracy needs a strong opposition. That President Goodluck Jonathan allowed the opposition to flourish may be his greatest undoing, but it also succeeded in strengthening and deepening our democracy, making it a model for developing nations. President Buhari must give the opposition breathing space and allow opposition to flourish for the benefit of Nigeria’s democracy. In the financial sector, new and strange bank charges are making nonsense of savings. Even at the stock exchange, investments have become dwindled and grossly devalued. Unemployment has risen. Job losses in the usually rosy banking industry, the capital market and the oil industry have become rampant and inflicted these sectors with job insecurity and company closures.
A PRESIDENT ON AWOL The country burns and the President fiddles, eating dinner and luncheon from one end of the earth to another. He has gone AWOL and left the country to virtually run on auto-pilot. By his latest visit to England, Mr. President has done 23 countries. Visiting 23 countries in 11 months averages out at two foreign trips per month. Since being sworn in on May 29, 2015, President Buhari has flown to: Niger Republic, Chad, Germany, South Africa, USA, Cameroon, Benin Republic, France, Ghana, India, Sudan, Iran, Malta, UAE, Kenya and Ethiopia. This was followed by visits to the United Kingdom, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Equatorial Guinea, China and the United Kingdom. And some of the journeys have become so negative that they are already drawing insults from the hosts. Buhari’s apparent addiction to globe-trotting has become a bad habit that Nigerians want him to shed. Nigerians want their President to remain at home and do the job he was voted for –attend to the problem of Nigerians. These include, tackling the problems of inflation, food crisis, escalating school fees, lack of security at night and day, insurgency, the Chibok girls and kidnapping.
THE TROUBLE WITH THE NIGERIAN ECONOMY
A review of the government’s economic team shows it is made up of elements holding their seats by nepotism and political expediency. Beginning from the Minister of Finance, who should be no more than a Special Adviser in government, Buhari’s current cabinet makeup is an insult to Nigerian economic wizards at home and in the Diaspora. This weakness became apparent with the mishandling of the 2016 budget. There is an urgent need for complete overhauling of the government’s economic team. The government should quickly draft into its economic management the likes of Chief Olu Falae, Malam Adamu Ciroma, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Mrs. Nenadi Esther Usman, Chief Isiaka Adeleke, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, Professor Pat Utomi, Dr. Chukwuma Soludo, Chief Frank Kokori, and the like. This is no time to play politics with the national economy, which is the very lifeblood of our corporate existence. Buhari needs a super-team of economists to guide him through the present storm of economic problems. We must not wait until things break down like Greece, and we are being force-fed with the bitter pill of international donors. All these give cause for concern. But as if to spread this troubled atmosphere home to all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, the government has embarked on some polity initiatives that can only further complicate the lives of Nigerian citizens.
THE BAD BUSINESS OF PETROL PRICE HIKE
Recently, the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, jolted the country when he announced a new base price for PMS or petrol. Instead of the pump price of N86.50 per litre that government fixed last year, the Minister informed that government has jacked up the price to N145 per litre. That price differential of N58.50 represents a 67 percent increase. The excuse is that government can no longer subsidise the product in the face of the dwindling Naira value. With a Naira whose fall has become the butt of stand-up comedy, it means that the fuel price will further sky-rocket. Coming only after months of domestic fuel shortage at the fuel stations, the price increment not only smacks of a mischievous begging of the question of government solving the headache of epileptic fuel supply, it is uncharitable. Prior to that satanic announcement, Nigerians had endured endless and daily queuing at fuel stations. And instead of facing the issue, the government sent police after “Black Market” youths with jerry-cans, who are only seizing the opportunity of the shortage to make quick money. People were told to bring their generators all the way to fuel stations in order to purchase fuel to power businesses and home appliances, a practice that is utterly dehumanising. And then Kachikwu dropped the bombshell of a fuel price increase. Not only is the increase in pump price of fuel a dangerous and illegal step, it is wicked, insensitive, reckless, irresponsible, ill-advised and evil. In some countries, it is enough to cause a social upheaval.
In a Parliamentary system, it is enough reason to pass a vote-of-no-confidence on the government and call for early elections. In some places it is enough to call for the President to resign. Government must reverse the announced price as a matter of urgency. Petroleum pump price must revert to N86.50. If President Buhari refuses to reverse this anti-people and unconstitutional increase in fuel price to N145, we demand that he should resign immediately. The increment shows a hollow lack-of-understanding of basic Nigerian economics. Nigerian life revolves on the price of petrol. The price of fuel dictates the price of transportation, which dictates the price of ALL commodities, rents, bills, fees, etc. How will the government justify an increase of N58.50 when it has always maintained that the subsidy on imported PMS is N12? Nigerians should do the maths. N86.50 plus N12 is N98.50. Or has a petroleum tax of N46.50 been illegally and brazenly imposed on Nigerians? Nigerians demand to know. And how do you permit NNPC to import at the official exchange rate of N199 to the dollar and you force independent marketers to source their funds at the Black Market rate, currently N385; and yet both parties compete and operate in the same market, and then NNPC is allowed to dispense at the same pump price of N145? Such a price regime shows that government has completely lost touch with the reality of Nigerian life. Nigeria needs subsidy. No country hands over its core and base commodity to be dictated by so-called “market forces.”
America subsidises agricultural products heavily; the US buys off excess crops from farmers and sometimes dumps them into the sea. Through such a system, the US puts money into farmers’ hands and regulates food prices, making food the cheapest item in US. The European Union and China subsidise their rail system. Britain and Australia subsidise coal and gas exploration. The US subsidises football and ethanol production. Like other nations of the world, Nigeria must subsidise a product common to all citizens, and today that product is petrol, along with diesel, kerosene and gas. And it remains a shame that Nigeria, the largest crude oil producer in Africa and the 12th in the world, should suffer any type of hiccups for domestic consumption of petroleum products. The fact is that Nigeria is blessed with vast rich oil resources, yet the giant of Africa fails to produce for its local consumption and shamelessly resorts to imports. No nation runs such a vagabond and prodigal economy. In the last one year, President Buhari has continued to follow the footsteps of his predecessors and refused to revamp the refineries. The government has been elected to manage the assets and liabilities of Nigeria. Those assets include the ailing refineries. Government must bring the country’s four refineries into full production capacity before inviting all stakeholders to renegotiate the price of petrol; and ultimately, local production (devoid of foreign exchange contents) will make the pump price of petrol cheaper, the Naira stronger and inflation lower. Although nobody has asked the government to play Father Christmas, government must not subject the people to double jeopardy: Give Nigerians cheap fuel produced locally or continue to subsidise imported fuel for local consumption.
CIVIL SOCIETY AND NLC STRIKE
The Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) completely supports the call by the civil society groups and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) that government must revert to the old pump price of N86.50 or face a national strike beginning from Wednesday. Demonstrations and strikes are the people’s constitutional right and, if the government fails to do the needful, the people shall exercise that right from Wednesday as we did the Jonathan government in 2014. OPC will be part of the strike. And OPC urges Nigerians to join the strike. This strike may be our last opportunity to speak to power. It must not fail or else Nigeria and the Buhari regime are doomed to years of misrule and failure. Meanwhile, we seize this opportunity to tell the police and other security forces to avoid being used as instruments of oppression and coercion against the Nigerian people. Throughout the duration of the strikes and demonstrations, the Inspector General of Police and the Service Chiefs must ensure that no single case of shooting, tear-gassing, harassment, intimidation or arrest of peaceful demonstrators occurs. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press: Thank you for your attention