President Muhammadu Buhari has on Monday defended his reasons for the removal of fuel subsidy, saying the move was done in a bid to save the economy from collapsing, adding that the increase in electricity tariff by Distribution Companies (DisCos) was necessary though not pleasurable. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo made this known while representing the president during the opening ceremony of the 2-day First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat, at the State House Conference Centre, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The president said he was not happy by the decision to increase electricity tariff with the quality of service rendered by DisCos including poor transmission and distribution of electricity, however the COVID-19 global pandemic compelled his administration to make necessary adjustments in order to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the economy.
"As you all know when oil prices collapsed at the height of the global lockdown, we deregulated the price of premium motor spirit (PMS) such that the benefit of lower prices was passed to consumers. This was welcomed by all and sundry.
"The effect of regulation though is that PMS prices will change with changes in global oil prices. This means, quite regrettably, that as oil prices recover, we would see some increases in PMS prices. Today we have 60 percent fewer revenues, we just cannot afford the cost.
"The second danger is the potential return of fuel queues – which has, thankfully, become a thing of the past under this administration. Nigerians no longer have to endure long queues just to buy petrol, often at highly inflated prices. Also, as I hinted earlier, there is no provision for fuel subsidy in the revised 2020 budget, simply because we are not able to afford it, if reasonable provisions must be made for health, education and other social services. We now have no choice.
"Nevertheless, I want to assure our compatriots that government will remain alert to its responsibilities. The role of government now is to prevent marketers from raising prices arbitrarily or exploiting citizens. This is the role that government must now play through the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
"This explains why the PPPRA made the announcement a few days ago setting the range of price that must not be exceeded by marketers. The advantage we now have is that anyone can bring in petroleum products and compete with marketers, that way the price of petrol will be kept coming down," the president said.
The recent increase in fuel price as well electricity tariff has met calls by many groups for the commencement of mass strike action in opposition to the new adjustments.
Meanwhile, political opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other socio-cultural organizations including Afenifere have urged Nigerians to speak against the recent adjustment.