Saturday, February 24, 2024

Only Tinubu has capacity to remove fuel subsidy – Buhari

  • Says APC would have lost election if subsidy was stopped before polls

  • Lauds new administration for major economic, financial decisions

Former President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, spoke on fuel subsidy payment removal by his successor, Bola Tinubu.

Buhari said it was wrong for some people to ask why he did not remove the subsidy between 2015 and 2023 when he was the Commander-in-Chief while the Tinubu administration removed it immediately.

Reacting in a statement by his former Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari declared that his administration removed “the massive electricity subsidy, the fraudulent fertilizer subsidy, Hajj/Christian Pilgrim subsidies, diesel subsidy, aviation fuel subsidy, LPFO Kerosene, cooking gas and the other subsidy policies we found in place.

“For those with short memories, many of those subsidies were all in place when president Buhari was elected to office in 2015: all those in place were gone by May 2023.”

He said petrol subsidy was not removed because the ruling All Progressives Congress had an election to win.

“Polls after polls showed that the party would have been thrown out of office if the decision as envisaged by the new Petroleum Industry Act was made.

“For those with short memories, many of those subsidies were all in place when President Buhari was elected to office in 2015: all those in place were gone by May 2023 – including the annual fertilizer subsidy that weighed 60-100 billion Naira (that’s trillion naira in about 10 years – yes you read that right) heavy on the federal budget each year.

“So no, Buhari didn’t remove the petrol subsidy – but in vitally important stages he removed every other budget-busting, egregious, economic-growth-crushing subsidy along the way.

“So far I have refrained from answering these repeated questions on the removal in Nigeria of subsidies on Premium Motor Spirit, PMS and that arising from the dual rates of the Naira in the Central Bank and the parallel market: Why did Buhari ‘fail’ to do these?

“First of all, my thinking is that instead of the former President answering this question, it is the Party, the All Progressives Congress, APC that is best suited to speak and failing to do this, we are forced to say what will follow here.

“Secondly, we are mindful of the fact that with a Tinubu/Shettima presidency now in place and for which there is a ‘New Sheriff in Town’.

“We do not want to distract them from the onerous tasks facing them and the nation. Neither is it our wish to take the spotlight away from them in any way.

“In terms of the timing of the decisions to remove fuel subsidies and unify the currency, the Tinubu/Shettima administration has done overwhelmingly well. Even more importantly, they have been most dexterous in managing the aftermath of the decisions by successfully avoiding any crisis.

“To this extent, our wish and prayers are that fellow countrymen will continue to support the new leadership in these very laudable decisions and, in particular, for the Labour leadership and civil society to work with them to ensure that the palliative efforts as promised are successfully implemented.

“The decision to remove subsidies, as in our case – and we believe in all situations – was not for the President to take all by himself.

“That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves – and all those who have conveniently forgotten – that the Buhari administration had been on this pathway from the very beginning in 2015.

“Removing subsidies for the Naira and PMS was cued and put on hold. Look for example in the Petroleum Industry Act. The important decision was kept for a better time.

“It could not have come at a time when tensions were high in the country and no responsible leader would have added fuel to the fire.

“In the view of many-including those in the security circles- only a new administration with a goodwill that fills a warehouse can attempt this, and here now comes in the wit and grit of the Tinubu government.

“Finally, we must be politically honest with ourselves. The Buhari administration in its last days could not have gone the whole way because the APC had an election to win. And that would have been the case with any political party that was seeking election for another term with a new principal at its head.

“Poll after poll showed that the party would have been thrown out of office if the decision as envisaged by the new Petroleum Industry Act was made.

“With the election now behind us, a capable leader as we now have in place is best positioned to move forward. We have nothing but confidence that the new administration will carry the nation and all its constituents into a stable future in the aftermath of these major economic and financial decisions.

“As they say, there are times when you have to lose in order to win.”

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