Thursday, 5 January 2012

CITIZENS’ CHARTER OF DEMANDS! Building Leverage and Unity on Fuel Subsidy Struggle

Building Leverage and Unity on Fuel Subsidy Struggle

Text of Press Conference, Abuja, 5th January 2012

On New Year’s Day, President Goodluck Jonathan broke his bond on creating conditions for Nigerians to enjoy a breath of fresh air by increasing the pump price of petrol (PMS). By this act, Nigerians are guaranteed to suffer extremely high costs for transport, food and other essentials. It is a policy decision aimed at deepening poverty and the suffering of Nigerians. We are Nigerian citizens and we must call the President’s bluff that he can make us suffer as he pleases and as it pleases his bosses in the IMF and the World Bank. Nigeria is a sovereign and democratic country and its citizen’s reserve the Constitutional right to demand for good governance while the President has the Constitutional obligation to promote the rights and welfare of Nigerians.

The price of petroleum products has been ‘adjusted’ or increased eighteen times in the last 26 years starting from a raise in the pump price of petrol from 3.15 kobo per liter to 20 kobo per liter in April 1985. All the attempts by successive governments to remove so-called “fuel subsidy” failed because Nigerians resisted the imposition of more suffering. The Jonathan administration will also fail because of its refusal to address corruption in the downstream sector as an option to ‘subsidy’ removal. Similarly, the arguments of the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that subsidy is unsustainable is a fraud and untenable as elaborately argued by experts.

The decision of President Jonathan to stop the consultations with stakeholders, take a unilateral decision on the issue and then establish a negotiation body after implementing his unilateral decision is very disrespectful to Nigerians who feel passionately about this issue. It is indeed true that the amount spent on fuel subsidy is so large that it has forced us as a nation to abandon our development goals and is in addition accelerating our indebtedness. The reality however is that the ‘subsidy’ is the greatest fraud in our nation’s history as monumental amounts is criminally being paid out to government cronies who return the money to their political godfathers.

The Government has presented an elaborate propaganda document called Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE). The programme proposes ambitious commitments to social safety nets, public works, youth employment, Niger Delta development and agricultural development programmes. The shopping list is a bare faced lie as the total amount paid our as fuel subsidy cannot pay for even one-fifth of the activities listed.

Charter of Demands

Against the backdrop of the pre-emptive and unilateral action of Government in truncating consultations and implementing a 117% increase in the pump price of petroleum products; the application of excessive power to muzzle legitimate citizen dissent and rejection of the ‘subsidy’ removal; the deplorable state of the nation and the waning legitimacy and trust in the capacity of this Government to preserve the integrity and well being of Nigeria, WE make the following demands:

1. The immediate dismissal of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for fraudulently arguing for an economic reform that not only places immediate and sustained hardship on Nigerians but threatens to derail Nigeria’s hard earned democracy.

2. The Presidency must immediately revert to the status quo ante by reinstating the N65/liter pump price and continue the consultations with stakeholders on how to resolve the issue of massive corruption in the management of the fraudulent “subsidy” regime.

3. It is clear that the President is in contempt of the National Assembly and has acted outside the purview of his powers. The removal of the so-called subsidy requires legislation by the National Assembly. The establishment of a mechanism to manage the ‘huge gains’ from the ‘removal of subsidy’ also requires legislation. The National Assembly is therefore called upon not to award any legitimacy to the ‘subsidy’ removal and the proposed reinvestment initiative (SURE).

4. Citizen’s right to dissent and freedom of expression as guaranteed by Chapter IV of the 1999 CFRN as amended must be respected and protection extended to citizens as they engage and demand for good governance and accountability.

5. Political parties should recognize and lend solidarity to the struggles of the Nigerian people in whose interests and from whom they draw legitimacy and purpose for sustaining our nascent democracy.

6. Citizens of Nigeria, irrespective of their affiliations, should continue to mobilize and join forces to resist the unilateral and obnoxious ‘subsidy’ removal policy that places upon them extreme hardship and misery and also undermines their human dignity and sovereignty.

Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim
Director, Centre for Democracy and Development

Ayodeji Ajayeoba
President, United Action for Democracy

Ayisha Osori
Advocates for Change and Social Justice

Dr. Otive Igbuzor
Executive Director, Centre LSD

Dr. Hussaini Abdu
Country Director, Action Aid Nigeria

For and on Behalf of Nigeria Civil Society
5th January, 2012