Senator Ede Dafinone, the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Legislative Compliance, has urged Nigerians to be prepared for tough times as a result of the fuel subsidy removal
Senator Dafinone stated that tougher economic times are likely, particularly in the next six months as the price of petrol is expected to rise further.
Despite the difficult economic situation, he advised Nigerians to maintain hope because the challenges would soon pass.
Dafinone, who represents Delta Central in the National Assembly on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, stated this on Saturday during a reception hosted by the Urhobo Leadership Forum in Abuja in honour of federal lawmakers in the 10th National Assembly of Urhobo extraction.
Hon. Rev. Francis Ejiroghene Waive, who represents Udu, Ughelli North, and Ughelli South federal constituencies; Hon. Mrs. Erhiatake Ibori-Suenu, who represents Ethiope federal constituency; and Hon Benedict Etanabene, who represents Okpe, Sapele, and Uvwie federal constituencies, were also honoured.
Dafinone characterised subsidy as a necessary evil that required clinical amputation to keep the country from collapsing.
“At this point, the government is putting together policies to improve the situation,” he said. However, Nigerians must be aware that the next one or two months will be difficult because the price of petrol may rise again, and we must be prepared to spend wisely in an economy that will worsen before it improves.
“So I ask you here to recognise that it could get worse and that belts must be tightened in preparation for what could be a difficult, four to six-month wait before recovery begins.”
“We also recognise that the policies pursued by this government thus far will attract foreign direct investment and boost Nigeria’s economy.” However, this will take time, and we must be patient with the government. The President has taken some bold steps, and we must rally behind the government to put things right once and for all.”
According to him, the criticisms surrounding President Bola Tinubu’s removal of the fuel subsidy were unjust, adding that all political parties agreed during the campaign that the subsidy had to go.
Dafinone stated that Nigerians should not hold the President responsible for removing the subsidy without a plan, recalling that marketers had removed the subsidy before the President had the opportunity to formally remove it.
“I am speaking from the background of campaigns where all political parties agreed that the petrol subsidy must go, that it was impractical for this administration, and even previous administrations, to continue to fund subsidy, especially since a lot of subsidy that was given by government found its way across the borders,” the Senator said.
“However, the President’s intention was not to withdraw the subsidy immediately.” It was an announcement made to reassure the international community and Nigerians that the right thing would be done in terms of the economy and the funds that would be released after the subsidy was discontinued.
“However, as soon as that announcement was made, marketers immediately raised their prices, and in light of the potential chaos that was beginning to emerge within a few days of the announcement, the President deemed it appropriate to formally declare that the subsidy was no longer available.” There was no opportunity to put in place the palliatives that would have been put in place prior to the actual removal of subsidies.”
While urging Urhobo ethnic nationals to hold him and his colleagues accountable, he promised to take their concerns to the National Assembly and protect their interests.
Another lawmaker, Benedict Etanabene, who represents the federal constituency of Okpe, Sapele, and Uvwie, disagreed with Dafinone’s submissions, claiming that the government was not sincere in its dealings with the people.
The lawmaker insisted that there was nothing wrong with the government subsidising petrol for Nigerians, and that the idea of providing palliatives would not alleviate Nigerians’ suffering.
“I do not believe there is anything called subsidy in the petroleum industry in Nigeria,” he said. I’ve held this position since 2000, when I was branch chairman of the Nigerian Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association. When the first increase was scheduled, I argued at the national level that if there is a petroleum subsidy, let us see it with two eyes. And the only way we can know that is to know how much petroleum we consume. We should know how much we import into Nigeria, as well as where they are going and who they are paying such large sums to.
“Section 3 of the constitution outlines the responsibilities of government, primarily the provision of security and welfare.” So the government should subsidise everything in life. Food, water, and even petroleum should be subsidised by the government.
“All of these palliatives are ineffective. How many people work for the government in Nigeria if we raise their pay (which I am not against). Less than 5% of the population. The N8000 will also not function. I believe that the best palliative is one that all of us will benefit from, which is lowering the price of fuel to N65.”
Jonathan Esin, President of the Urhobo Land Foundation, challenges the new lawmakers to introduce legislation that would usher in a total transformation of Urhobo land and serve its best interests.
“Permit me to observe that your predecessors did well in drawing attention to our people’s plight and attracting some federal projects,” he said. However, there were commendable ideas and projects that they developed but were unable to carry out. The establishment of a University of Agriculture and Technology in Orerokpe and the reopening of Sapele and Warri Ports for commercial activities are two examples.
“As a result, in addition to the new ones you are bringing on board, we believe those already in the consciousness of the National Assembly and the Nigerian public should not be allowed to fade away.”