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No going back on fuel subsidy removal – Buhari

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… ASUU, TUC tasks FG on refineries

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said any attempt by his regime to return to the era of subsidising Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol, would lead to “several negative consequences.”

  Buhari stated this at the opening of the First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

  According to him,   one of the dangers of retaining fuel subsidy is the return to the era of long queues at filling stations where Nigerians spent days and nights before they could buy petrol.

  But in their separate reactions, Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) faulted Buhari, saying his regime should fulfill its promise to repair the country’s refineries.

  Buhari, who was represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at ministerial retreat, said one of the effects of deregulation which his regime adopted at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in March and when global oil prices collapsed was that PMS prices would change with changes in global oil prices.

  Explaining the increase in fuel price, Buhari said when global prices rose, it led to increase in the price of petrol locally.

  “There are several negative consequences if government should even attempt to go back to the business of fixing or subsidising the PMS price. First of all, it would mean a return to the costly subsidy regime. Today, we have 60 per cent less revenue; 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,” he said.

  But Buhari assured Nigerians that his regime was mindful of the pains said his regime had spent N1.7 trillion to supplement tariff shortfalls which he warned was no longer feasible.

  It will be recalled that following the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 in March, federal government deregulated downstream sector of the nation’s oil and gas sector, allowing petrol prices to be determined by market forces. This led to government’s reduction of pump price of petrol from N145 per litre to N125 per litre following the collapse of global oil prices.

  But in the last three months, the pump price of petrol has increased. Last week, marketers adjusted their pump prices to between N158 and N162 from N148 to N150 in August.

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