President Bola Tinubu yesterday got the backing of the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, on the “bold steps” he has taken so far in steering the ship of the nation to safety.
Support for the president also came from prominent groups and leaders in the Niger Delta who are particularly delighted by his decision to wean the country of fuel subsidy.
Sultan Abubakar said in Sokoto that “it is better to take certain decisions now, no matter the hardship.”
He spoke when Vice President Kashim Shettima paid him Sallah homage in Sokoto.
He said the gains that could be the lot of Nigerians in coming years from the decisions taken by the administration were more important than the present hardship.
He pledged the support of the Sultanate for the Federal Government’s policies and programmes, adding: “We support you 100% all of the time, and we give you our word on this. We will do whatever it takes to maintain peace and stability in our country Nigeria.”
He thanked the VP for the Sallah homage and prayed God to grant him wisdom and strength to discharge tasks assigned to him as the nation’s number two citizen.
Shettima had earlier asked for the support of Northwest leaders for the Tinubu administration in addressing challenges confronting the people.
Olusola Abiola, the Director of Information in the Vice President’s office, quoted him as saying: “President Tinubu is aware of the challenges facing our people – the insecurity that has pervaded the Northwest region – and he is taking far reaching measures to address the situation. “
He urged “our political leaders to unite in order to confront the common challenges of insecurity, poverty and underdevelopment in the region.”
While conveying President Tinubu’s felicitations, the Vice President emphasised the importance of peace and unity, noting that “there can never be peace without development and there can never be development without peace.”
He added that the Tinubu administration, in acknowledgment of the role of the traditional institution, remains committed to giving it the necessary support to contribute to the nation’s progress.
Vice President Shettima advised Sokoto State Governor Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto to provide purposeful leadership while admonishing him to maintain cordial relationship with leaders across the state.
Speaking earlier at a brief reception for the VP at the Government House, Governor Aliyu Sokoto expressed gratitude for the visit, describing the gesture by the Vice President as a show of “deep love for Sokoto State and its people”.
He described Vice President Shettima as a man of patience, tolerance and courage, assuring him of the state’s support for the success of the Tinubu administration.
Other dignitaries at the Sallah homage were Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State; Sokoto State Deputy Governor, Idris Gobir; the Senator representing Sokoto North Senatorial District, Sen. Aliyu Wamakko; the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Sen. Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia; the APC Deputy National Chairman (North), Sen. Abubakar Kyari and Speaker of Sokoto State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Tukur Bodinga, among others.
Also yesterday, prominent groups and leaders in the Niger Delta threw their weight behind President Tinubu over the fuel subsidy removal.
They asked the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to have a rethink on their position on the subsidy withdrawal.
They said any action against fuel subsidy removal by labour would amount to supporting the fraud inherent in the subsidy and, by extension, waging a war against the masses.
The Ijaw under the auspices of Ijaw National Congress (INC) urged the Federal Government to speed up the fixing of the refineries in the country to cushion the effects of the removal.
The President, INC, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, said the reason for heavy subsidy paid by successive governments in the country was because the refineries were not working and the country had to resort to exportation of crude and importation of refined products.
He said: “The reason for heavy subsidy is because the refineries are not working. If they (Federal Government) had a long term plan that in six months’ time, in one year’s time, we are going to remove subsidy, why not make the refineries work?
“If an individual like Aliko Dangote can make a refinery work, why can’t government make the Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna refineries work?”
Okaba said there were benefits to be derived from subsidy removal such as divestment and investment of subsidy money into other sectors of the economy that would promote the diversification of the economy.
He said: “It means that if truly a certain amount of money was spent on making fuel available to Nigerians, and that money will now be invested in agriculture, industrialization and other things, certainly, there might be long time benefits which might have ripple effects on the citizenry in the long run.
“But in the short term, the pains are too much because the Nigerian economy is built around petroleum products. Whenever there is an increase in the pump price of fuel, every other services and commodities in the country rise automatically.
“Just imagine, with the pronouncement alone that fuel subsidy is gone, the pump price has risen by over 400 per cent in some places, prices of other essential commodities have doubled because transportation is premised on the price of petrol.”
As part of cushioning the effects of the subsidy removal, the INC president said what the government should have done was to have considered the aftermath of the situation with a view to knowing the social impact assessment of the policy.
He said: “Government should have conditioned the mind of the people ahead of it that they were removing it and these are what we are also putting in place.
“Secondly, if transportation becomes an issue, what stops the same government from providing mass transit buses for the citizens so that instead of depending on public transport, mass transit buses would be available.
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) described subsidy as a disease draining the resources of the country, saying there is no better time to let go than now.
The Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, urged Tinubu to remain strong and resist any attempt by labour to stop the removal.
Robinson, however, said the President must immediately come up with programmes to cushion the adverse effects of the removal.
He said: “Truth be told, fuel subsidy is an economic disease that is draining the resources of Nigeria. If we don’t do it today, it will be like postponing the evil day.
Fuel subsidy has to go, and there is no better time than now.
“Government needs to immediately come up with programmes to cushion the adverse effects. But the palliatives should not be managed the way we have been doing palliative arrangements in Nigeria.
“The palliatives of subsidy removal should be directed to various sectors, the civil servants, traders, market women, transporters – it should be sectorially targeted and should not subsidy that some persons will use to become overnight billionaires and then, the purpose will not be met.
“For the labour unions, this has always been the tradition. Anytime there is talk of subsidy removal, they will protest and threaten to go on strike. President Goodluck Jonathan and President Umaru Musa Ya’radua were rather vulnerable.
“We hope that President Tinubu will stand firm and make it clear that this thing cannot continue. Imagine a situation where the operations of the subsidy regime cannot be ascertained because industry officials, NNPC officials, marketers are involved in this fraud. And so much money is going into subsidy and Nigerians are not benefitting from it.
“These persons are part of the cabal that has ensured our refineries do not work because people are becoming multi-billionaires and even trillionaires overnight by the subsidy regime. So it has to stop.
“But the government needs to be firm, needs to be sincere, needs to know that some Nigerians would be adversely affected and come up with genuine, sincere programmes to address the sufferings of Nigerians.”
The Leader of the Future Nigeria Movement (FNM), Livingstone Wechie, described the action of Tinubu as promised made and promise kept.
Wechie said: “Indeed, it was a display of a promise made and kept by Mr. President that during his campaigns he made it clear that he would remove subsidy on fuel.
“The same promise was made by all three frontline presidential candidates and its pronouncement did not come with any prejudice but for the timing and the perceived lack of a stakeholder consultative engagement to work out the modalities.
“The removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Ahmad Tinubu no doubt has been a subject of an age-long controversy. It is the view of the Future Nigeria Movement (FNM) that such policies must necessarily come with the needed palliative to alleviate the pain that Nigerians are now subjected to, which has made life almost unbearable.”
Wechie asked the President not to allow energy prices to be left for the manipulative market forces and private sector systems as currently constituted.
He said: “FNM suggests that the President as a patriot should declare a state of emergency on Nigeria’s energy sector with a view to reviving state-owned refineries and building more as a national priority.
“The federal government should quickly open up our federal reserves, if any, to ensure that Nigerians are not further subjected to more economic torture that the current development is causing.
“It is also the view of FNM that the federal government must see the need to work for Nigerians to stem the sudden spike in commodities across the country on account of this subsidy removal.
“Mr. President, as a statesman, should listen to the yearnings of Nigerians and do all that is necessary to build trust with Nigerians to have their buy-in on his pact and commitment to bring about the constitutional restructuring and reconstruction that is needed to rebound our economy.”
Also, the Southern Nigeria Youth Congress (SNYC) backed the removal of oil subsidy and urged the new administration to “as a matter of urgency” put machinery in place for the establishment of modular refineries.
Its President-General, Emordi Ugochukwu, called on federal government to improve electricity and the use of compressed gas to create alternative to fuel.
Itsekiri Leaders of Thought (ILoT) praised President Tinubu for taking the bull by the horn, adding that recent comments by ex-Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonkwo Iweala, had exposed oil subsidy as a fraud.
ILoT’s scribe, Sir A.S Mene, urged the Labour Unions to shelve the proposed strike action and give the new administration time to tackle the challenges caused by subsidy removal.
He said: “Quite frankly, after the comments of Okonjo Iweala, former finance minister, on the fraud associated with the subsidy regime, we did not expect the policy to remain till now.
“It is obvious that due to smuggling and oil theft we are paying subsidy for the entire sub-region. This situation definitely cannot continue. To encourage private sector investors in refining, the policy must be terminated.
“It is wrong for our economy to be bleeding and stunted due to the subsidy regime. Even the Dangote refinery, if we must benefit as a country, must do away with the policy.
“In the short run it may appear very harsh, but in the medium to long term, it is better for our economy. We urge labour to give the Tinubu government time to tackle the challenges caused by the removal of subsidy.”
Mene called on the federal government to speedily implement measures to cushion the harsh effects of the removal of subsidy on the Nigerian masses by increasing wages, providing mass transit buses for the people, and other alternatives to premium motor spirit (PMS) for the fuelling of vehicles.
A former presidential aide on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, said that the country would now be free from payment of loans obtained to service fuel subsidy.
Enang, an All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirant in the last election in Akwa Ibom, stated that monies used in paying for subsidy will now be used in the development of infrastructure.
He maintained that with the removal of fuel subsidy, the country will brace up for domestic refining of petroleum products through the Dangote Refinery and other modular refineries that will spring up eventually.
“The removal of fuel subsidy is a welcome development by the current administration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. It will save Nigeria the trouble of repaying loans obtained to service the subsidy regime.
“The monies used hitherto in paying loans obtained over subsidy will now be used for the provision of key infrastructure and well-being of Nigerians.
“It will also encourage local refining of petroleum products, especially with the Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical. I believe other modular refineries will come up and there will be a crash in the pump price of fuel due to competition,” Senator Enang said.
Also, a one-time South-South National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Edet Nkpubre, posited that the removal of fuel subsidy would eradicate corruption.