… Want Warri, Port Harcourt, Kaduna Refineries Fixed
By Joseph Ebi Kanjo, Benin
Nigerians have called on the Federal Government to be more decisive with the issue of subsidy for petroleum products in the overall interest of the masses.
Participants at a weekly discussion programme of the African Media Hangout, a platform made up of a group of diverse media professionals made the call weekend.
Discussants at the weekly programme included Professor Tony Afejuku of the University of Benin, Benin City; Pa Patrick Omhonriawho; a Publisher, Oray Osawe, and a retired News Agency Nigeria Editor, Mr. Celsius Ohain, among others.
In his contribution, Prof Tony Afejuku of the University of Benin identified Nigeria’s major problem as that of leadership, which according to him is the cause of the “subsidy woes.”
While calling on journalists to carry out their watch dog role by doing more investigation in the mystery behind fuel subsidy in Nigeria, Prof. Afejuku urged citizens to protest against fuel problem (scarcity) which he said has become a source of trauma, pains to Nigerians.
He said: “Nigeria has only one huge problem. What is this huge problem? The huge problem of leadership. It is the cause of our subsidy woes. With or without subsidy Nigeria will be the progressive country we want it to be if we have the right leadership; if our political leaders are political leaders and not political rulers.”
Another contributor with the username Mr Oyo said fuel subsidy is not the problem but “issue of greed and pursuit of wanton wealth at the expense of Nigerians by the country’s petroleum company, the NNPC and its management.”
Questioning Why the NNPC should be the sole importer of fuel since Nigeria fails to refine her crude, Mr. Oyo said: “Until Nigeria refines her crude locally, the solution lies in deregulation of the market so that importers can set up an independent monitoring body.”
On his part, ORay Osawe, Publisher, Navigator Newspapers, also accused the NNPC of defrauding the nation’s treasury with the payment of subsidy.
He added that since successful governments have failed to stop the payment of subsidy, it means the government itself is complicit in the fraud.
He asserted: “The NNPC has feasted on the governments’ magnanimity and is defrauding the Nigerian people in the subsidy payment.
“The problem is that top government officials are colluding with the NNPC to rape the Nigerian masses in the name of subsidy.
“This explains why successive governments lack the political will to stop the subsidy by not breaking the NNPC’s monopoly. In essence governments has been complicit, especially with a President overseeing the Petroleum Ministry.”
Also contributing to the discussion, Elder Patrick Omhonriawho popularly called PGO viewed the problem of subsidy from multiple perspectives, saying “leaders slow pace of decision making with a bicameral legislature; lack of leadership and corruption in every facets of government are a major banes.”
He added: “Our leaders slow pace of decision making with a bicameral legislature has not helped matters. This is visible in contract awards for building roads, bridges, fuel depots and rail lines.
“Lack of leadership and corruption in every facets of government is a major issue.” (Sic)
On his part, Elder Celsius Ohain, a retired Editor of News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) posited that “Fuel subsidy has become somewhat of a mysterious phenomenon in Nigeria because of the aura of secrecy and controversy that surrounds it over the years.”
According to him, “as a nation, our ‘subsidy’ does not seem to meet that acceptable universal stand but has instead become a means to bleed the nation financially.”
While noting that many persons who condemned subsidy while seeking power do the same thing when they get to power, the media practitioner urged government to fix the nation’s refineries so as to stop the importation of fuel cum subsidy.
He added: “Successive governments have done exactly the same thing they condemned on their journey to power, thus making ‘subsidy’ a jinx the nation has found it difficult to extricate itself from.
“Few years ago, there was a subsidy probe and cans or rather, drums of worms were exposed about people getting paid for importing ‘fuel’ with non-existent vessels on high seas.
“The critical question is: Why continue to import finished products when our refineries which remain in comatose could be fixed to enable local refining and export of finished product?
“Why can’t the Warri, Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries come to life? These are begging questions. Suffice it to say that successive governments have shown lack of political will to do the needful as the lure of ‘free monies’ flowing therefrom is too attractive to ignore.”
50% PoS Operators Close Shops Over Naira Scarcity
Over 50 per cent of Point of Sale operators have closed their shops as scarcity of new and old naira notes bites harder, it has been learnt.
The National Chief Aggregating Officer of the Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents in Nigeria, Hussein Olanrewaju, who made this disclosure on Monday, said the impact of the ongoing shortage of new and old naira notes had worsened the plight of their members.
While noting that agents should be given preferential treatment in access to the new notes, he lamented that some Nigerians had taken advantage of the situation to charge unreasonable fees.
He said, “Operators are licensed bodies that provide platforms which agents leverage on. Currently, agents do not have any preferential treatment to deliver this service, hence, more than 50 per cent of agent shops have been closed down as we speak.
“Some agents, however, go extreme to buy these monies and those who do not, move from one ATM point to another incurring lot of cost in the process which will also reflect on the service charge.
“It’s worthy to note that some Nigerians have taken advantage of this situation to charge people unreasonable charges.”
Hussein further stressed that the ongoing policy meant to swap cash in unbanked areas might not achieve its mandate due to the low number of agents selected for the scheme.
He added that including more agents remained the best solution to easing the financial stress Nigerians were currently facing.
“As designed by the CBN, the exercise is going as expected. However, it doesn’t really translate to profit for agents. Out of over 1.4 million agents, only 30,000 agents were picked to participate in the cash swap programme, the number is too small and can barely effect any change.
“Agents are the ones available and accessible to ease the financial stress Nigerians are currently facing,” he concluded.
Naira Scarcity: Fashola Advises CBN What To Do
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to review its naira swap policy to reverse its negative impact on Nigerians.
Fashola, who made a live appearance on Channels Television’s The 2023 Verdict on Monday, was reacting to the outcry over the widespread scarcity of the N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes since they were unveiled on November 23, 2022.
According to the CBN, the old versions of those denominations will no longer be legal tenders after February 10, 2023 as the apex bank targets hoarders of illicit funds in the buildup to the general elections.
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The minister bemoaned the hardship brought on by the directive of the apex bank, saying it was imperative that public officeholders reviewed their policies when they had the opposite effect than desired.
“I empathise with those challenges but some of them are the result of policy and it is the responsibility of public servants, especially those responsible for those policies to look back and say, ‘Did we intend to cause this pain?’
“And if the policy is not working, perhaps you have to readjust and to also ask yourself whether you thought this through. As a public officer, before and now, I have had cause to reverse myself, when I saw that my policies were causing unintended results.
“So, I have no responsibility on those two areas and therefore I cannot speak to the details of the facts that are available to the policymakers but the important thing is that those policies are not yet delivering the results and are delivering a lot of inconvenience for [people],” he said.
Naira Crunch: CBN Monetary Policies Best For Nigeria Economy – Obaseki
Despite criticism, pains and suffering in accessing the naira, Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, on Monday insisted that the Central Bank of Nigeria, monetary policies of Godwin Emefiele’s towards a cashless economy remain the right decision for the nation’s economy.
The Governor, however, called for more enlightenment and patience on the path of Nigerians, even as he urged the apex bank to ensure the availability of naira notes for the citizenry whom he said are going through pains in getting money to spend.
The Governor spoke shortly after he summoned a meeting with senior officials of the CBN and senior management staff of banks in Government House Benin on the difficulty of the people in accessing cash.
He also appealed to the people to take advantage of ATMs, POS and bank wallets for transactions.
He said, “I had to invite the Central Bank and senior management of all the banks in Edo state to come and meet with me in the government house because government is very much concern about the plight and suffering of our people who are worried over the inability to get cash from the banking system in Edo state.
“Haven discussed extensively with the CBN and the bankers that the policy of moving the Nigeria economy to one of a cashless system should be encouraged. It is the best thing for our banking system so the Edo state government has no problem with the policy of the federal government to move our economy to a cashless one.
“However, we want to ensure we do this as painlessly as possible; we have to improve on the communication with our people to reduce their fear. When people go to banks to collect cash because they want to spend it on something, we want to help to inform them that they don’t need to collect cash to spend cash.
“We actually have other means to spend cash without going to the bank to collect cash. From Phones, payment can be made to whomever. For those who don’t have sophisticated phones, with USSID codes you can pay for things as small as N500 without spending cash. So when you go to POS terminals, don’t ask for cash, let them do for you what you want to use the cash for via transfer”.
Director, Risk Management of Central Bank, Blaise Ijebor said they are in Edo to ensure there is supply of naira to everyone on Edo state.
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“We are also here to encourage people to use alternative means to make their payment. If you are able to use your card, app or USSID to pay, you can even go to an ATM that doesn’t have cash to do your transfer from them.
“We are aware a number of ATMs are not paying. We are going to make sure that there is supply in a day or two, we have supply available through your bank branches to give some cash to use.”
He also added that there are monitoring teams going round working with EFCC and ICPC to check any illegal act or collusion with banks.
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