Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed on Sunday assured Nigerians that the government has no intention to remove fuel subsidy.

Mrs. Ahmed spoke during a joint briefing with Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele and Minister of Budget and National Planning Udoma Udo Udoma on the sidelines of the 2019 IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington DC.

Speaking against the backdrop of long queues emerging at some filling stations amid the fear that a removal was imminent, Ahmed said;

“There is no plan to remove subsidy now because we have not yet found an alternative package to subsidy. We will not remove subsidy without another social safety net package.

“One of the issues that always comes up in the report, especially by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a corporate body, is how we handle fuel subsidy. In principle, the IMF is saying fuel subsidies are better removed, so that you can use the resources for other important sectors. In principle, that is a fact. But in Nigeria, we don’t have plans to remove fuel subsidy at this time because we have not yet designed buffers that can enable us to remove fuel subsidy and provide cushions for our people. So, there is no plan to remove subsidy. We will be discussing with various groups. If we have to, what are the alternatives? We have not yet found viable alternatives. So, we are not yet at the point of removing fuel subsidy. Therefore, every rumour on plans to remove subsidy should be discarded,” she stated.

The minister further revealed that part of the takeaways from the Spring Meetings was the discussion of additional financing assistance on climate change and power.

Ahmed’s reassurances came as the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) warned that the advice by the IMF to remove subsidy would destabilise the nation.

The oil workers described a statement on boosting Nigeria’s economy credited to IMF’s media chief for Africa as injurious to the citizenry. It created panic buying, hoarding of petroleum products, and pushed up the prices of goods and services, they said.

The general secretaries of NUPENG Olawale Afolabi and PENGASSAN Okugbawa Lumumba said yesterday that the statement was poisonous and wondered why IMF was still advising the government to inflict more hardship on the people.

“We empathise with them (Nigerian workers) and will not turn blind eyes to any further attempt to increase their pains and impoverish them further. It is quite bewildering and baffling that IMF is not considering the pains and agonies Nigerians went through, even to achieve the acknowledged gains of 2018, with almost two-thirds of the world’s hungriest people among Nigerians,” the secretaries said in a statement.

The Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPRA) meanwhile has allayed the fear of Nigerians of any scarcity of fuel.

In a statement by PPRA Executive Secretary Abdulkadir Saidu, the agency insisted the country has sufficient deposit of petrol to meet demands.




“The agency wishes to assure Nigerians to disregard panic buying as there is adequate product supply in the system to meet the demands of consumers,” it said.

It added: “PPPRA, in line with its mandate to regulate petroleum products supply and distribution as well as establish an industry data bank, has continued to monitor products supply in the sector in line with best practices.

“Thus, PMS average daily supply for the year 2017, 2018 and 2019 are about 46 million, 54 million and 56 million litres respectively. These indicate an improved level of supply in 2019.

“Based on the available data, there is adequate supply of PMS with over 21 days sufficiency. PPPRA therefore urges fuel consumers across the country to desist from panic buying as the agency would continue to monitor the supply situation and take every step required to ensure that there is no disruption in the supply chain.”

Also, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) vowed it would from today clamp down on petrol dealers hoarding or diverting products in Ekiti State.

The Ekiti command said it would not allow “unscrupulous dealers” to create artificial scarcity in the state over a non-existent anticipation that the official pump price would be increased.

“We are starting the operation on Monday and those sabotaging the system will be arrested and brought to justice. We realised that some petrol dealers have created long queues and artificial scarcity and we ready to address the issue,” Commandant Solomon Iyamu told journalists in Ado Ekiti, the state capital.

He added: “If we get to your petrol station and we find that it has as high as 10,000 litres of petrol in its pits but the dealer is not selling, then he is liable and such person will face the law.

“We learnt from good authorities that a very high number of our petrol stations are now hoarding the product. Some are also selling above N145 per litre. These are issues we will tackle squarely.”

On his part, Maikanti Baru, NNPC GMD, insisted that the price of petrol remains N145 per litre and urged consumers to report any station selling the product above the regulated price to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).

Baru said that as part of efforts to ensure that the country “is kept wet with petroleum products”, no fewer than 55 depots across the country are fully stocked with products.

He listed the depots as 23 in Lagos; seven in Port Harcourt; 11 in Warri; six in Calabar and eight in Kaduna. He added that to make the Easter holiday pleasurable, the corporation had made necessary arrangements to berth two vessels of 50 million litres of petrol daily.

Additional information from Guardian

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