Thousands gather in Lagos during the general strike over the removal of fuel subsidies. The Nigerian Labor Congress and the Trade Union Congress have called off the strike after the government announced a partial restoration., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Nigerians differ over new fuel price, suspension of strike .
Tuesday, 17 January 2012 00:00 From Muyiwa Adeyemi (Ado-Ekiti), Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Iyabo Lawal (Ibadan), John-Abba Ogbodo, Collins Oalyinka (Abuja), Adamu Abuh (Kano), Isa Abdulsalami (Jos), Lawrence Njoku (Enugu), Uzoma Nzeagwu (Awka) News
PPPRA orders marketers to revert to N97 per litre
Civil groups allege betrayal, vow to continue protest
REACTIONS by Nigerians to the Federal Government and organised Labour resolution of the one-week strike over the former’s hike of petrol price from N65 to N141 a litre, and the reduction of the pump price to N95 by President Goodluck Jonathan have been divergent. Some hailed the decision while others ridiculed it, accusing Labour and the government of shortchanging ordinary Nigerians.
Even Labour’s explanation that the new petrol price was a unilateral decision of the President seemed not to have assuaged the anger of those opposed to the action.
In fact, leaders of civil society groups and opposition political parties, who felt sidelined by Labour over its negotiation with the government, vowed to continue with their protests until the petrol subsidy policy, high cost of governance and corruption in the public sector were addressed.
Meanwhile, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has directed marketers to comply with the new price regime of N97 a litre.
In a statement signed by the Executive Secretary of PPPRA, Reginald Stanley, in Abuja, the agency said the N97 from the Maximum Indicative Benchmark Open Market Price of N141 a litre announced on January 1, 2012 now holds sway.
It explained that by the announcement, the price of petrol at all retail stations across the nation is now expected to be sold for N97 a litre.
Among leaders who hailed the government and Labour over the resolution of the row were Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, former Military Administrator of Delta State, Col. David John Dungs (rtd), while human rights activist, Mr. Festus Okoye, gave it a qualified support.
The critics included the Conference of the Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), former Petroleum Minister, Prof. Tam David-West, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu, among others.
A senior Labour official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, lamented that the goals of the strike were not achieved. He told The Guardian in Abuja that Labour like other Nigerians did not gain anything from the strike, rallies and protests.
“What have we achieved?” He queried, adding, “all was lost to the civil society groups, which dictated the character of the protests.
“The National Executive Council (NEC) of the two Labour centres rejected the N65 without offering another option. The result is that we did not have anything to negotiate with government. We could not even demand anything. This is unprecedented in the history of protests and strikes in this country. During the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, we had eight strikes and we negotiated and got tangible things for the people. What did this leadership get for the working people of this country? It is easy to call people names but for them to do it now, they have failed woefully.”
He continued: “What would Labour achieve at the Justice Alfa Belgore’s committee.” I don’t know what they want to achieve in the Belgore’s committee where they obviously belong to the minority. We have lost out totally. We could have negotiated things that should happen whenever deregulation policy takes effect finally. But, as it is, nobody is bothered about that. Can Labour claim victory in this struggle? Why are people still on the streets calling Labour leaders names and insisting the right things be done? This is simply because Labour was never in control of the protest from the beginning.”
At a joint press briefing by both the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abdulwaheed Omar and Trade Union Congress (TUC) President, Peter Esele, in Abuja yesterday, Labour said it decided to suspend the strike not because it endorsed the N97 a litre of petrol but in consideration of the prevailing security situation in the country.
While paying tribute to the doggedness of Nigerians who stood firm against the government’s action, Labour said the duration of the strike indicated that Nigerians could no longer be taken for granted by their leaders and indeed that sovereignty resides in the people.
The statement, which was read by Omar stated in part: “In the last 24 hours, the Labour movement and its allies, which had the historic responsibility of coordinating these mass actions have had cause to review the various actions and decided that in order to save lives and in the interest of national survival, these mass actions be suspended. With the experiences of the past eight days, we are sure that no government or institution will take Nigerians for granted again. In view of the foregoing, Labour and its allies formally announce the suspension of strikes, mass rallies and protests across the country.
“We demand the release of all those detained in the course of the strikes, rallies and street protests.”
Labour credited the reversal of petrol price from N141 to N97 to the collective triumph of the people who forced government to retrace its steps over the January 1 petrol price hike.
Omar also said the people’s force influenced the renewed vigour of Jonathan to order accountability in the oil sector including dedication to ensure speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
While the strike persisted in Ogun State yesterday, civil rights groups and politicians continued with their protests in Kaduna.
As early as 8.00 a.m. yesterday, several protesters trooped to the Luggard Hall roundabout (renamed Unity Square), Kaduna to protest the new pump price.
Former governors of the state, Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa and Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), Shehu Sani of the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), Tajudeen Oladoja of the Occupy Nigeria Group and Dr. Yunusa Tanko of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG), Aliyu Umar, former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) chairman in Kaduna, led the protest.
The Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ballah Nasarawa who was at the venue of the protest, enjoined the promoters of the protest to ensure that the protesters conducted themselves within the ambit of the law.
In his address, Balarabe Musa said the struggle for the reversal to N65 a litre had just started, stressing that, “the amount announced by the President is not acceptable to us.”
Ali urged the protesters not to be tired in the crusade for the restoration of the subsidy, Sani, in his address, remarked that “Nigeria is sick, our leaders have destroyed it and this is why we are marching towards revolution for the emancipation of the country.”
Okoye, the Executive Director, Human Rights Monitor (HRM), in a statement yesterday, pointed out that “Labour’s decision to suspend the strike was courageous.”
According to Okoye, the action of Labour “shows that the Nigerian Labour movement and its civil society allies are patriotic, nationalistic and in tune with the dynamics of the Nigerian situation condition.”
The Catholic Bishop of Ekiti Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Felix Femi Ajakaiye yesterday advised members of the National Assembly and other democratic institutions to check the alleged dictatorial tendencies of Jonathan.
Ajakaiye told journalists in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State capital yesterday that he was surprised by the nationwide broadcast of the President on the strike and his fixing of pump price petrol at N97 a litre.
He said the President was dictatorial by unilaterally jacking up the pump price from N65 to N141 without adequate consultation with Nigerians.
The cleric advocated the convocation of the Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to address the challenges confronting the nation.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) mega and subsidiary stations have reverted to N97 price regime in Ado Ekiti, but none of the private filling outlets opened to customers.
Governor Obi, who hailed Jonathan and Labour for arriving at the amicable solution on the deregulation of the downstream sector, in a state-wide broadcast yesterday evening, said the President displayed manifest qualities of statesmanship and leadership while Labour’s response was matured.
Elated by the peaceful resolution of the crisis, Ekweremadu in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media, Uche Anichukwu, hailed Jonathan and Labour for their positive handling of the matter.
Coordinator of TMG, Moshood Erubami, his counterpart in the Joint Action Front (JAF), Dr. Ademola Aremu and Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Ibadan (UI) chapter, Dr. Segun Ajiboye, said the N97 rate was unacceptable to Nigerians.
David-West told reporters in Ibadan that having insisted on N65 a litre in the last one week, Labour’s acceptance of N97 was a “betrayal” of the people.
The CNPP said it is going ahead with all willing groups with the protest over the removal of petrol subsidy and the increase of the pump price of petrol to N97. It noted that the agitation against anti-people policy goes beyond the organised Labour.
Yadudu described the suspension of the strike as disappointing.
He wondered why Labour agreed to accept the N97 price regime, adding that he had expected Labour officials to consult with the joint action committee and other stakeholders before arriving at their decision to call off the strikes.
Nigeria: Fuel Subsidy Fraud - EFCC Raids PPPRA Headquarters
17 January 2012
Barely 24 hours after President Goodluck Jonathan directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the alleged inappropriate financial dealings surrounding the importation of petroleum products into the country and the subsidy deductions, operatives of the anti-graft agency, yesterday raided the headquarters of the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and carted away "useful documents."
The Acting Head, Media and Publicity of the Commission, Mr. Wilson Uwujiaren, confirmed the raid to LEADERSHIP last night.
The EFFC spokesman said the operatives were at the PPPRA office as part of their investigation and left with useful documents relating to the importation of fuel into the country.
"The chairman (Ibrahim Lamorde) has said that arrest of suspects should be the last thing; we are still investigating the matter; the focus now is investigation," Uwujiaren stated.
President Jonathan had during a national broadcast yesterday on the fuel subsidy controversy, amounting to about N1.3 trillion, ordered the investigation of all payments made by the Federal Government over subsidies on kerosene and petroleum with intent to prosecute persons involved in any incidence of fraud and over payments.
The Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke, had in a letter to EFCC's Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, made an official request to that effect.
Allison-Madueke in another statement she personally signed yesterday, stated that the Federal Government had set up a unit in her office to be headed by an independent auditor to review the KPMG and other audit reports on the NNPC and other parastatals and begin implementation. She said she would be meeting with the Senate President David Mark and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, to seek their cooperation and understanding in the quick passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which is expected to fast track the restructuring of the petroleum industry.
In a related development, following the promise by the president that the passage of the PIB will be "given accelerated attention," the petroleum minister again yesterday set up a bi-partisan "Special PIB Task Force" to work with the ministry to further facilitate the quick passage of the bill.
The Special PIB Task Force which will be inaugurated on Thursday at the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources has Senators Udoma Udo Udoma (chairman), Tunde Ogbeha and Lawan Shuaibu as members. Others are: Hon. Chibudom Nwuche, Abdullahi Gumel, Habeeb Fashiro and Mr. Peter Esele. The legal adviser of FMPR will serve as its secretary.
SUBSIDY DEDUCTION FIGURES TOP SECRET - RMFAC
Meanwhile, as EFCC closes in on PPPRA, the Minister of Finance and Supervising Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Monday failed to furnish the ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives investigating the subsidy regime of the country with details of who authorises payment for fuel subsidy, saying that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) deducts directly from the federation account.
In her presentation to the committee headed by Hon. Farouk Lawan, which commenced its public hearing in Abuja yesterday, the minister who led the Federal Government's delegation to the hearing, told the committee that the controversial issue on who authorises the payment of imported petroleum products by the NNPC is out of her jurisdiction.
According to her, the Finance ministry's responsibility was only to verify and make payments to importers on the authorisation of NNPC.
But the chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Mr. Elias Mbam, informed the committee that the actual amount of money deducted by NNPC as subsidy is shrouded in secrecy. He disclosed that a total of N1.262 trillion was paid as subsidy between January and September 2011.
Mbam said, "As of now, the management of subsidy is not clearly defined between the NNPC, PPPRA, ministry of petroleum resources and ministry of finance. This has created doubt as to the true quantum of subsidy per litre and the total consumption of petroleum products in the country."
Okonjo-Iweala who noted that the government was still reconciling the actual subsidy figures, said all they had been stating were estimates, but assured that before long, a comprehensive report would be achieved.
She said, "The subsidies are paid to importers of refined products. In the case of NNPC, it always deducts its portion of the subsidy at source. For the marketers, there's a procedure for payment of subsidy to the beneficiaries. An oil company has to register with the PPPRA to participate.
The committee which also sought to know how the Federal Government exceeded the approved budget of N245 billion for fuel subsidy in 2011, learnt from the Director-General of the Budget Office, Dr. Bright Okogun, that the Federal Government had resolved to remove subsidies on petrol (PMS) in 2010, and as such, the Budget Office only made provisions based on estimates of what will be consumed before subsidy is removed.
He said the estimates which were based on international price of crude oil, exchange rate of the naira to the dollar and consumption, however failed to cover the cost of subsidy when the policy was not removed as planned.
"N245 billion was budgeted for fuel subsidy in 2011 in anticipation of the removal of subsidy by the Federal Government. There is no way to determine the actual amount of money to be expended on subsidy. It is determined by the prices of crude oil at the international market.
Also explaining why N150 billion was earmarked for subsidy in the 2012 Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly, Okogun said it would be used to off-set spill over debts owed to oil marketers and importers in 2011.
The hearing, however, assumed a dramatic twist when the former chairman of the RMAFC, Alhaji Hamman Tukur, made his presentation. He questioned Okonjo-Iweala how funds generated from the removal of subsidy on diesel and kerosene had been used, especially in providing infrastructure as promised by former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
Tukur also submitted that subsidy on fuel does not exist, asked the minister why the government would ask Nigerians to pay for infrastructural development in the country.
But the minister responded that there was still subsidy on kerosene and reaffirmed her resolve to ensure that corruption and other inefficiencies in government were addressed.
Okonjo-Iweala declared, "Kerosene has not been deregulated; only diesel. Kerosene is still being subsidised. So subsidy is being paid on kerosene and that is why the official price is N50 per litre at the NNPC."
Not satisfied with the response of the minister and her delegation, the committee asked the minister to report back on Thursday and provide more satisfactory answers to the issues raised as other relevant government agencies have been invited to testify in Thursday's public hearing.
MARKETERS REFUSE TO ADJUST PUMP PRICES
Interestingly, following the reduction of fuel price from N141 per litre to N97 a litre yesterday by the Federal Government, after series of negotiation meetings with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), oil marketers have refused to lower their pump prices to the new selling price.
The eight days nationwide strike and mass protest declared by Labour were yesterday suspended over security challenges and Federal Government's reduction of the price of PMS to N97 per litre.
While briefing Labour Correspondents, NLC President, comrade Abdulwaheed Omar said Nigerians during the strikes, mass rallies, shutdown, debates and street protests, demonstrated clearly that they could not be taken for granted and that sovereignty belonged to them.
"In the last 24 four hours, the Labour Movement and its allies who had the historic responsibility of coordinating these mass actions have had cause to review the various actions and decided that in order to save lives and in the interest of national survival, these mass actions be suspended."
Checks by LEADERSHIP showed that most filling stations in Abuja were yet to comply with the new pump price as their meters still read N140 and above for a litre of fuel.
The situation was not different in other parts of the country, as reports from Lagos, Kebbi and others show that fuel was still being sold above N140 a litre.
Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) said it had issued a directive on the new pump price for fuel to oil marketers even as it had also adjusted its pricing template to reflect the newly approved price for a litre of fuel.
The agency's website as at yesterday, January 16, 2012, confirmed that the market price for a litre of fuel is N97, while landing cost is N130.63 and distribution margins N15.49. This means that the government currently pays N49.12 as subsidy on every litre of fuel consumed in the country.
A statement issued by the Executive Secretary of the PPPRA, Mr. Reginald Stanley, reads in part: "Following the directive of the Federal Government on January 16, 2012, the new pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as fuel is now N97 per litre."
While informing of the commencement of a new regulated price regime, effective from yesterday, Stanley said "by this announcement, the price of PMS at all retail stations across the nation, new sell at N97/litre."
He assured that the PPPRA in conjunction with DPR will ensure that marketers revert to the new price, and consumers were not taken advantage of in any way, adding that in the coming days/weeks, the PPPRA will engage operators in further consultations to ensure that the price change implementation was hitch-free.
POLITICIANS BEHIND NIGERIA'S PROBLEMS - JONATHAN
President Jonathan has alleged that the plethora of evils and the many problems the country is enmeshed in were the product of politicians.
"Who are those creating these problems? They are not ordinary men and women in our villages. They are politicians. It is politicians who are exploiting the situation negatively. We are even making our youths to hit themselves in the name of politics. We will all change," he stated.
Jonathan who stated this while speaking at the 2011 President's National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Honours Award held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja also announced that his government had offered automatic employment to 52 former corps members for their extra-ordinary performance during their service year.
Speaking later that same yesterday, Jonathan said government could not continue to borrow money to subsidise fuel for people with about 10 or 15 cars and all their under-aged children driving the cars around Lagos.
NBA BACKS LABOUR'S SUSPENSION OF STRIKE
And as normalcy gradually returns to the country, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said it supported the suspension of the strike embarked upon by the labour.
A press statement signed and made available to journalists by NBA president, Mr Joseph Daudu (SAN) stated that: "With the reduction in the pump price to N97 as announced by President Jonathan on January 16, in addition to other steps to be taken by government to demonstrate good governance, the NBA has no option other than support the stance of organised labour in suspending the strike action for the sole purpose of facilitating comprehensive negotiation on the subject matter between government and Nigerians".
JAF VOWS TO CONTINUE WITH PROTEST
But the Joint Action Front (JAF) has however said the decision of labour coalition to suspend the industrial action was not binding on it.
JAF, in a terse statement yesterday, said it would continue with the protest in Lagos and other parts of the country until government reverts petrol pump price to N65.
NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COURT DIRECTS FG, LABOUR TO SETTLE OUT-OF-COURT
The National Industrial Court (NIC) has meanwhile directed the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the labour represented by both NLC and TUC to settle out of court the altercation brought about by the fuel subsidy removal.
The three-member panel led by the president of the court, Justice Babatunde Adejumo also ordered the Federal Government and the labour to appear before the NIC on February 10, to give a formal report of settlement of the strike dispute following the removal of oil subsidy.
WE'LL MAINTAIN LAW, ORDER - IG
Following the latest rapprochement between the Federal Government and labour, the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Hafiz Ringim, has directed the police hierarchy to do all it takes to maintain the peace and order.
This is sequel to threats from some states which vowed to continue the protests even after the suspension of the strike.
Hafiz, in a press statement made available to journalists in Abuja yesterday disclosed that, "The Command Commissioners of Police and indeed all the security agencies in the country have been charged to do all it takes to maintain law and order and protect innocent members of the public from the undue assault and harassment of these marauding dissenting groups.
"For the avoidance of doubt, any person(s) henceforth found on the streets, roads or pathways in this country continuing with the protests or marches shall be arrested and be charged to court immediately."
According to him, the statement was, "To draw the attention of some dissident members of the public In Kano, Lagos and elsewhere who have gone ahead to call out crowds to continue with the protests and marches, thereby unnecessarily causing obstruction and hardship to members of the public who should otherwise be allowed free access to government roads and other facilities as well as conducting their lawful and legal businesses."
Nigeria: Fashola, Activists Kick FG, Want Soldiers Withdrawn from Lagos
Tunde Sanni And Senator Iroegbu
17 January 2012
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Monday called for the immediate withdrawal of soldiers from the streets of Lagos, as there was no development that warranted such “huge” presence of the military men who were drafted to the state on Sunday night by the Federal Government.
Also speaking in the same vein, Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and a number of other activists have moved against military presence in the South-west and the North-west zones of the country in the wake of the protests against the increase of petrol price.
Fashola, who spoke in a statewide broadcast on the issue, said: “For me, this is not a matter for the military. The sooner we rethink and rescind this decision the better and stronger our democracy will be.”
The governor added that irrespective of the fact that many people gathered in several parts of Lagos like Falomo, Ikorodu and Ojota, among other places, they largely conducted themselves peacefully, singing and dancing while they expressed their displeasure at the way some decisions had been taken that affect them and this should not be a justification for “sending our soldiers to a gathering of unarmed citizens”.
Fashola called for caution on the temptation to give negative connotation to the protest especially the carnival like style of the protest because, as he said: “Everyone of us, or at least majority of us who hold public office danced and sang before these same people when we were seeking their votes. Why should we feel irritated when they sing and dance in protest against what we have done?”
Fashola’s media aide, Mr. Hakeem Bello, in a statement quoted the governor as saying that he saw the protest as providing an avenue for public discourse, “If anything, this is a most welcome transformation of our democracy in the sense that it provokes a discussion of economic policies and this inevitable may result in political debate”.
In his contribution, Fayemi said: “We are, however, worried about certain developments especially the drafting, this morning, of armed soldiers like an army of occupation in Lagos, Oyo, Ogun in the South-west and parts of the North-west geo-political zone. If it was a pre-emptive security measure, it sends a wrong signal to an already tense population.
“We have not seen any reason to warrant this development. As a specialist in Civil-Military Relations, I know the dangers inherent in drafting soldiers into issues that are purely within the purview of the police and other law enforcement agencies. It does not only undermine democratic control of the military, but also promotes dangerous role expansion which will not augur well for the military in a democratic setting.”
Also protesting the deployment, a Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, said he was taken aback Monday morning when he was stopped by some soldiers on his way to the protest ground.
In a statement titled: “My Movement was Illegally Restricted by Armed Troops in Lagos”, he said: “At about 7.30 this morning, my movement was rudely curtailed at Maryland, Lagos by armed soldiers who claimed that they were under strict instructions ‘from above’ to prevent me from leading or joining fellow Nigerians to continue the popular protests against the illegal increase in the pump price of PMS or petrol.
“Shortly thereafter, the members of the Joint Action Front (JAF) who were on a peaceful march from Yaba to the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park, Ojota were tear-gassed and dispersed at Fadeyi in Lagos by a combined team of armed goons without any justification. I have also received complaints of unwarranted harassment of other unarmed protesters in several parts of Lagos.”
Another lawyer, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), also expressed shock at the presence of soldiers on Lagos streets and other parts of South-west, describing it as unconstitutional.
Akintola, who spoke with journalists shortly after he addressed a mammoth rally at the Freedom Square, Mapo, Ibadan, said the militarisation of the South-west was a bad signal.
“I can assure you that the mass protest will continue and be sustained. They intend to intimidate us by deploying soldiers on our streets. If we could overcome military dictatorship, then no civilian can hold us hostage in our land,” he said.
In their reaction, the civil society groups (CSOs), which have been very active in the anti-subsidy removal protests, said: “We note with consternation the military occupation of numerous sites in our towns and cities by military tanks and hardware as if we are in a war. Of concern include the occupation of the military at Ojota (Gani Fawehinmi Square), Surulere, Maryland amongst others in Lagos; the Berger Roundabout and the Wuse II intersect by ASCON Filling Station Abuja; the Lugard House Roundabout in Kaduna; and the Nodule junctions in Kano; just to name a few.”
The CSOs also said the tone of the address of the president is reminiscent of the era of military dictatorship when the “political generals talked down on people, warned them and threatened to deal with them as if they were not citizens with rights and interests”.
“The form and substance of the address was to blackmail civil society and citizen groups of having a regime change agenda. Protests and opposition to a policy agenda unilaterally imposed by the president on the teeming millions of Nigerians suffering from effects were translated as enemy action that would be dealt with the repressive apparatuses of the state,” they added.
Nigeria Fraud Agents In Fuel Raid
Date:17th January 2012
Anti-corruption officers in Nigeria have raided the offices of the PPPRA, the agency which regulates the sale of fuel in the West African nation.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission says items were confiscated as an investigation into alleged fraud in the importation of fuel begins.
The move comes as people return to work after the cost of petrol was cut following a week-long strike.
Nigeria is Africa's biggest producer of oil but imports refined fuel.
The strike, which lasted six days, was called after petrol prices doubled when President Goodluck Jonathan removed a fuel subsidy on 1 January, which the government says costs $8bn (£5.2bn) annually.
It said that the money would be better spent on infrastructure and social services and said the biggest beneficiaries of the fuel subsidy were the owners of fuel-importing companies - among the richest people in the country.
EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren told the BBC the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) offices in Lagos and the capital, Abuja, were raided.
Report in various Nigerian newspapers say that the state oil firm - Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation - will also be subject to the EFCC investigation.
On Monday, the government approved the reduction of the pump price of petrol to 97 naira (about $0.60) per litre, restoring part of the fuel subsidy.
The price of petrol had risen from 65 naira ($0.40; £0.26) to 145 naira when the subsidy was removed without warning.
Oil accounts for some 80% of Nigeria's state revenues but, after years of corruption and mismanagement, it has hardly any capacity to refine crude oil into fuel.
The subsidy has meant fuel was much cheaper in Nigeria than in neighbouring countries, so large amounts ended up being smuggled abroad. BBC
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Anger trails troops’ deployment in Lagos .
Tuesday, 17 January 2012 00:00 From Martins Oloja, Mohammed Abubakar (Abuja), Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt) and Odita Sunday (Lagos) News
• Fashola, ACN, CNPP demand withdrawal
• Soyinka condemns action
• ‘Why crisis was resolved quickly’
“EVERY one of us, or at least majority of us who hold public office danced and sang before these same people when we were seeking their votes. Why should we feel irritated when they sing and dance in protest against what we have done? For me this is not a matter for the military. The sooner we rethink and rescind this decision the better and stronger our democracy will be.”
With these words yesterday, Governor Babatunde Fashola openly condemned the Federal Government’s deployment of soldiers in Lagos to disrupt the popular protest against removal of petrol subsidy. He called for immediate withdrawal of the troops from the streets.
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, also condemned the deal reached by the government and Labour and the deployment soldiers in Lagos. He said the action was to intimidate the populace.
According to Soyinka, the action is a “gross violation of the rights of citizens to congregate and give expression to whatever grievances bedevil their existence. “We demand the immediate and unconditional removal of these soldiers. Until they are removed, Nigerians as a whole should understand that the present civic action is not over and prepare to mobilise and defend their liberty,” Soyinka said last night in a statement titled “Gross betrayal.”
Others that condemned the deployment of soldiers, which they described as an aberration in a democratic setting, include the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) and Campaign for Democracy (CD).
They spoke as the Nigerian Army explained that its men are patrolling the Lagos streets to ensure that security of life and property is not undermined in the commercial city.
Speaking to The Guardian on telephone yesterday, the Commander, 9 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Brig.-Gen. Sanusi Muazu said it was apt for the Army to patrol all the streets of Lagos to avoid a total break down of law and order.
“Our work is to ensure security and that was why you saw our men all over Lagos. We have to come out to ensure that all abide by the law of the land. Since the strike has been called off, all protests have become illegal, so, that is why we came out.”
Soldiers were seen all over the metropolis yesterday especially at Ojota, venue of the protest rally organised by the Save Nigeria Group.
Muazu urged Nigerians to go about their businesses as adequate security has been put in place to ensure that criminals molest no one.
And in what made the Federal Government’s action seemed directed at both the protesters and supporters of petrol subsidy removal, security agents in Port Harcourt, Rivers State yesterday foiled a planned protest by Ijaw youths in support of the Federal Government’s deregulation in the oil sector.
Governor Fashola, in a statewide broadcast on the issue yesterday, said “irrespective of the fact that many people gathered in several parts of Lagos, they have largely conducted themselves peacefully, singing and dancing while they expressed their displeasure at the way that some decisions have been taken that affect them and this should not be a justification for sending our soldiers to a gathering of unarmed citizens.”
He argued that since the protesters who represented diverse interests, had not broken any law, the sudden presence of soldiers on the major streets of Lagos was unnecessary, noting that if the protesters had broken the law, “it is the Police that have the responsibility for restoring law and order, if civil protests threatens the breach of the peace.”
He saw the protest as providing an avenue for public discourse. “If anything, this is a most welcome transformation of our democracy in the sense that it provokes a discussion of economic policies and this may result in political debate.”
Fashola, however, cautioned the protesters to note that the right of free speech and protest is not absolute, noting that such rights impose the duty not to break the law, breach the peace, endanger human life or destroy property whether public or private.
Such rights, he added, also impose the duty to respect the rights of others not to support a protest and indeed to support what one opposes “because at the end of the day, it is a contest of ideas in which the most persuasive will get the endorsement of the majority of the people we serve and expressed conviction that Nigeria’s democracy is mature enough to accommodate it.”
Soyinka maintained that it was an “intolerable act of provocation that has taken underhand advantage of the willingness of the people to negotiate and give the government a breathing space. It makes absolute nonsense of the Belgore machinery for resolution that was set up, even before it has commenced work. It has turned future dialogue into negotiation under the gun, which is nothing but a charade and will only be challenged at no distant date. Let Nigerians understand that repression of a part is repression of the whole. Labour and civil society must boycott further talks until the soldiers are withdrawn.
“Lagos is no hotbed of Boko Haram, nor is it the state of this very incumbent president where leaders and comrades for whom we have the deepest respect, and with whom we still share common cause, have called openly for secession of their part of the nation and called upon others to join them. Lagos is not where heavily armed vigilantes have taken over oil wells. Clearly these forms of freedom of expression, even of the armed kind, are in order, since Jonathan has not seen it as the duty of his office to invade such territories. The occupation of Lagos does no credit to this regime and must be reversed, Soyinka declared.
In a statement yesterday, ACN described the Federal Government’s action as one of the most egregious and anti-democratic taken by President Goodluck Jonathan since assuming office. According to the party, Jonathan even outdid the brutal military dictators of the past by using the military as an instrument to suppress a peaceful protest by unarmed citizens.
Also in a statement yesterday, the CNPP said, “it is on record that throughout the country the protesters conducted themselves peacefully and the Police to a large extent conducted themselves professionally; therefore we are at a loss what stimulated the level of desperation which made the C-in-C (Commander-in-Chief) to deploy troops on the streets.”
Meanwhile, facts emerging from the dramatic end of the weeklong fuel subsidy crisis yesterday indicated that fear of losing almost 13 years old democracy largely shaped the discussions that led to resolution of the logjam.
The Guardian learned last night that the discussion began at the Armed Forces Remembrance celebrations ground when President Jonathan left the venue with the security chiefs for the Presidential Villa where he told them that the issues to consider were “peace, security and democracy.”
This development came about, according to a source, after the president was said to have received security reports from top sources that indicated that democracy and peace could be lost in Nigeria. The Guardian learnt that diplomatic sources too reinforced the reports that there had been serious moves by some anti-democratic forces inside the country to mobilise men and resources to make the country ungovernable for a condition that could lead to possible change of government.
It was gathered that the president reiterated the intelligence reports to the governors when he met them that same Sunday night where he was said to have specifically told the South West governors how careless they had been with national security concerns in their states where protests had been most rife and successful.
Strike causes N733b loss to economy .
Tuesday, 17 January 2012 00:00
By David Ogah, Bukky Olajide, Wole Shadare, Moses Ebosele, Roseline Okere, Adeyemi Adepetun, Helen Oji, and Femi Adekoya News - National
THE week-long strike was called off. The streets were being swept of the debris left behind by the protesters as at yesterday. Pockets of disillusionment were being expressed over the stoppage of the protests. But the inventory of losses showed that the country lost N733.5 billion at the end of the crisis.
The losses from figures garnered by The Guardian from major economic sectors, showed that the banks topped the losers’ chart, with about N400 billion, followed by the Information Communication Technology (ICT) companies, where operators, especially the telephone companies, lost about N159.5 billion.
The maritime industry recorded about N96 billion loss, as operators in the aviation sector put their aggregate loss at about N18 billion.
Losses from the manufacturing companies were estimated at about N10 billion, due mainly to assessed low profile of operations at the plants.
The aggregate loss figure was rated as conservative, given the non-inclusion of the informal sector, whose operators were less active during the strike.
The conservative profile of the losses was also affirmed from bankers, who said that the figure did not take into consideration such revenue making areas such as turnover changes, money transfer and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).
A renowned banker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said even though the extent of losses would vary from one bank to the other, the financial institutions would suffer higher losses when necessary reconciliations had been computed.
Indeed, experts concurred that the latent losses could be higher than the current estimates, given un-assessed tangibles from the informal sector.
The non-disruption of operations of the nation’s oil drilling platforms and export terminals was adjudged to be a saving grace, as the figure could have been more worrisome.
The capital market was not isolated from the crisis as transactions volume remained on the decline despite the pendulum movement performances of the corporate performance indicators.
The transactions volume, which hitherto traded about a billion shares daily in the equities’ sub-sector, accounted for less than a billion shares at the end of the strike yesterday.
At the close of transactions yesterday, the market capitalisation of traded equities dropped by N25 billion to N6.562 trillion, down from N6.587 trillion since the strike started while the All-Share Index closed lower at 20,824.82 points, from 20,905.35 points yesterday.
Specifically, about 342 million shares were traded during the period the strike lasted. For instance, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) recorded a turnover of 308.8 million shares, worth N3.64 billion in 1,217 deals last week in contrast to a total of 1.05 billion shares valued at N5.5 billion exchanged in the previous week in 10,037 deals.
Going by the figures and trend above, analysts believed that the nation’s capital market might have lost about N10 billion to the strike.
According to the former President of the Association of Stockbroking Houses of Nigeria (ASHON), Mr. Rasheed Yussuff, it is surprising that the market went up most of the time. If you are to quantify how much the market has lost, it may only be measured in terms of volume and the market volume reduced but the market capitalisation and the All-Share index rose.”
For the National Coordinator, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Mr. Boniface Okezie, the market within the period did not attract full participation from operators, as investors did not make orders for shares.
He however explained that on a normal daily transaction, the market gains up to about N10 billion. If we are to calculate how much the market has lost within the five days, using the parameter, we may say the market has lost about N50 billion in five days.
The Executive Director, African Institute for Applied Economic, Prof. Eric Eboh, in an interview with The Guardian yesterday, faulted the figure released by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which put the country’s daily losses to the strike at N100 billion.
Eboh said that it was difficult to quantify the losses.
He said: “I wonder how the Central Bank arrived at the N100 billion it said that the country lost to the strike daily. If it is by dividing 365 days with the nation’s Gross Domestic product (GDP), I doubt the authenticity of that methodology.”
The policy economist argued: “In terms of losses, we have direct and indirect losses to the economy. There were losses to the private and public sectors. Losses to the private sector were from revenue and income. In the public sector, there were losses of revenue and losses in productivity of public service employees.
The Head of Research at Vienna-based JBC Energy GmbH, David Wech said: “I don’t think there will be a complete breakdown in Nigeria; there is a lot of offshore production, which was not affected, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a down turn in supply.”
Wech said the situation was unlikely to impact on oil companies operating in Nigeria because they have long dealt with production problems in the country and are used to the volatile environment.
He noted that Nigeria is always subject to supply problems as supply moves up and down all the time because of security issues adding that strikes have happened before as well.
An analyst at IHS Global Insight, Sebastian Boe said that most oil companies in Nigeria have contingency plans in place to deal with strikes.
“Historically speaking, similar situations have lasted just a couple of days, because the oil industry has proved it can keep on ticking without union members coming to work.”
He added that the oil firms have no problem with using skeleton crews of non-unionised and foreign workers as much of the production process is automated.
Africa Programme Manager, Chatham House, Elizabeth Donnelly, said that for oil companies operating in Nigeria, this could have serious long-term ramifications.
“Over the years, the oil sector has been immune to certain things like changes in leadership, but I think all business including the oil industry would be better off if Nigeria was less corrupt and if they didn’t have to create their own infrastructure, like provide own generators to produce their own power.
In the maritime sector, operators were busy computing their losses last night.
They however estimated the losses in the sector at N96 billion, of which the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) alone recorded N19.8 billion and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) one billion. The balance of the losses are said to have been incurred by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority, the Nigerian Ship Owners, marine service providers and the ports terminal operators.
Sources at the NCS said the figure was based on the average revenue of N17.6 billion per week before the strike, adding that the strike lasted for six days.
The President of the Seaports Terminal Association, Vicky Haastrup, said the loss to sub-sector was colossal as she put it billions of naira. .