Clean Up NNPC, Remove Fuel Subsidy, Tony Blair Tells Buhari | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Clean Up NNPC, Remove Fuel Subsidy, Tony Blair Tells Buhari

Posted: May 21, 2015 at 1:02 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Extreme Poverty, Nigeria’s Biggest Problem –Osinbajo

By Rotimi Akinwunmi,  Abuja


Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on Wednesday in Abuja, urged President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, to begin his anti-corruption crusade by cleaning up the state-owned behemoth-the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to ensure the success of his administration.

In a keynote address at the opening of the two-day Policy Dialogue on the Implementation of the Agenda for Change by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, he called for an end to the so-called subsidy on petroleum products in the country, which he said is a big fraud and means of enriching members of a cabal.

Blair, who was represented by Peter Benjamin Mandelson, his former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, warned the party against taking Nigerians for granted in the area of delivering on its promise of development projects and revival of the nation’s economy.

He was quick to remind the President-elect and his party of the great expectations among Nigerians and the international community, and the need not to disappoint.

The incoming Buhari administration, he added, should ride on its current popularity rating, taking some drastic decisions that would affect the fortune of the nation positively, even while it might be considered too painful initially by the people.

There is no government, he continued, whose popularity would not wane as time goes by, adding that a serious government should not be afraid to take decisions capable of shaping the destiny of the nation and its people.

One of such decisions expected of the Buhari administration is the removal of fuel subsidy, which he noted has been a veritable means of stealing the nation’s resources without mercy.

He urged the government to learn to win the trust of the people, a weapon he believes, would keep the party in power for years, as the populace continually give their mandate to a government they trust.

Mandelson, also a former European Commissioner for Trade, advised the APC government to realise that the time for electoral promises are over, and that the time to deliver is here.

He however warned the incoming government to realise the impossible nature of trying to do all things or change all situations at the same time, hence the need for government to prioritise its agenda and go for what will shore up its popularity among the people and pursue such at all cost.

He charged leaders of the government to live by example, while setting standards for all who work in the administration.

Buhari, he stressed, must not be afraid to wield the big stick against government officials and cabinet members who deviate from the laid down standard of the administration, just as job creation must also be taken seriously. Nigerians, he also reminded the APC, do not want pitance from the government, but proper empowerment through job creation.

He also urged the incoming administration not to crash under the weight of the demand for patronage by those who helped it to power, saying a clear demarcation must be made to ensure that the government does not become lame duck, due to external pressure.

In his remark at the event, Vice President-elect, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, assured that the APC government understood the magnitude of the challenges awaiting it, just as he lamented the high rate of poverty among the citizenry.

He also faulted the huge debt profile of the outgoing government, saying that debt servicing is set to take about 21 per cent of the nation’s total budget estimate for the year. He said that the incoming administration has carefully identified what the challenges of the nation are. These he continued, has enumerated these in its campaign programme, assuring however that the APC is committed to delivering on its promises.

“In the course of the election campaign, we ran an issues-based campaign that identified certain areas of public policy as high priorities for propelling Nigeria forward.

“We addressed the challenges of the Economy, Insecurity, Corruption and Jobs Creation. We spoke to the challenge of providing opportunities for self-actualisation to millions of our young people who face an uncertain future with understandable anxiety.

“We also addressed the challenge of providing for the most vulnerable segments of our population by equipping them with the tools to emerge from the crippling limitations of poverty to achieve dignified and productive citizenship.

“The figures of extreme poverty in our society- 110 million by current estimates- makes it clear that our biggest national problem is the extreme poverty of the majority.

“Thus, no analysis is required to conclude that dealing with poverty and its implications is a priority”

He faulted the current state of the nation’s economy, which he said is at its lowest ebb because of high debt profile, with local and international debt at US$60 billion.

“Our debt servicing bill for 2015 is N953.6 billion, 21 per cent of our budget.

“On account of severely dwindled resources, over two-thirds of the States in Nigeria owe salaries.

“Federal institutions are not in much better shape. Today, the nation borrows to fund recurrent expenditure.

“This is also against the backdrop of a highly unequal society in which, by some reckoning, the largest chunk of the benefits of our national wealth accrues to a small percentage of our population.

“Our manifesto offered a vision of shared prosperity and socio-economic inclusion for all Nigerians, that leaves no one behind in the pursuit of a prosperous and fulfilling life.

“This morning, on every street corner across this nation, Nigerians, as is their daily custom, will cluster around the local vendor and debate the burning national issues of the day.

“The fervency of these loosely structure ‘policy dialogues’ suggests that Nigerians are fairly well acquainted with our problems and their touted solutions.

“The missing link has always been how to implement the identified solutions to these problems. In other words, we know the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ but have not been as adept at the “how.”

“We have a few days to go- to enter into a new bold Nigerian enterprise. There are many hurdles to scale but we are confident that by God’s grace our Nation will serve its people well,” he added.