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CDD condemns hike in fuel price, electricity tariff, says decision unfair, unjust

THE Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), has condemned recent hikes in fuel pump price and electricity tariffs announced by the Federal Government.

The Centre in a statement by its Idayat Hassan, Country Director who described the increments as unfair and unjust, noted that the government should be thinking of ways to cushion the economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the citizens and not to burden them with heavy taxes.

“CDD in clear and unmistakable terms, strongly condemns the most recent unfair and unjust hike in fuel price and electricity tariffs by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari,” Hassan said.

“At a time, governments around the world are enacting policies, and putting in place measures to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on citizens, the Nigerian government has chosen to do the direct opposite.”

She pointed that governments in neighboring countries like Niger and Chad have been supporting citizens with free or subsidized services to help them cope with the effects of the pandemic.

“In Nigeria, government has not only declined to giving citizens the helping hand in this moment of economic crisis, it is worsening their plight by raising the cost of essential services.”

The CDD country director argued that the increase in pump price would also affect public transportation cost, which would in turn lead to a total disregard for social distancing among commuters thereby also contributing to the rise of COVID-19 cases in the country.

She stated that rather than the increment, the Federal Government should explore other creative, sustainable and logical pathways to address the issues, which it claims necessitated the price hikes.

According to her, the recent hike in commercial commodities in the country was in contrast to all the promises and hopes the current government gave Nigerians during the 2015 and 2019 electioneering campaigns.

“CDD finds it unacceptable that a government, which has done very little or nothing to help citizens cope with the devastating economic fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic, would turn round to further squeeze life out of already impoverished citizens,” she said.

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“It is pertinent to recall that one of the major sound bites of the then candidate Buhari, while campaigning for President was that fuel subsidy was the result of unbridled corruption. The President at the time made fervent promises to end the entrenched corruption in the oil sector, and ensure Nigeria’s refineries are revamped for optimum production.

“It is disappointing that five years on, the President has not kept the fervent promises made to the people in this regard. It is even more galling that the President has chosen to saddle already distressed Nigerians with further burdens, instead of tackling the problems from the root causes.”

She added that her organisation blamed the unsustainable subsidy regime on government economic saboteurs who have grounded Nigeria’s refineries so as to pave the way for a continuous importation of petroleum products.

“For avoidance of doubt, the unsustainable subsidy regime was not imposed on the country by ordinary Nigerians. The regime of subsidy is the result of deliberate acts of subterfuge by government officials, who unpatriotically grounded Nigeria’s refining capacity to a halt in order to pave the way for the importation of refined petroleum products.”

“The implication therefore is that as long as the country remains hopelessly dependent on importation of refined products as the case is currently, Nigerians will be continually tasked to pay more for refined products in the name of deregulation. The only way to end this vicious circle is to revive Nigeria’s refining capacity. This is exactly what the President promised to do, while seeking election.”

She also noted that from a joint research the CDD carried out with the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, it found out that lack of regulatory checks and frameworks on the path of government have further deepened the crisis confronting the power sector.

“The story is the same in the electricity sector; earlier in the year, CDD and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London conducted research on how to address the electricity shortfall in Nigeria’s productive sectors caused by corruption.

“The research found that a decade after the privatization of the electricity sector, the desired outcomes have still not materialized and the electricity available on the national grid to light homes and power the economy has stayed at an almost constant 4,500 megawatts (MW), well below the 8,400 MW projected for 2018. The research found that the design of contracts for the privatization of the sector lacked regulatory oversight. This deterred credible and technically competent investors during the bidding process.

“CDD research pointed out that the politically connected nature of many of the acquisitions in the electricity sector made the government reluctant to take any tough decisions to reposition it. While it may be conceded that the privatization was not handled by the Buhari administration, his government has not been summoned the resolve to address some of the major lingering issues in the sector.

“The first is the lack of financial and technical capacities by the so-called investors who bought over the unbundled companies in the electricity sector. These companies have made no real injection of their own monies into the sector to improve infrastructure and boost service delivery.

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“They have rather been dependent on government bailouts, and are always clamouring for increase in tariffs, even when service remains poor. Several years on, the investors in the electricity sector have done very little or nothing to close the massive metering gap.

“Consequently, the regulatory body in the sector, the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has continued to carry on as a toothless bulldog, which acts mainly on the side of electricity companies as they exploit and impoverish citizens.

“The NERC mainly stands aloof as citizens groan endlessly over anomalies like estimated bills, migrated crazy bills, and outright tampering of pre-paid meters by agents of the DISCOs. In short, the electricity sector is in shambles, which should have been the primary issue for the government to address. Unfortunately, because the government has refused to do its homework, it has erroneously accepted the specious argument that arbitrary tariff increase is the silver bullet to tackle the woes in such a problematic sector.”

While adding that the current administration has failed Nigerians, CDD called on all Nigerians to explore appropriate means within the law to resist the tyranny of the government.

“In all of these cases, the Federal Government has failed to act to ease the pains of long suffering citizens. Its decision to inflict further hardships on the people by hiking electricity tariffs, should get an appropriate response from millions of Nigerians whose well-being has been further imperiled.

“CDD therefore calls on Nigerians, who are at the receiving end of these unfavorable decisions to brace up for the struggle to resist these measures using legal channels. CDD supports citizens’ resistance against all anti-people policies, using all constitutional options including peaceful mass protests, litigation, press briefings, pamphleteering and the mobilization of Nigerians across the country to collectively hold the current administration accountable for its current economic policies,” it said.

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