The Forum of Non-Governmental Organisations in Nigeria on Monday declared its support for the newly introduced deregulation policy and the new petrol price regime by the government.
The forum made its position known when a delegation of members paid a fact-finding visit to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in Abuja.
The leader of the delegation and Coordinator of the forum, Mr Wole Badmus, said the new price regime and the deregulation policy would end the fraudulent regime of subsidy which was beneficial to only few rich people.
“We cannot continue to finance some few rich individuals at the expense the teeming majority.
“That kind of system is a lopsided one which, if we do not address it on time, will consume us.
“I must say that if we get it wrong now, I doubt if the country can get it right again because every year, deregulation and removal of subsidy have become nagging issues.’’
Badmus, however, impressed it on the government to ensure that the palliative measures put in place to cushion the immediate effect of the policy was not selectively implemented.
He added that government should ensure that the proceeds of deregulation also trickled down to the downtrodden.
“As I had said, we are not opposed to deregulation, but in the implementation, government should make sure that the effects get down to the downtrodden, the rank and file of Nigerians.
“For instance, the last administration introduced Subsidy Re-investment Programme (SURE-P), when it increased pump price of petrol, but the implementation was selective.
“We believe with this regime of change and with the credential and the personality of President Muhammadu Buhari, all the palliatives outlined and the overall benefits of deregulation would trickle down to the masses.’’
The Minister thanked members of the forum for the initiative and maturity to engage the government on its policy, stressing that “dialogue and consultation are better than confrontation’’.
He explained that government took the hard decision in order to save the country from economic collapse.
Mohammed said that all the palliatives captured in the 2016 budget would be implemented for the benefit of every Nigerian.
He also assured that the pains would be temporary, adding that the new price regime would encourage private investments in refineries which would in turn make the country a net exporter of fuel by 2019.
Mohammed also assured the forum that the government was committed to implementing the reforms in the Petroleum Industry Bill and would work towards its passage into law by the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, the minister had explained that government did not give notice before the introduction of the new fuel price in order to forestall shutting down of distribution by the marketers.
He gave the explanation at another forum with the heads of presenters and on-air personalities also on Monday in Abuja.
It was reported that the broadcasters present at the forum had faulted government decision to introduce the new price without notice.
Mohammed however, explained that if government had given notice of the increase, the marketers would have deliberately shut down their fuel stations to hoard the product.
He said the situation would have been more chaotic.
The minister also clarified that what government had done was fuel price modulation which would result to total deregulation of the product as was the case with diesel and kerosene.
He gave an assurance that the suffering brought about by the increase would be temporary.
The minister also reiterated government’s commitment to completing all rail projects started by the last administration in order to reduce pressure on road transportation.