Reinstate subsidy, remove govs from palliative chain, Arewa group tells Tinubu

The Arewa Economic Forum (AEF) has urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to reinstate subsidy payment on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) using extra money paid to the states from the Federation Account Allocation Committee FAAC).

The body wants the President to act on it urgently if he knows he can’t find a way within the limit of his constitutional powers and political influence to make the governors more accountable to the people.

AEF’s Chairman, Mallam Ibrahim Shehu Dandaka conveyed the Forum’s position at a press conference on Thursday in Abuja amid prevailing economic challenges faced by the mass Nigerians with removal of fuel subsidy.

The removal of fuel subsidy by the federal government on 29th May, 2023 pushed prices of food items and essential services.

The AEF Chairman locates the problem at the doorstep of States’ governors, whom he said refuse to allow huge money to be collected from FAAC to trickle down to the masses.

To address the poverty level in the country, Dandaka called on the president to put together a proper social register that can be used to distribute food items to Nigerians without the involvement of the state government.

The Forum Chairman said Tinubu meant well in subsidy removal policy, adding that the sub-national government heads create difficulty in the chain process.

“At the risk of sounding alarmist, things are assuming the Hobbesian state of nature in Nigeria where “life is brutish, nasty and Short.”

“In line with our tradition at the Arewa Economic Forum (AEF), we are here to proffer solutions, not to heat up the polity or add to the tension already brewing in the land.

“To be fair to him, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu made it unambiguously clear during the electioneering campaign that he would remove fuel subsidy if he won the election.

“What he didn’t however warn Nigerians of is the unprecedented hardship this singular decision will cause for our people. But fuel subsidy removal is not all about bad news.

“It has at least caused a massive increase in the monies shared at the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meetings with states going away with humongous figures on a monthly basis. But how has more money for governors to play with affected the lives of the masses?

“We at the AEF have found out that the huge sums of money available to state governors are not trickling down because the governors are not investing in areas that will reflate the state economy and are not committed to providing palliatives for the people.

“A check we conducted on recent FAAC allocations has shown that some of the states have had their allocations increased by up to 90 per cent with little or no improvement in the lives of the people. The percentage increase in the allocations to states after fuel subsidy removal is humongous”, he said.

“We are also calling on the federal government to put together a proper social register that can be used to distribute food items to Nigerians without the involvement of the state government”, he added.

Proffering a solution to the intractable forex liquidity crisis, the AEF Chairman tasked the federal government to investigate why dollars go up after every FAAC meeting.

“We are also of the opinion that the federal government must summon adequate political will to arrest the free fall of the Naira compared to the rising dollar. Dollar is not a legal tender in Nigeria.

“The government should therefore ban the practice of keeping dollars at home or in offices, and clampdown on all hoarders of dollars. The government should also investigate why dollars go up after every FAAC meeting.

Relevant government agencies should also ban the practice of paying for goods and services online in dollars. Everything must be in Naira as far as it is done by a Nigerian in Nigeria. If we don’t stop our obsession with the dollar, our naira will never rise”, he warned.

On the government’s plan to introduce state policing in response to the festering insecurity challenges across the country, the Forum was averse to the move. Doing that, it noted would empower governors with a tool likely to be used for political witch-hunting.

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