Former President Muhammadu Buhari did not implement the removal of subsidy on petroleum product because he feared that the All Progressive Congress (APC) and President Bola Tinubu would have lost the 2023 Presidential election if he did.
Former Spokesman to for President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement made available to BusinessDay on Monday in Abuja.
Shehu applauded the Tinubu administration for being able to manage the aftermath of the decision on removal of fuel subsidy, calming nerves and avoiding crises.
According to Shehu “Poll after polls showed that the party would have been thrown out of office if the decision as envisaged by the new Petroleum Industry Act was made”.
Shehu disclosed that subsidies for the naira and PMS was cued and put on hold, saying the important decision was kept for a better time.
For several years, Nigeria government was spending over $10b, annually on subsidy which was seen as big leakage in the nation’s revenue.
Shehu perhaps, reacting to criticism that the Buhari administration failed when they were most needed to take such bold decision, amongst several others, stated that “it could not have come at a time when tensions were high in the country and no responsible leader would have added fuel to the fire.”
He said: “In the view of many, including those in the security circles, only a new administration with a goodwill that fills a warehouse can attempt this, and here now comes in the wit and grit of the Tinubu government.
“Finally, we must be politically honest with ourselves. The Buhari administration in its last days could not have gone the whole way because the APC had an election to win. And that would have been the case with any political party that was seeking election for another term with a new principal at its head.
“Why did it take the new Tinubu/ Shettima presidency weeks to remove the petrol subsidy when Buhari didn’t do so for years fails to ask the right question.
“The massive electricity subsidy. The fraudulent fertilizer subsidy. Hajj/Christian Pilgrim subsidies. Remember them?
“The diesel subsidy. The aviation fuel subsidy. LPFO. Kerosene. Cooking gas and the other subsidy policies we found in place, and put them firmly on the ground. Remember them?
“For those with short memories, many of those subsides were all in place when president Buhari was elected to office in 2015: all those in place were gone by May 2023 – including the annual fertilizer subsidy that weighed 60-100 billion Naira (that’s trillion naira in about 10 years – yes you read that right) heavy on the federal budget each year.
“So no, Buhari didn’t remove the petrol subsidy – but in vitally important stages he removed every other budget-busting, egregious, economic-growth-crushing subsidy along the way.
“So far I have refrained from answering these repeated questions on the removal in Nigeria of subsidies on Premium Motor Spirit, PMS and that arising from the dual rates of the Naira in the Central Bank and the parallel market: Why did Buhari “fail” to do these?
He however shifted the blames to the party for not responding to the questions on the failures of the Buhari years in office.
“First of all, my thinking is that instead of the former President answering this question, it is the Party, the All ProgressivesCongress, APC that is best suited to speak and failing to do this, we are forced to say what will follow here.
“Secondly, we are mindful of the fact that with a Tinubu/Shettima presidency now in place and for which there is a “New Sheriff in Town.”
“We do not want to distract them from the onerous tasks facing them and the nation. Neither is it our wish to take the spotlight away from them in any way.
“In terms of the timings of the decisions to remove fuel subsidy and unify the currency, the Tinubu/Shettima administration has done overwhelmingly well.
“Even more importantly, they have been most dexterous in managing the aftermath of the decisions by successfully avoiding any crisis.
“To this extent, our wish and prayers are that fellow countrymen will continue to support the new leadership in these very laudable decisions and, in particular, for the Labour leadership and civil society to work with them to ensure that the palliative efforts as promised are successfully implemented.
“The decision to remove subsidies, as in our case – and we believe in all situations – was not for the President to take all by himself.
“That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves – and all those who have conveniently forgotten – that Buhari administration had been on this pathway from the very beginning in 2015.
“With the election now behind us, a capable leader as we now have in place is best positioned to move forward. We have nothing but confidence that the new administration will carry the nation and all its constituents into a stable future in the aftermath of these major economic and financial decisions.
“As they say, there are times when you have to lose in order to win” he said
But it will be recalled that while speaking at Paris, France at an interactive meeting with Nigerians, President Bola Tinubu revealed that Nigeria, under the previous administration was “ making a few smugglers rich” with the fuel subsidy
“Some countries were bleaching us.
He noted that the previous government could not remove subsidy because according to him, “Courage was missing”
“ Sometimes I became an advocate of it. Remove this thing but God gave me the opportunity when I danced around, strategize with my team, we won the presidency and the day I was declared winner I fell almost sick with joy. The few friends visited me rejoicing, so I asked the question you asked me to bring this trophy, this victory what do you do with it?
“I brought it. I won. We must achieve with it. We must change Nigeria with it
“And then Wale Edun and co, we started debating, putting my speech together without the question on subsidy. I got to the podium, I was possessed with courage and I said subsidy is gone.
“They thought it was a joke of the century until I called NNPC. We are tired of feedings smugglers, making few people rich and subsidizing the next door neighbor.”
The President who stated that he met with the President of Benin Republic, added that “everybody is equal now, we are friends. We are conjoin twins joined by the hips, how we will separate each other is with this fuel subsidy. Let us see whether we will survive or not but we are going to survive.
Speaking on how he worked against the strike and protests planned by the Nigeria Labour Congress, Tinubu said he asked them “ Are you part of the part of the jeun jeun? Do you want money increase, or palliative of transportation? what are you protesting about? Are you sharing part of the subsidy? if you protest I will join you and protest against. And they stopped. No protest
He however assured that “palliatives we will get but we have to save the money in order to to embark on in palliatives”.