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Did FG deceive Nigerians on N500bn SWS palliative for N145 fuel hike?

More than one year after, Nigerians seem to have forgotten the child-calming pill used to buy their healthy conscience in agreeing with the federal government to hike fuel price from N86.50 to N145 in May 2016.

The pill was a national promise to release N500bn to serve as Social Welfare Scheme (SWS) that will cushion the effect of the fuel price increase which never saw the light of the day after all.

Otherwise, the federal government using the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) in announcing the new pump price of petrol from N86.50 to N145 on May 11, 2016, tied the N500bn to schemes that will weaken the negative effects of the pump price hike.

As another signal of pump price hike is looming amidst official denials, Nigerians may again, be cajoled into agreeing to another SWS even as the first one went into thin air.

Business Hilights Intelligence Unit (BHIU) bumped on a quote from the press release announcing the May 2016 price hike as follows; ‘‘In furtherance of its mandate to ensure the efficient supply and distribution of petroleum products, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, (PPPRA), hereby announces, effective immediately that the new price band for PMS shall be at a maximum of N145/litre. However, NNPC retail stations on the outskirts of major cities are advised to sell at price lower than N145/litre”.

“The review had become imperative in the face of extreme difficulties faced by petroleum product importers in sourcing foreign exchange. To meet the consumption demand of the nation, importers will henceforth be permitted to source for their foreign exchange requirements from the secondary sources.

“To cushion the harsh effect of the new pump price on the people, the presidency had set up a 16-man committee on palliatives to implement the N500 billion earmarked in the 2016 budget for social welfare scheme.

Components of N500bn social welfare

“Some of the intervention and palliatives built into the N500 billion social welfare included; N5,000 monthly payment to one million extremely poor Nigerians for 12 months, N60,000 direct provisions of very soft loan-cash for 1.76 million Nigerians, which will include; market women, men and traders, artisans and agric workers without the requirement for conventional collateral.

Others include N23,000 to 30,000 per month to 500,000 unemployed graduates who would be trained, paid and deployed to work as volunteer teachers, public health officers and extension service workers, also 5.5 million Nigerian children starting with 18 states – three per geopolitical zone to be fed for 200 days.

They would also be given electronic devices to empower them technologically both for their assignments and even beyond that.

Besides, 100,000 artisans would also be trained and paid N191.5 billion as contained in the 2016 budget.

In this same vein 100,000 tertiary students in Science Technology Engineering and Maths-STEM, plus Education will partake in the N5.8 billion already provided for in the education grant in the budget.

The committee for the implementation of the SWS was headed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, which also has a representative from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation Prof, Adamu Usman, as Secretary, nothing has been heard of it on what it has been able to achieve on the N500 billion social welfare.

Other members representing the Federal Government on the committee are the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of Budget and Planning, Sen. Udo Udoma, Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the Chairman of National Salaries and Wages Commission, Chief Richard O. Egbule and a representative of the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.

Messrs Peter Adeyemi, Amaechi Asugwuni, Ibrahim Khaleel, Igwe Achese and Segun Efan would represent the Nigeria Labour Congress while Augustine Etafo, Alade Lawal and Abdullahi Sale would be representatives of the Trade Union Congress.

However, more than 19 months after, just as Nigerians have forgotten, the federal government and the committee can be said to have surreptitiously ripped off the same Nigerians they were elected to serve.

Another promise that followed the N145 fuel price hike was that the federal government will partner with private investors to fix the refineries.

Almost two years on, the implementation committee has not met in the last one year and nothing is currently happening to the failing four refineries, rather government officials are telling Nigerians that upcoming Dangote refinery will end products imports from 2019.

However, a source at Dangote Group confided in Business Hilights that on delivery of the facility, the refinery will only sell to anybody including Nigerian government and independent importers at the prevailing international price.

Then the question is has a bird that flew from the ground to the anthill really gotten a new height?