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Onanuga: Why Tinubu announced removal of petrol subsidy on his inauguration

BY Temidayo Akinsuyi

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Bayo Onanuga, special adviser to the president on information and strategy, says President Bola Tinubu acted in the best interest of Nigerians by announcing the removal of the petrol subsidy on the day of his inauguration on May 29, 2023.

Onanuga, in a chat TheCable on Sunday, said Nigeria was in serious financial trouble which prompted the president to act quickly before things got worse.

The presidential aide was reacting to an interview granted by Babachir Lawal, a former secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), who said the announcement of subsidy removal by Tinubu a few minutes after his inauguration was hasty and driven by arrogance without due consultations with relevant stakeholders.

While justifying  Tinubu’s action, Onanuga said there was no provision for subsidy in the budget left behind by former President Muhammadu Buhari.

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He added that the country was in dire financial straits as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) could no longer import petrol due to N4 trillion debt owed by the federal government.

“Is Babachir still talking? Well, that is his opinion that the subsidy was hastily removed,” Onanuga said.

“The truth is, the subsidy was meant to be removed by the end of June 2023 according to what former president, Muhammadu Buhari left behind.

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“President Tinubu only announced it on May 29 on the day he was sworn in. That is to show you that something is wrong somewhere and that the nation had a problem at that time.

“What I find out is that Nigerians easily forget things, we have a short memory about things. They should cast their minds back to what happened at that period. The NNPCL was saying the government was owing them N4tr of subsidy money. NNPCL was the only importer of fuel and towards the general elections, fuel scarcity was all over the country.

“Due to the scarcity, in some places, fuel was selling for about N700 – N800 before President Tinubu was sworn in. NNPCL didn’t have money to import fuel because they were being owed over N4tr by the federal government. People have easily forgotten about that.”

Onanuga said the country would have been in deeper problems if Tinubu did not act swiftly to address the situation.

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“Tinubu knew the problem and that was why he made the announcement on the day of his inauguration. The language he used was ‘Subsidy is gone’ because even in the budget, there was no provision for it,” he said.

“I will challenge journalists to go and check that budget, when you look at that budget made by Buhari before leaving office, you will find out that aside no provision for subsidy, 97 percent of our income will be spent on servicing debts. If 97 percent of budget is used to service debts, what is left for Nigerians to spend?

“That 97 percent budgeted for debt servicing does not include the money the federal government owe the NNPCL. There were serious problems then and Tinubu just needed to do something quickly to arrest the deterioration.

“You can see what has happened in the last nine months with those measures he took. Yes, those measures are painful but they are needed to reset the economy and financials of this country. Otherwise, we would have ended into a much more disastrous situation.”

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