The Federal Government has defended itself over President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2020 Independence speech when he compared fuel price in Saudi Arabia with Nigeria.
The government argued that the comparison made by the President Buhari on fuel prices between Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and other countries is justified.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, during a session on a Radio Nigeria current affairs programme, “Radio Link’’ on Saturday in Abuja.
Back story: Nairametrics reported when Buhari said in his Independence Day broadcast that “we sell petrol at N161 per litre when same is sold at N168 per litre in Saudi Arabia; N211 per litre in Egypt; N362 per litre in Ghana; N362 per litre in Chad, and N346 per litre in Niger Republic. It does not make sense for petrol to be cheaper in Nigeria than Saudi Arabia.’’
The minister argued that there was nothing wrong in making such a comparison. He said;
“Some people have said why should we compare ourselves to Saudi Arabia with better infrastructure and higher wages. Our answer to that is very simple. Saudi Arabia has 34 million people while Nigeria has 200 million people. Saudi Arabia produces 10 million barrels of crude oil per day, while Nigeria produces at its best, 2.1 million barrel per day. Their population is about one-sixth of Nigeria’s population and they are blessed with more resources. Therefore, they can afford to pay higher wages and build infrastructure. Our argument must be put in proper perspective. As we have said, whatever money we make from the subsidy removal, we will invest in infrastructure development.’’
The minister commended organised labour for its understanding and patriotism in suspending its planned strike to protest the fuel price deregulation and the electricity tariff adjustment.
He noted that the suspension of the strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and their affiliates averted a “national calamity’’.
According to him, after spending sleepless nights engaging with organised labour, the two congresses agreed with the government that the fuel deregulation was inevitable.
“The moment we lost as much as 60 per cent of our earnings and suffered a kind of shock in crude oil prices, we must deregulate. Between 2006 and 2019, we paid N10.413 trillion in fuel subsidies; an average of N743.8 billion per annum,’’ he lamented.
He added that the country right now cannot afford the subsidy regime.