Less than two months before the 2019 presidential election, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, has taken a swipe at the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government, accusing it of lying to Nigerians that the country consumes 50 million litres of premium motor spirit (PMS) daily. Saraki said the claim was criminal. He also accused the government of scaring away investors by creating a climate of fear and implementing poor economic policies.
Saraki, formerly an ally of President Muhammadu Buhari and member of the ruling APC, defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following what he called “witch-hunts and political persecution” by the ruling party. He told some editors in an interview that the federal government’s anti-corruption crusade was an attempt to hoodwink the masses.
According to the senate president, “Under this government, we went from fuel consumption of 30 million litres a day to over 50 million litres per day. Where is this consumption taking place? This is criminal. What I am saying is that if we could be so hard on Jonathan that claims to be doing 30 million litres per day, now, they are debiting us with over 50 million litres per day.
“Nobody will tell you that we can consume more than 25 million litres per day. Calculate the amount of money that we are losing. It is not appropriated, that terminology is just a means to cover that transaction. Instead of reversing it, the president said it should be appropriated for and now we are coming back for it to be under the budget.”
Saraki, who is also the director-general of Atiku Presidential Campaign Council, the 2019 election campaign organisation of the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said the president ignored repeated counsels he had given him regarding an alleged oil subsidy fraud being perpetrated under his nose.
“If you look at it, that this subsidy must continue, then let it be efficient, instead of doing that the NNPC wrote the government saying that without putting the money in the budget, they can take the money straight from revenue, called cost recovery. This is fraudulent, it is illegal. There is nothing we did not tell Mr President that this cost recovery is wrong.”
Unlike former President Goodluck Jonathan, who adjusted his policies when corrected, Saraki stated that Buhari saw him as an enemy and attacked him as such.
Recalling what happened to him and others then in the APC, the PDP stalwart said, “Go and look at 2016 when we were in a recession. I called a debate and we wrote the president, listing things that he was yet to do. I will give you an example: we said we should see how we can raise equity; he (Buhari) attacked us. They said we wanted to sell refineries to our friends – you can remember. If you see the 2019 budget, the President is saying he is expecting the sum of N810 billion from the restructuring of the JVC – exactly what we had said at that time.”
Furthermore, the former governor believed the Buhari regime was stifling economic growth through its opaque economic blueprint, and urged the president and his economic team to open up investments to the private sector.
He declared that the organised private investors do not have confidence in the president’s commitment to provide a level playing field. Saraki asserted that while ordinary Nigerians would cast their votes to elect a president next year, the investors had already made up their minds.
Saraki affirmed that only the PDP presidential candidate could bring back the investors’ confidence in the country.
“You can harass politicians but investors’ money can only go to where there is safety,” he stated. “As long as the private investor does not have confidence (in the government), things will be difficult due to the fact that the right decisions are not taken by the government. I keep saying that ordinary Nigerians will go and vote on February 16, 2019. But the business community have voted already – that is the truth.”
Speaking further, the senate president said, “Unless we bring that confidence in our economy it will be difficult. That is why for those of us that found ourselves on the other side of the divide, we are saying that for Nigerians to move this country forward, we must do the right thing and vote for our candidate, Atiku Abubakar, because that is what will bring confidence in the private sector to invest.”
According to him, Nigeria is not like Saudi Arabia, which has enough funds to fund any project. He urged Nigerians to vote out the incumbent president.
“We don’t have that money. There are some countries, like Saudi Arabia, those kinds of countries that can fund their projects successfully. We cannot. Where is the money and who is going to bring out the money? Who will bring out that money? Do they (investors) have confidence in the government? The answer is no. Then, the government has to go, if the government does not go, poverty will continue,” Saraki stated.
He economic disaster lurked if Nigerians chose to keep Buhari in power, as it will further scare away the few investors staking their resources in Nigeria.
“Because oil price is at this level, it’s not going to move up. So, we already know the revenues. The question with this revenue is: will it bring the needed investment? The answer is no. Where will the money come from? It has to come from somewhere else. This is why they have been taking loans, which is not good for us, it should come from investments,” Saraki said.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had in a report last week said Nigerians consumed a total of 479 million litres of petrol from January to September 2018, representing an average of 53.2 million litres daily for nine months. NNPC’s operational and financial results for September 2018 also showed that the country consumed 80 million litres of petrol per day in March 2018, up from the 41 million litres consumed daily in December 2017.
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