President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, in Lagos, unveiled a platform of economic development for the country that must be predicated on full removal of fuel subsidy.
Speaking at the Nigeria Summit 2013 organised by The Economist with the theme Enabling and Implementing Change, Jonathan said the fuel subsidy just have to be removed, but after discussing with the public about the easiest way to do it.
He said: “We cannot continue to waste resources meant for a greater number of Nigerians to subsidise the affluent middle class, who are the main beneficiaries.”
It would be recalled that attempt by the Federal Government to remove the fuel subsidy on January 1, 2012 led to widespread protests in the country, forcing the government to partially reinstate the subsidy with fuel price set at N97 per liter from N65, prompting an increase in last year’s budget by N161 billion to accommodate the subsidy.
3-pronged security plan
The president also disclosed that the Federal Government had adopted a three-pronged approach to addressing insecurity and fighting acts of terrorism in the country, and said that importation of rice into the country will stop by 2016.
He said the three approaches to tackle insecurity are: counter-terrorism by working with neighbouring countries, openness to political dialogue with the disgruntled, provided they come out to the open, and economic inclusion that will ensure that restful youths are gainfully engaged and therefore not susceptible to negative social or religious manipulation.
“There can be no development without security, which is why a large portion of this year’s budget was devoted to security,” he said.
Jonathan said government is working on massive production and storage of rice in the country, adding that the priority of his government is food security, hence the need to boost rice production which is Nigeria’s staple food.
He also noted that an improved agricultural sector will also boost job creation.
Jonathan said: “Our agenda on job creation is mainly focused on the agricultural sector. We are working hard to boost production of rice, sugar, cassava and oil palm. By 2015/2016, we should stop importation of rice into the country.
“Our aim is to go back to agriculture not only to export raw produce but to process and add value.”
He said Nigeria has what it takes to be self-sufficient in the production of these commodities, being blessed with arable land and favourable climatic condition all year round.
He declared that it was as a result of the tremendous progress that had been made in grains production that ensured that the prices of food items have remained stable in spite of the floods of last year.
Bogus agencies at ports
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at the summit, lamented the return of some sacked agencies into the nation’s ports.
The minister said the return of these agencies “is not good for business as their presence at the ports has made the clearance of goods more cumbersome and expensive.”
She explained that the issue of Customs and the ports had not been an easy one, adding that the government had concluded plans to computerise the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, with a view to reducing or eliminating physical contact with stakeholders.
He said: “All kinds of agencies are currently in the ports and this has brought about high cost of clearing goods at the port. It has been a constant fight against these agencies because the issue of ports reform is a global trend.
“When you think you have gotten rid of some of these agencies, they come in again under another disguise. This situation is not good for business that is why the government is making move to computerise the Nigeria Customs Service.”