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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

ACTION CONGRESS (ACN) TAKES A STAND

The leadership of the ACN - Action Congress of Nigeria- addressed a major press conference in Abuja today to reveal the stand of the party on the current situation in Nigeria.
It is clear that the ACN, the leading leading opposition Party in the country remains committed to the overwhelming masses of our people, who continue to bear the brunt of bad Government, untrustworthy leadership, evil policies and the menace of corruption. The prevailing atmosphere of grave insecurity is compounded by threats of an emerging dictatorship determined to use brute force to subjugate the people.


PRESS CONFERENCE
OPPOSITION TO THE RESCUE: ACN FOR THE PEOPLE


In the last few days the data and information exhumed from the heavily guarded government records have since shown the colossal amount of embezzlement, rip-off and wastage that has been the hallmark of the PDP government. That there was never any subsidy at all, better still, that the fraud called “subsidy” was simply a smoke screen for enriching cronies, which in an election year tripled to finance the presidential election has now all come out in the open. Nigerians are being asked, in the name of withdrawal of fuel “subsidy” to pay for the extravagant and wasteful Presidential election campaigns, last year.

This data, which is still emerging, has raised several questions. How did a N240B subsidy in the 2011 budget grow astronomically to N1.3T by October 2011 (reaching about N1.6T by December 2011)? How did the number of companies involved in fuel importation shoot up from only 11 in February 2011 to 120, more than ten times, by the next month March 2011? The quantity of fuel imported (xxx) is far in excess of the real consumption need of the country, could all the fuel that is claimed to be imported real or is it sheer scam to raise campaign funds for President Jonathan? How exactly was the Jonathan Presidential campaign funded where daily media expenses was estimated to about N100m? Where did the lavish Neighbor to Neighbor campaign get its funds from? Is this not all funded by the racket called Fuel “subsidy”?

Thanks to advances in information and communication technology, the KPMG audit report is now available on the internet and could be accessed by anybody and Nigerians have feasted on this and similar information. It is no longer possible to hide these atrocities anymore. Negotiations with Organized Labour is no remedy to the crisis confronting the PDP government; threats by Ijaw parochialists will not answer the questions of malfeasance and sleaze, it will only compound them. Similarly, using the forces of coercion to block streets to stop citizens from exercising their rights to protest will not cure the crimes of corruption and Nigerians are not going to stop asking these and many more questions.

To be sure, the real import of the subsidy protest is not only the unveiling of the fraud called subsidy and the cartel of beneficiaries behind it, but also and more importantly, the unmasking of the PDP Government. The protest has brought to the fore the shallow frame of mind of the regime, that when confronted by facts all it does is to respond by primordialism and appeal to such sentiments as would divide the nation. In point of fact there are three key issues that this protest has revealed that we have to confront and resolve if the country is to survive and thrive:


1. CORRUPTION: The recent KPMG audit report on NNPC that shows about N800B revenue leakage from the Federation Account and another revenue leakage of N1.2Trillion from the down stream operation symbolizes the rot in that organization. . One looks at this year’s budget to discover the ridiculous amounts allocated beverages and snacks, computers and scanners put at five to ten times their market prices, worst still huge amounts allocated simply as welfare packages and unbelievable sums for vaguely defined budget lines. When the list of some of the beneficiaries of the so-called subsidy started coming out they were those who contributed heavily to the 2011 Presidential campaign, establishing the link between “subsidy” and Jonathan’s election funding. The allocation of nearly a trillion Naira for national security, several times more than the meager allocation for the power sector, is all in the same spirit. What we are witnessing is not just the depth of the rot but that corruption has reached a suffocating level that the country and its people cannot breathe until we deal with it. It has to be dealt with at this juncture and at this time or the nation simply asphyxiates.


2. DISTRUST - Perhaps even more serious than corruption is the total lack of trust between government and its citizens. From Greek antiquity to date, trust has been a critical element in governance. No government on earth has ever succeeded without the trust of its citizens. It is the confidence that citizens have in their government that inspires them to pay taxes, accept legislative and judicial decisions, accept and implement policies and defend the State. Today a great majority of citizens don’t trust this government. They have said as much to the glare of the media. The creative text messages being circulated and cartoons being shared across the social media further display the depth of cynicism of Nigerian citizens. The recent ambush of citizens by their government in declaring over 100% increase in the price of fuel when they had given the impression that consultation would continue until April, had shattered the hearts of many citizens. This gross breach of trust means that whatever the ministers and propaganda mouthpieces say is dismissed outright. Unfortunately it is lost on government that citizens don’t trust it anymore. This total break down of trust where citizens openly call ministers in their governments as liars means that the basis of the social contact has been broken. Government will have to step back and cultivate trust once again.


3. GROSS INCOMPETENCE – Governments exist precisely to protect lives and property and deliver services to its people. In the last six months or so, this government has woefully failed in protecting the lives of its citizens by tackling the mounting insecurity challenges in the country. If anything the President’s declaration that his government has been infiltrated by Boko Haram amounts to surrender and total helplessness. All his National Security Adviser (NSA) has done is to invite Americans to takeover the security of the country saying, “it is time for a strategic security relationship between Nigeria and the United States of America” (January 4th 2012 – Washington Times Newspaper). As for services, citizens know better. For twelve years one PDP government after another has together spent close to $20Billion in the power sector without anything to show for it. Educational and health services as measured by the development indices have gone down to the level of war torn countries like Afghanistan and poverty had doubled, all at a time of unprecedented revenue earnings. Our foreign debts, wiped out only recently, have started to build up again, while internal debt has reached a horrific level of almost N5trillion. Excess crude account has hit the bottom, while the Foreign Reserves are hitting the rocks. Already in the last few months the exchange rate has moved from N140 to over N160 to a dollar. Only two years ago it was less than 120 to a dollar. One could go on. The gross incompetence of this government is too glaring to warrant delineating. The government is neither accountable nor does it deliver any service and runs an incentive system that rewards only corruption and sycophancy.
In this kind of situation no patriotic citizen can rest. It behooves us as the leading opposition party to mobilize citizens under all forums and organizations to salvage our country from the hands of these out rightly incompetent managers. Managers that are self-centered who call on us to make sacrifices while they keep all their privileges. We cannot sit by and abdicate our responsibility when we can provide an alternative to this mess. We certainly cannot ignore the suffering and the cries of the majority of our people.

We have heard the Government propaganda mouthpieces complaining about the opposition having sponsored the protest or even hijacking it. How laughable! What does the government think is opposition all about? It is the duty and responsibility of the opposition in a democracy to provide alternatives when the ruling party is fumbling and give leadership when ruling party is lost. We are proud to perform and fulfill our duty to the citizens of this country, we shall not abandon them to clueless government that is clearly groping in the dark and failing to find solution but accusing everybody and threatening citizens, indeed killing its own citizens on the streets and hanging on them the badge of treasonable felony for coming out to defend there rights.

The measures announced by the President in the morning of Monday 15/1/12 clearly show that the government does not even understand the citizens much less communicate with them. By unilaterally announcing N97 per litre without showing any scientific basis for it undermines the whole argument for the removal of “subsidy”, forcing us to ask how the government arrived at this figure? How now does the government finance the remaining “subsidy”? What happens to the budget that was submitted to the NASS? Is this going to add to the existing budget deficit of more than one trillion Naira? How does the government intend to finance the deficit in the first place? One of the items of expenditure in the current budget is the purchase of two more aircrafts to bring the presidential fleet to over ten aircrafts. What does the president need a fleet of aircrafts for? How can Nigerians believe him and make sacrifices if he cannot himself make such sacrifices? In any case how many aircraft has the Queen of England? The British Prime Minister does not have any Prime Ministerial jet, he uses the British Airways. President Obama pays for his food (unless when hosting a state banquet) and even pays rent for his official residence.



Mr President also said that the EFCC will investigate the NNPC and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources while the same minister being accused of all these malfeasance remains on her seat. How can this be possible? Honesty in dishonesty? This clearly fits to the anecdotal saying of asking the “thief to investigate the theft”! Where on earth is this done? It violates basic principles of investigative justice. The government may as well save the nation the trouble.

Nigerians are tired of listening to the shopping list being rehearsed every now and then as government has not shown any more interest on the improvement on power which has been allocated some meager N161B which is a little over 15% of the sum allocated to security. In the same vein, we note with concern the lip service paid to job creation by this government as Nigerians are at a loss as to which sector of the economy are the jobs coming. How many jobs and over what period? The President has already bloated the federal bureaucracy by increasing the number of ministries from 21 to close to 40 with the number of Ministers jumping in equal quantum or even more. The large number of 20 Special Advisers approved by the NASS has been unilaterally increased to 25. Who will believe his sermons about sacrifices?.

The Fuel Subsidy crisis has united this nation across the various divides and more importantly, around the demand for good governance. Negotiating a price with labour cannot cure the issues raised. We therefore insist that Mr. President must take concrete steps and immediately too, in order to begin to win the confidence of Nigerians.


1. Mr. President should withdraw the bloated budget and slash the recurrent expenditure by 50%.


2. Mr. President must trim the size of his government, our economic priorities cannot afford this senseless gluttony,


3. Mr. President should send the Minister of Petroleum Resources on compulsory leave and appoint a Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court and manned by credible Nigerian’s across stakeholders to properly dig into all form of infractions and abuse of due process in the Petroleum ministry.


4. The National Assembly Public Accounts Committee should immediately commence investigation into the KPMG report and at the same time investigate who authorized the payment of the so-called subsidy that rose from 240Billion naira to over 1.4 trillion naira in the 2011 budget without appropriation.


5. Mr. President should review his government’s approach to security problems of this country. He himself has admitted in not too many words that his approach is not working. Throwing money at it has not worked, it will not work, and this country cannot afford this extravaganza.


6. The savings from these cuts should immediately be channeled to provide jobs for the teeming young people in this country. Agriculture and housing alone can generate not less than 5 million new jobs in the interim over a 2 year period.


7. We condemn unequivocally the gradual ascendancy of authoritarianism and “jack boot tendencies” in our democracy.

The invasion of Lagos and unleashing of armed soldiers and armored tanks against defenseless civilians protesting against an unpopular policy is unacceptable, and most undemocratic. Our constitution does not permit the President to declare war on his people or lawful protesters.


The military is designed to uphold and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria. Using the military to suppress legitimate agitation of the people is an aberration and alien to democratic norms.


We therefore demand the immediate withdrawal of “occupation forces “ from the streets of Lagos.


We have seen through the smokescreen of Jonathan and PDP as the goal of the deployment of troops to Lagos state is nothing but a prelude to declaring state of emergency in Lagos State.

We strongly advise the PDP-led government to immediately retrace its steps as the ACN in every corner of this country will defend any attempt to erode our democratic gains.


Mr. President and PDP should be reminded that never in history has any army ever defeated the will of the people.

We condemn in similar vein the harassment, intimidation and the suppression of the rights of our members illegally detained by the Police in Niger State. We demand the immediate release of leaders of our party in Niger State, Alh. Abubakar Magaji, Alh. Mohammed Adams Erana, Alh. Dattijo Aliyu and Idris Abubakar Azozo.


Nigerians and indeed the rest of the world are watching with utter dis- belief the ever-decreasing democratic space owing to the desperation of the PDP- government.


Mr President cannot afford to fail so he needs to put on thinking cap and come up with better programs.



Mr. President the country is waiting!


ACN LEADERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY

JANUARY 18, 2012

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Item Reviewed: ACTION CONGRESS (ACN) TAKES A STAND Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: SEGA AWOSANYA
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