The Alliance for Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond has thrown its weight behind Labour and Civil Society on their plans for a total shutdown of the country on September 28.
The coalition has asked its 80 affiliate members spread across the country to begin mobilisation towards the day already set aside for action by the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress.
“We fully support the position of TUC and NLC. ASACAB will intensify its campaign to ensure mass participation of Nigerians in an affair that affects their livelihood,” the group said.
In a statement on Thursday, the ASCAB Chairman, Femi Falana (SAN), asked the Federal Government to ensure the safety of Nigerians who will show their discontent with the economic policies of the Nigerian authority on September 28.
“ASCAB and all its 80 affiliate members across the country have been asked to prepare their members for a day of protest against anti-people policies of the Government. Our members will come out in millions to show their determination to free the fetters of iron and the chains of economic and political repression foisted on them by the Federal and State Governments,” the statement signed by renowned lawyer noted.
Falana asked the Federal Government to ensure police give protection to the protesters as dictated by the Nigerian Constitution.
The Nigerian Government has justified the fuel hike from N148 litre to N162 litre.
This was premised on the falling fuel price in the international market.
The Government said the poor do not benefit from low fuel prices and that on the long run the hike will boost revenue, which will be used to boost the economy.
ASCAB said the claims of the Federal Government were false.
It argued that many countries have been providing subsidy for the extremely poor through health care services, access to public education, water, good food, housing and public transportation, but that in Nigeria the leadership concentrates on adding to the burden of the masses, thereby fueling ceaseless public outrage, anger, desperation and even providing the breeding ground for the emergence of terrorist groups.
It recalled that figures from the National Bureau of Statistics estimated that 82.9 Nigerians out of 201 million live in poverty, adding that this population of Nigerians will be negatively affected by the fuel and electricity price hike.
ASCAB said majority of Nigerians live on N137,430 per year out of which they have to care for the essentials of live like food, shelter, housing and water resources.
The group said the poorest Nigerians live in rural isolation without access to good water, roads and housing.
It noted that of the 195,000 road networks in Nigeria, most of the rural roads that make up 68 per cent are neglected by the government.
The statement added: “We have seen a continuous regime of subsidy removal for the past four decades. It is now clear that the subsidy removal and fuel hike have become rituals, slogans, catch phrases that are used continuously to defraud the Nigerian masses. ASCAB said each regime of fuel increase has further impoverished Nigerians, spur violent crimes and push Nigerians into extremism in their desperate quest to survive the scourge.
“For over 40 years, Nigerians have been subjected to a gory tradition of fuel price hike with spurious justifications. In the past few years before 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari and many people in the current All Progressives Congress, (APC) leadership were part of those who resisted the fuel price hikes. They pretended to be on the side of the people. Today, these same people are the ones defending the same position they all stood against. This reflects the fact that political parties in Nigeria are largely the same in form and content.”
The coalition said the reality in Nigeria nullifies the need for fuel and electricity tariff hike given the loss of jobs and downward cut in salaries of many Nigerians due to the economic peril of COVID-19 pandemic.
The group said Nigeria is managed by a leadership with a spindrift culture characterised by waste, corruption and piling up of debts at the expense of lifting the country from economic stupor.
It said fuel increase in the past has led to upsurge in debts without any commensurate provision of infrastructure and public utilities while the commanding height of the economy remains in the hands of a self-serving clique whose primary focus is primitive accumulation of wealth and not the industrial development of the country.
ASCAB said: “This debt profile has imposed a very high debt servicing obligation on the country totaling N10.83 trillion from 2015 to 2020. In 2020 for instance at N2.5 trillion, the debt servicing component of the 2020 budget was about 25 per cent of the budget, and was almost equal to the capital component of the budget at N2.47 trillion,” adding that were debts are piling up, the rate of poverty and depression in Nigerians purchasing power continue to increase in the face of a life of opulence and flamboyant lifestyle of the political class.
The group said: “It is therefore obvious that government’s rush to find resources, in the context of its gross failure and inability to collect the statutory revenue already present in the economy, is the basis for this false narrative of declining revenue. If anything is in decline as we shall proceed to show, then it can only be government’s trustworthiness and competence at effectively and efficiently managing the economy.”
ASCAB said the ineptitude of government is further displayed in the tremendous nature of the revenue leakage profile of the country, and explode once and for all the contrived myth of declining revenue.
“For instance, according to the Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation [BOF], quoting a report of the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, and as reported in the Premium Times of December 19 2019, Government Owned Enterprises [GOEs], including the CBN were owing over N10tn [$26.316bn] in unremitted operating surpluses as at August 2018. Some of the GOEs owning back payments in remittance of operating surpluses include; PPPRA – N1.3tn; CBN – N801.2bn; NPA – N192bn; NIMASA – N66.1bn; FAAN – N55.99bn; NCC – N30.8bn; NIWA – N30.7bn; NAMA -N22.8bn; and NTA – N15.6bn among several others,” ASCAB said.
It said this represents a flagrant violation and breach of section 162 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, which provided for the establishment of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation in an account to be domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
ASCAB said it further provided that all revenue accruing to the Federation shall be paid into this account, thus providing a basis for the remittance of operating surpluses into the CRF by the GOEs, adding that this practice of not remitting operating surpluses is also in breach of section 22 of the Financial Responsibility Act 2007 that provides that 80 per cent of operating surpluses of the GOEs be remitted into the CRF.
It added: “The DG BOF during the same forum where he was addressing CEOs of the GOEs, also expressed dismay at the fact that despite the N40tn [$105.236bn] in investment by the FGN in the GOEs, their combined annual returns to the government in form of dividends and operating surpluses has been less than 1% of the investment cost. In other words, the DG was lamenting the N40tn investment by the FGN in the GOEs as a monumental waste.” ASCAB said the total debt of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, (AMCON) established to underwrite toxic debts from the banking sector and acquire assets of bankrupt corporations, to the CBN had risen to N5.5tn [$14.474bn] as at July 2019.”
It said given the precedence of the present government, revenue from the fuel hike will only further enrich the greedy ruling class and further tighten the noose on majority of Nigerians who are currently finding it to breathe under the excruciating policies of the Federal and State Governments.