Panafrican News Agency

Fuel subsidy removal, Jonathan's job-creation initiative highlighted in Nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - Plans by the federal government to end the regime of subsidizing petroleum products and president Goodluck Jonathan's job-creation scheme for 3,600 youths capped a week filled with all sorts of stories - the good, the bad and the ugly - in Nigeria.

On Thursday, Jonathan spoke for the first time in public on the planned removal of fuel subsidy, saying the deregulation of the country's downstream sector would be done in phases and executed in “deliberate and responsible way”.

Opening a two-day retreat for public and private sector leaders on economic development and job creation, he said: "In the event of deregulation, this administration is committed to investing the resources in tangible infrastructure and providing social safety nets and other mechanisms to moderate the impact of the reforms on the most vulnerable segments of our society.”

The Vanguard headlined its story: "We’ll invest subsidy funds on infrastructure – Jonathan". It quoted the president as saying, "The government is prepared to deregulate the oil and gas sector of the economy to make it more attractive and beneficial to Nigerians."

The Tribune, with the headline, "Jonathan insists on oil subsidy removal", with the riders 'FG plans palliatives', and 'Seeks private sector support', reported that while calling for the cooperation of all, Jonathan explained that the proposals to phase out petroleum subsidies in a deliberate and responsible way would harness revenues for capital stock formation; leverage on private sector investments in public-private partnerships (PPPs) to help bridge the infrastructural gap and create incentives for investment in refineries and the petrochemical industries.

It quoted Jonathan as saying that the nation’s external trade and tariff policies would be reviewed to promote domestic industries and protect them from unfair trade practices.

"Why petroleum subsidy must go, by Jonathan", the pro-opposition Nation newspaper reported, saying that "despite the public outcry against the planned removal of fuel subsidy, President Jonathan Thursday insisted on its withdrawal", saying that funds saved from the removal would stimulate private sector investments.

According to him, discontinuing with the subsidy remained the only responsible way of harnessing revenue for capital stock formation, among other things.

Explaining that the plan to remove petroleum subsidy was still at the proposal stage, the President said if it went through, the resources hitherto used as subsidy on the importation of petroleum products, would be invested in tangible infrastructure and provision of social safety nets to cushion the impact of the reforms.

While the Guardian's headline was "Govt unveils plan to reduce pain of subsidy removal," the Trust wrote, "Fuel subsidy: Jonathan lobbies private sector", and the Sun headlined its story "Private sector endorses fuel subsidy removal".

According to the Sun, Nigeria’s organised private sector has endorsed the Federal Government’s decision to fully deregulate the downstream petroleum sector through the removal of oil subsidy.

The position of the captains of industry was made public at the Presidential Villa at the end of the two-day presidential retreat with the private sector on economic development and job creation.

This is even as the Chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, said the private sector involved in the production of goods and services had stopped enjoying subsidy on diesel, low fuel oil and natural gas for the past 10 years, as they had been paying market price.

Dangote also blamed the administration of the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua for not implementing the 2008 fuel subsidy removal agreement reached with workers adding, however, that it is senseless for government to be borrowing to fund projects which were killing the future of Nigerians.

On Jonathan's job-creation initiative, The Vanguard's headline on Wednesday was "Jonathan launches job creation scheme for 3,600 youths". The paper said Jonathan on Tuesday formally launched Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria initiative, also known as YouWin, one of his administration’s key programmes targeted at youth empowerment, employment generation and wealth creation, with a pledge to make job creation a top priority of the government.

The scheme is an innovative business plan competition that harnesses the creative energies of young people between the ages of 18 and 35, and is largely targeted at owners of existing formal and informal businesses who will be asked to submit their business plans for a competition.

These will be evaluated by a panel of experts and the best submissions from each geopolitical zone will be selected for support.

Jonathan said it was expected that those to be assisted by government would create between 80,000 to 110,000 sustainable jobs over the next four years.

Thisday newspaper ran the same story under the headline "Jonathan Targets 110,000 Jobs for Youths in 4 Years", saying that between 80,000 and 110,000 jobs, under the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWin!) initiative, are being planned for Nigerian youths between now and 2015.

According to the paper, the President said he planned to raise funds to support those with good ideas that could give the youths the needed quantum leap to compete with their peers globally.

Jonathan said due to the age distribution of youths, “which makes them more in number”, it was imperative for them to take the driver's seat of the country’s development and therefore need all the support his administration could offer.

According to him, those who already have thriving enterprises would submit business plans for expansion which will take in other youths and build capacities through the financial assistance to 3,600 youths.

“Through YouWin!, over 3,600 Nigerian youths will be financially assisted to actualise their entrepreneurial ideas and plans. It is expected that these would create between 80,000 (and) 110,000 sustainable jobs over the next 4 years."

The Nation, with the headline, "Why we budgeted N50b for employment, by Jonathan", quoted the president as saying that the money was meant to encourage young people with creative ideas so that they could generate jobs and employ others.

Moving from "the good" to "the bad", the Guardian's headline, "Revolution looms, panel on polls violence warns", told the story of what the Federal Government Investigation Panel on the 2011 Election Violence said, while submitting its report on Monday to President Jonathan in Abuja.

It warned that if the current social, economic and security situation in Nigeria was unaddressed, it could “escalate to social revolution”.

The Chairman of the panel, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, said for Jonathan to do all that is required to take Nigeria away from the spiralling violence, he would step on the toes of some powerful persons and institutions.

It said one of the major causes of violence and disturbances in Nigeria was the manner in which political office holders made their positions so lucrative at the expense of the whole nation.

The panel discovered that the remunerations and allowances of the members of the Legislature, in particular, are considered outrageous, turning politics in Nigeria to a do-or-die affair for which many politicians of all parties are seriously establishing private armies to execute.

Receiving the report, Jonathan pledged to implement the panel’s recommendations, as “heaven will not fall” in the process of doing it.

The papers also reported the "ugly" incident in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, where an explosion rocked the highbrow Maitama District, destroying as much as three buildings, including those belonging to General Lawrence Onoja, a former Principal General Staff Officer (PGSO) to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, and ex-director general of the defunct National Security Organisation (NSO), Alhaji Umaru Ali Shinkafi.

The third building affected is located barely 500 metres away from the official residence of the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Hafiz Ringim.

The papers also reported the arrest of four journalists working for the opposition Nation newspaper over a "secret" letter purportedly written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Jonathan, recommending candidates for the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) and four other key agencies.

Outrage greeted the arrest and detention of the four senior editors, who have since been released.

The Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Osun State Government, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), who spoke before some of the senior journalists were released, decried the dictatorial, illegal and high-handed manner the senior journalists and non-journalist employees of The Nation newspapers were arrested and being maltreated and called for their immediate release.

Also during the week, outrage followed Nigeria's inability to qualify for the 2012 African Nations Cup final as a consequence of the Super Eagles 2-2 draw in Abuja with Guinea. The draw effectively knocked Nigeria out of contention for the CAN 2012 finals to be co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Some of the headlines on the story were: Vanguard - "Don’t sack me! Siasia begs"; the Sun "House of Reps votes for foreign coach."

The headlines underscored moves with the Nigerian sports circle to fire or retain Super Eagles coach Samson Siasia. A meeting of the Football House was not conclusive on Siasia's future as Nigerians are still anxiously awaiting an official pronouncement.
-0- PANA VAO/MA 15Oct2011