Amid calls from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other leading economists for the removal of fuel subsidies, President Muhammadu Buhari has made it clear that his government has no intention of heeding these appeals that could increase the difficulties of citizens.
The president also blamed Nigeria’s failure to meet its OPEC crude production quota on alleged criminal activities of the proscribed indigenous people of Biafra, IPOB, in the oil-producing region, saying the group is complicit in the damage caused to pipelines and infrastructure.
He also urged international partners to take action by outlawing IPOB as a terrorist organization, lamenting that the group’s leadership enjoys a safe haven in the West, broadcasting hate speech in Nigeria from London, spending millions of lobbying members of the US Congress and freely using international financial networks to arm agitators on the ground.
These were in an interview the president recently gave to Bloomberg News along with the transcripts made available to reporters by his media office.
President Buhari, in the interview, explained why removing subsidies is impossible.
Defending his government’s continued fuel subsidies against expert advice, Buhari said, “Most Western countries are now implementing fuel subsidies. Why would we delete ours now? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander! What our Western allies learn the hard way is what looks good on paper and the human consequences are two different things.
“My government put plans in place to remove the subsidy at the end of last year. After further consultation with stakeholders, and as events have unfolded this year, such a decision is become increasingly untenable.
“Boosting internal production of refined products will also help. Capacity is expected to increase significantly later this year and next as private players and modular refineries (Dangote Refinery, BUA Group Refinery, Waltersmith Refinery) join us.
Responding to questions about what his government was doing to ensure food security in the face of spiraling inflation, the president accused the European Union (EU) of encouraging the export of its subsidized food to Africa and thereby undermining the continent’s efforts towards food sustainability.
He said: “EU policies, in particular, are all about open trade rhetoric – yet their Common Agricultural Policy subsidy programs and the export of these subsidized products are addictive, undermining the self-sufficiency of Africa and cause food poverty and famine.
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Assessing his performance over the past seven years on how he was able to achieve his goal of fighting corruption, the president told his interviewers that he was able to secure the country and repatriate looted funds because that the country’s international partners could trust his leadership.
He said: “We are leaving Nigeria in a much better place than where we found it. Corruption is less hidden because Nigerians feel empowered to report it without fear, while the money is returned; terrorists no longer hold territory in Nigeria and their leaders are dead; and extensive infrastructure development puts the country on a path to sustainable and equitable growth.
“In 2015, Boko Haram held territory the size of Belgium within the borders of Nigeria. Today they are close to extinction as a military force. The ISWAP leader was eliminated by a Nigerian Air Force airstrike in March. The jets acquired from the United States and the intelligence shared by the British were not provided to previous administrations and are a testament to the renewed trust rebuilt between Nigeria and our traditional Western allies under my government.
“We urge these same international partners to take further steps, at no cost to them, by outlawing another group – IPOB – as a terrorist organization. Their leaders enjoy a safe haven in the West, broadcasting hate speech in Nigeria from London, spending millions of dollars lobbying members of the US Congress and freely using international financial networks to arm agitators on the ground. This must stop.
“My administration is the only one in Nigeria’s history to implement a solution to decades-long conflicts between herders and farmers, exacerbated by desertification and population growth. The National Livestock Transformation Plan, which places livestock at the heart of its activities, is the only way to exhaust the competition for resources at the heart of the clashes.
“Governors of some individual states have sought to play politics where ranches have been established; but where they have been, the conflicts have diminished considerably.
He further said: “Working with our international partners, hundreds of millions of diverse currencies have been sent back from abroad – mainly from the UK, the US and Switzerland – and used as social funds and of welfare distributed directly to the poorest during the Covid pandemic and the provision of long-delayed infrastructure – roads, bridges, railways and electricity.
“As an illustration, monetary recoveries (January-December) 2021 show that over 152 billion naira have been recovered. Dollar recoveries for the year amount to over 386 million dollars; GBP, plus 1.1 million; Euros, around 157,000; Saudi Riyals around 1.7 million more in digital and other currencies.
“These partners refused to return these funds held for decades to previous Nigerian administrations in the certainty that they would simply be re-stolen. They changed their approach with us because they knew my administration could be trusted. .
Like why, as oil minister in addition to the president, the country’s crude production continues to slump, with Nigeria unable to meet its OPEC quota for almost a year despite high prices and what he was doing to strengthen the production, he accused the criminals and the IPOB of being behind the ugly development.
According to him, “Four years ago we unveiled plans for a new gas pipeline linking Nigeria to Europe. Last week (June 2) – in record time – the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) reached an agreement with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for its construction.
“Simultaneously, on July 1, NNPC will become a limited liability company and be subject to stricter auditing and business disclosure requirements. This will help stimulate investment and enhance transparency, where corruption has deterred first and hindered the second.
“My administration is the first to enact this historic reform in our oil and gas sector, after two decades of failure by its predecessors to do so – no doubt due to vested interests.
“Crime and terrorism in oil-producing regions are hampering production, and it would be helpful if our Western allies designated IPOB as a terrorist group, given their complicity in damaging pipelines and infrastructure.
We have invested in our security forces, including the $1 billion military agreement with the United States for the acquisition of the A-29 Super Tucano aircraft.
“These efforts are having an impact: wells that had to be closed due to crime have now reopened. Thanks to these efforts, OPEC has increased our quota for next month.
On why he refused to sanction Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele for expressing interest in running for President ahead of the 2023 general election while still in office , the President said, “The Governor of the CBN is appointed by the President. But this appointment is subject to confirmation by the Nigerian Senate. Ultimately, it will be up to the CBN Board of Directors to determine whether the actions of a CBN Governor violated the laws in place to ensure that he can most effectively discharge his duties. .
Asked to assess his performance in the fight against insecurity, Buhari said he had been able to recover territories previously held by Boko Haram insurgents and depleted their ranks, adding that his administration’s execution of vast projects infrastructure had put the country on the path to sustainable and sustainable development. equitable growth.
When asked if there was anything his administration could do to boost tax collection given that Nigeria has one of the lowest tax-to-income ratios in the world, he replied:
“Although we have the largest economy in Africa, it is true that translating this wealth into income generation is a challenge. We increased the VAT in 2020, and the IMF wanted us to increase it more, but this is a complex problem that cannot be solved by tax increases alone.
“Around 80% of Nigerians work in the so-called informal economy – a situation exacerbated by the pandemic. It is difficult to tax informal workers and no country has yet found an adequate solution.
“Yet we are pushing hard to find one, including the rollout of a national identity card which has grown from 7 million in 2015 to between 90 and 100 million today – including a tax code and, at the same time, combined with access to various government services.
“In 2016, I launched the Presidential Business Environment Council (PEBEC), making Nigeria an easier place to start and grow a business. PEBEC policies, like rolling out our national ID card , contribute to integrating the informal sector.
“We are also working closely with ECOWAS to implement initiatives such as the West Africa Tax Transition Support Program (PATF), improving the management of domestic taxation and ensuring better coordination of taxation in the regions of ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). .”