Press Statement from the Kaduna Roundtable
SUBSIDY REMOVAL AND STATE OF OUR NATION
CENTRE FOR FAITH AND PUBLIC POLICY KADUNA.
1 The Kaduna Roundtable is a unique forum which brings together a wide representation of citizens, Muslims and Christians, professionals, NGOs, CSOs academics, and the clergy to periodically discuss issues that are central to governance and society in Nigeria. The Roundtable has achieved a reputation as an avenue for high quality and dispassionate conversation around many national issues, and it has published some of its conclusions and recommendations in the past.
2 The Roundtable recently reviewed national developments following the decision of the federal government to remove subsidy on petroleum pump price. It also examined the state of security in Nigeria following the rising levels of violent activity across the nation and government responses to it.
3 The Kaduna Roundtable noted the following:
i. The removal of subsidy on petroleum prices is unpopular and unjustified. It is being legitimately challenged by the entire nation, and only a reversal of the decision will satisfy the Nigerian people. Government should take steps to deal with endemic corruption around the subsidy and in the wider economy.
ii. Nigerians have a right to protest the decision of the federal government. They should challenge this decision within the laws of the land. Government must show the utmost respect for the right of citizens to protest, and all security agencies must show the utmost restraint and respect for the fundamental rights and privileges of citizens to protest lawfully.
4 All Nigerians are concerned over the escalating violence being targeted at Nigerians of all faith as well as agents of the federal government by Boko Haram. The Roundtable is particularly worried over the deliberate targeting of churches and christians by Boko Haram and the appearance of tendencies which seek to pitch Muslims against Christians in a major conflict. While noting the efforts of government to deal with this threat, the Roundtable has also observed that more needs to be done to prevent this threat from destroying the peace and trust which exists between Muslims and Christians, and between citizens from the North and South. The Roundtable further noted that the Boko Haram insurgency is now the biggest security threat in the nation, and needs to be understood and handled in all its manifestations.
5 The Roundtable resolved as follows:-
a. The Federal Government should immediately reverse the decision on removal of subsidy on petroleum. It should raise the levels of transparency and engagement of Nigerians around the entire deregulation policy if it wishes to introduce new polices in future.
b. President Goodluck Jonathan’s credibility and integrity as a leader has been severely damaged by the decision to impose an anti-people policy against popular objection. He needs to take steps to regain the confidence of the Nigerian people, and he could begin by ensuring that all policies which will affect the lives of Nigerians in future are informed by considerations of their basic interests and respect for the opinions of citizens to whom he is accountable. The fight against entrenched and endemic corruption is what Nigerians demand from the President, and they want to see him lead this fight openly and decisively.
c. Nigerians are free to exercise their right to protest this unjust policy until it is reversed. They must do this within the laws of the land, and resist all attempts to hijack their protest to trigger another crisis between religious or ethnic groups. Citizens should commit to protecting each others’ property, places of worship or residences, and confront this unpopular decision as one people.
d. Nigerians should be vigilant over attempts to trigger massive conflicts between Christians and Muslims to divert attention from real development problems which affect Nigeria. We must all resist the pressure to play to the script of Boko Haram to set us up against each other, or to use Boko Haram to deflate our legitimate campaigns.
e. Government must pay close attention to suspicions that sinister agents of destabilization or criminals are hiding behind the Boko Haram brand to destroy the foundations of the Nigerians state. It is also conceivable that large scale crimal activities are being organized under the cover of Boko Haram. Nigerians expect Government to provide the necessary protection over their lives and property.
f. Government should intensify efforts towards bringing the Boko Haram insurgency to an end. All lawful avenues must be explored to improve the security of Nigerians; and Muslim and Christian leaders should assist towards achieving inter-faith harmony and peace among our communities. The President should overhaul his security apparatus to achieve greater impact.
g. Groups and citizens involved in protesting unpopular and anti-people policies of government should conduct themselves with the highest levels of decorum and respect for the law. They should remain sensitive to the needs of the weak and the poor who will be hurt in this case by both the subsidy removal decision and the activities which will be organized to reverse it. Under no circumstances should the Nigerian people, particularly the unfortunate and poor, be made to suffer more than they already do.
h. These are times which demand the highest levels of commitment to our national interest by all patriots, and it is vital that all citizens, professional groups and leaders participate in the national endeavour to raise the levels of accountability and responsiveness of our leaders.
i. Nigerians should sustain lawful resistance against the removal of subsidy until it is reversed; and government engages them in a transparent and productive dialogue on deregulation policy and wider issues on management of the economy and the fight against corruption.
8th January 2012
Signed on behalf of the Roundtable members
DR HAKEEM BABA-AHMED, OON (Chairman) & ZWAHU, YANWAIDI E. (Secretary)