Nigerian president defends petrol price hike amid nationwide protests

January 8, 2012 12:14 pm 

LAGOS, Jan. 8 — Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan Saturday night defended the government's decision to raise the petrol price, saying the money freed from subsidization is badly needed for alleviating the country's poor.

In a nationwide broadcast, the Nigerian leader said some of the measures include the cutting of salaries of all political office holders by 25 percent.

He directed that overseas travels by himself and other political office holders will be reduced to the barest minimum.

According to him, the size of delegations on foreign trips will be reduced to the barest minimum.

He disclosed plans to launch a robust mass-transit program in partnership with the 36 states and the 774 Local Government Areas in the country.

The Nigerian leader warned protesters against being used by mischief-makers.

He also directed all ministries, departments and agencies to cut their bloated overhead cost. He said the deregulation of the downstream sector is not meant to inflict pains on Nigerians.

President Jonathan, in his speech was apologetic on the removal of fuel subsidy, adding that the hardship being experienced by Nigerians will be temporary.

He called on all citizens to make sacrifices and assured Nigerians that his administration will work towards full domestic refining of petroleum products before the end of his tenure.

"To save Nigeria, we must all be prepared to make sacrifices. On the part of Government, we are taking several measures aimed at cutting the size and cost of governance, including on-going and continuous effort to reduce the size of our recurrent expenditure and increase capital spending," he added.

The Nigerian government stopped the fuel subsidies on Sunday, saying the funds will be spent on refineries and infrastructure instead.

The Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency announced the formal removal of the subsidy, prompting fuel marketers to increase their prices from 65 naira (0.41 U.S. dollar) to as much as 200 naira (1.25 U.S. dollars) per liter.

Nigeria's removal of fuel subsidies has triggered protests in several cities, and mass strikes and protests are being called for.

A nationwide strike is underway in Nigeria on Monday to protest the removal of fuel subsidies by the government, bringing Africa's top oil producer to a standstill.

Nigeria has resorted to fuel imports to meet domestic consumption for years because its four state-run refineries are unable to operate normally. Yet Nigerians only pay a fraction of what Europeans pay for fuel. (PNA/Xinhua)

DCT/jsd

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