The President of the Nigerian Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele, has described the country’s Minister of Petroleum as more powerful than the institution that put her there, saying this was one of the challenges facing the country’s oil sector.
Esele, who spoke during a television programme in which he relived his experiences in the fight against the subsidy removal by President Goodluck Jonathan, gave the impression that this was part of his personal recommendation.
He said it was rather better for the institution represented by a person to be bigger so that things would work well for a country.
“Right now, we say that the Minister is too powerful and that the strength should be with the institution, not the individual, but I think the National Assembly will deal with that,” he said.
He also alleged that the government had tinkered with the report of the committee set up to look into the challenges facing the oil sector of which he was a member. He, however, expressed pessimism that the committee report would see the light of day, as according to him, the government was already playing politics with it just like it had done in other areas.
He wondered why the executive would subject the committee report to another committee to look into as this gave the impression that the committee did not do its job. He said that in the wake of the violence that greeted the 2011 elections in some parts of the country, he was part of a committee with the mandate to see how to curb future electoral violence in the country.
He however said till date, nothing had been done concerning the committee report. He said though the Jonathan administration inherited the trait of refusal to act on committee reports from past governments, the current administration should be blamed for not changing what has become a norm.
Comrade Esele said the speculation that the federal government would remove the remaining part of the subsidy on petrol was not right as President Jonathan “cannot remove subsidy in 2013.”
“In 2012, he did not make provision for subsidy but in the 2013 budget, there is a provision for subsidy,” he said.
The TUC President further castigated the state governors for shielding the use of their share of the proceeds from partial removal of subsidy from petrol saying most Nigerians did not know that the state governors receive the money from the Federation Account.
He said while the people do not know what the state governors are doing with their share of the subsidy removal proceeds, all eyes are fixed on the amount accruable to the federal government and how the money is used.
“The money is kept with the Central Bank and we are monitoring it, but people should ask the state governors what they have been doing with their share,” he urged Nigerians, saying he had mandated chairmen of the TUC in states to carry out the investigations.
He denied receiving money from the government during the subsidy removal protests in January and the accompanying meetings that he had with the government. According to him, the money for his transport to and from Abuja as well as his hotel accommodation had been taken care of by the TUC.
Esele also used the opportunity to reiterate his earlier stand that the number of federal lawmakers in the country must be pruned.
He lamented that it is only Nigeria that no citizen knew how much a lawmaker earned. “If you want to know how much Obama or any US legislator earns, just google it and you will find it,” he said lamenting that this was not the case in Nigeria where their salaries are shrouded in secrecy.
He also questioned the manner those in government squandered the national wealth. According to him, while President Barack Obama was campaigning for his second term, for every journey he made to rallies using the Airforce 1, he paid the equivalent of a chattered Boeing 707 aircraft, meaning he had to pay for using the aircraft despite being the President.
He said it was a different scenario in Nigeria where those in government took advantage of everything they could lay their hands on just to win elections and continue to wield power.