Otuekong Franklyn Isong, the chairman of the Akwa Ibom State Center for Human Rights and Accountability Network (CHRAN), has advised the state government to use the N5 billion released by the federal government to buy compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.
It also recommended that the government pay a portion of the cost of transportation for residents, schoolchildren, and government employees.
The Civil Society organizations in the State would prefer if the Governor used the funds to establish a fuel depot or refinery, which would help lower the price of petroleum products, according to Isong, who is also a member of the Akwa Ibom State Palliatives Committee.
He stated that the removal of fuel subsidies was directly responsible for the country's exorbitant cost of goods and services, and that the only way to lessen the impact was to have a functioning refinery right away.
He told the Daily Post that “I’m aware that the FG has approved N5 billion to all the states of the federation as palliatives to ameliorate the hardship caused by fuel subsidy removal. We are yet to be briefed at the committee level on how it will be utilized.
“But we at CHRAN and CSOs are making far-reaching recommendations that, if implemented, would positively impact the lives of everyone. We are looking beyond the sharing of grains and pittances.
“We are looking at the area of having a long-term palliative that would help impact the lives of everyone; we are harping on the government to have a fuel depot or refinery that would reduce the cost of petroleum products.
“We are looking at the government bringing CNG vehicles that would subside the cost of transport, more vehicles that would transport civil servants from plazas or any other strategic places to the secretariat and the schoolchildren, as well as building refineries and a depot.
“It is not just the sharing of rice and money; we want it to affect the rural dwellers positively by building good roads, improving agriculture, and building ranches.
“We want the herders/farmers’ clash to stop; we already have the anti-grazing law; we want the government to implement that by first of all having ranches where the cows will be taken to, so that the cows will not destroy people’s farmlands.”
On his part, the President, non-indigenes in Akwa Ibom State, Sir Sunday Orie, described the N5 billion palliative as robbery on the masses.
Orie wondered why the Federal Government would keep on increasing the price of petroleum products, which had resulted in an unimaginable rise in the price of commodities, and give a paltry N5 billion to state governors to cushion the effect without addressing the root cause of the problem.
Describing the impact of N5 billion as a drop in the ocean, the Igbo leader in Akwa Ibom urged the President, Bola Tinubu, to create an enabling environment, make people-friendly policies, and urgently address the unstable exchange rate for businesses to thrive.
“What is N5 billion for a State? By the time you rob Peter to pay Paul, it is still robbery. Just give us an enabling environment; just give us an opportunity to make money. Many people have parked their vehicles because they can’t afford the fuel.
“Every day you increase the price of fuel and say you are giving a palliative tomorrow. There are people in the interior villages who cannot come to town because of the high cost of transportation to buy or sell their goods.
“If you give them N1500 as palliative, for instance, will that take care of their transportation, not to mention feeding? So who is fooling who?
“The government should, as a matter of urgency, tackle the root cause of the hardship Nigerians are facing currently,” he advised.