Trading Tackles Over Palliatives
Despite his enumerated palliatives to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy withdrawal by the federal government on the people of Edo State, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP said the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, is merely grandstanding.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole had in a statewide broadcast told the people of the state that his administration was determined to ensure that the pains arising from the partial removal of subsidy translates to concrete gains. He enumerated his targeted areas to include: education, transport and health care delivery. He said his administration has abolished all fees and levies, including PTA levies, in all public senior secondary schools for both indigenes and residents and promised to sustain the existing policy of absolute free and compulsory education at the primary and junior secondary school levels. The governor also directed the authorities of the Ambrose Ali University to reduce fees by N15, 000 per regular undergraduate student irrespective of state of origin and N5, 000 reduction in fees for part-time undergraduate student. He said the Edo State government will pay en bloc, the total value of this reduction in addition to the N210 million monthly subvention. What this means is that the AAU will not suffer any loss of revenue.
The state’s senior citizens were not left out. In addition to the existing free antenatal care, delivery and the free treatment for children under five years old, the governor decided to introduce free medical treatment for pensioners and other senior citizens, indigenes and non-indigenes who are resident in Edo State in all the state government hospitals. The treatment covers pensioners who are 70 years old and above while plans have been concluded for free eye test and free eye glasses for those from 60 years and above.
On transport, the governor announced a 50 percent subsidy in fare for primary school pupils and secondary school students who are in uniform. This takes effect from this February when all the ticketing details would have been worked out. The comrade bus service fleet will acquire more buses for this purpose, he added.
But Vincent Akhere PDP youth leader in Edo State told this magazine that the gesture was politically motivated. He described the reduction as a “smoke screen and medicine after death” and said that about two years ago the same government astronomically jacked up the fees charged by Ambrose Alli University. He noted that when Professor Oserheimen Osunbor of the PDP was governor of the state, the fees paid by students were between N15, 000 to N18, 000. “But Oshiomhole came and astronomically increased the fees from N18, 000 to over N72, 000.”
According to Akhere, since education remains a social necessity which cannot be dismissed by any reasonable government the gesture by the ACN government was a political design to hoodwink the electorate in the state, especially in Edo central senatorial district to vote for the party in the July 14 gubernatorial election. He wondered if the AAU is the only school in Edo State, arguing that during the April 2011 general elections, ACN failed abysmally in Esan land, which they believe was because of the high fee charged students of AAU.
A chieftain of the ACN, John Akhigbe, pooh-poohed Akhere’s assessment of the palliatives and said he was not surprised with PDP’s politicisation of measures designed to cushion the effect of the removal of oil subsidy. Akhigbe who is special assistant to the governor, said the authorised reduction of the fees payable by undergraduates of the Ambrose Alli University would come on stream once the institution commences session.
Oba Abeche Saiki traditional ruler of Igarra Kingdom in Akoko-Edo local government area commended the governor for the palliatives, which he said would go a long way in cushioning the effects of the fuel price hike.
He opined that Edo State has not enjoyed such unprecedented democracy dividends in a long time and praised Comrade Oshiomhole for the level of commitment he has shown in alleviating the suffering of the people.
The oba particularly noted that the governor’s robust and progressive policies would reverse the extreme poverty and inequality of parents and afford quality education for the children.
Governor Oshiomhole is facing the PDP in a gubernatorial election scheduled for July 14. He has spoken of his commitment to Edo people, respect for the rule of law and his appetite to satisfy his political objectives as irrevocable, and has asked for maximum support from the people.