Former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi also said the retention of fuel subsidy as “stupid” and capable of bankrupting the country.
El-Rufai and Sanusi spoke during a policy conversation and book presentation by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Agora Policy in Abuja.
The Governor alleged Buhari had agreed that fuel subsidy spending by the government made no sense but refused to halt it.
Responding to a question about fuel subsidy, El-Rufai said: “Between September and November 2021, the National Economic Council gave us an assignment to work out what to do if we withdraw subsidy, how much will be raised, etc. We worked with experts and the World Bank.
“We came out with a report on what to do with the resources, which will be transparently explained to Nigerians. Components of it include investment in security, social protection, etc. The report is there.”
The committee, he said, developed a framework on what to do with what would be saved once subsidy was halted and how to release more money for education, health, infrastructure, etc.
El Rufai said Governors saw danger ahead in 2021 with the retention of fuel subsidy. Worried by the development, El Rufai claimed he approached Buhari and asked: “Does it make sense to you for us to spend N200billion on all federal roads in Nigeria in one year and six times that on cheap petrol?
“He (President) said it doesn’t make sense. So why are we doing it? This is something we’ve been studying for many years, we have a framework and the economic council agreed, all the 36 governors of Nigeria agreed that it should be withdrawn and we had a clear plan on where the money would go.
“Some of it will go to the Federal Government, some to states, Local Governments, and to interventions. We all agreed. The President said, no! That’s it.”
Sanusi called on the incoming government to stop the subsidy regime. According to him, in 2011 “we tried to explain that it’s bad economics; for every $1billion Nigeria spends on fuel subsidy, it is $1billion out of education, $1billion out of healthcare, $1billion out of power, $1billion out of infrastructure.
For those arguing for fuel subsidy, Sanusi said: “What you are saying is that for the poor people in this nation, cheap fuel is more important than education, more important than healthcare, more important than power, etc. If you do that for 30, 40 years, what kind of country are you going to have? Which is what we have had.