• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Fuel subsidy removal: Let the present pain lead to future gain

Fuel subsidy removal: Let the present pain lead to future gain

A major highlight of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s inaugural speech on Monday, May 29, 2023 was his bold statement that “oil subsidy is gone.”

The immediate message that statement sent to Nigerians and, indeed, the whole world, was that ‘A New Sheriff is in Town’ or that ‘A Daniel is Come to Judgment’.

Even though is an economic issue, oil subsidy in Nigeria has been turned to a major political tool in the hands of politicians who have used it for patronage whereby a clique of highly connected individuals fleece the country and hurt the economy badly.

Tinubu’s decision and courage to remove the subsidy on fuel imported and consumed in Nigeria is, arguably, is a bold one given that the subsidy issue has been, over the years, a Bull in a China shop.

The removal of the subsidy, we hope, will mark the end of an era in this country when billions of naira found its way into the pockets of just a few Nigerians in privileged positions.

The President Muhammadu Buhari administration had told Nigerians that it would remove the subsidy on oil. That promise came on the heels of an unannounced hike in electricity tariff following government’s decision to enforce a transition to a service-reflective regime in which tariff was based on the level of consumption.

All these were part of over-arching reform measures which, according to government officials, were being implemented in order to raise money to fund developments in the country, especially in the area of infrastructure provision.

To many Nigerians, the removal of oil subsidy is an invitation to suffering for the citizens who will have to pay more for a litre of fuel, pay more for transportation and also for food stuff which prices are expected to rise as a result of hike in transport fare.

Already, we have seen pockets of issues arising from President Tinubu’s pronouncement on Monday. Just a few hours after the president’s speech, queues resurfaced at filling stations even as many filling stations closed shop, feigning scarcity of the products.

Expectedly, the citizens are already outraged as many of them had to trek long distances or spent so much to get to their different destinations Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after the president’s pronouncement.

In our view, the problem at the moment is not whether the removal of the subsidy is good or bad. Instead, it is about trust and the ability of the government to convince the citizens that it has good intensions.

We feel safe to say that Nigerians are very resilient people. They are ready to take that pain in so far as it will lead them to future gain. It becomes all the more painful to them if at the end of the day, there is little or nothing to show for the pain endured.

The federal government in its wisdom believes that subsidy removal will work because it has worked in other counties. It believes too that subsidy removal will work based on its analysis on how our common wealth goes down the drain daily as a result of the subsidy and many giant companies are beneficiaries of the ‘anomaly’.

Government is, apparently, looking at the bigger picture, saying that the money that goes down the drain on subsidy could be used to invest in the future gain it sees so clearly. Part of these future gains are jobs that will be created, good roads that will to be constructed, and investment in electricity to satisfy the needs of the people. These are areas the government hopes to invest the money that will be saved from removing the subsidy.

We see the bigger picture along with the government and believe that the anticipated pain, which will be crystalising and touching on various aspects of our existence, will be a purveyor of future gain.

However, government and its officials have work to do here, especially on its perceived trust deficit. Their trust deficit burden is such that even when they come up with good policies, the people hardly believe or take them seriously.

This is because the citizens have seen otherwise good policies and programmes put out by government, especially in housing where projects are started, stopped or hijacked by powerful people in society and that happens after poor people have been subjected to loss of business premises, demolition of houses, and family dislocation.

It is our hope, however, that this time around, government will walk its talk. We expect the Tinubu government to come out early enough to manage the people’s reaction to the pronouncement.

Read also: NEITI offers recommendations to manage subsidy removal

The Buhari government promised to remove the subsidy, but could not see it through in eight years. This is why the people are still doubting and asking if the government, this time around, will clear their doubt and make the subsidy work as it does in other jurisdictions, and also bring the expected gain.

It is not lost on us, and we hope it should not on other Nigerians too, that before we start seeing the gains; that is, before it starts working, we as a people must sweat and grit our teeth in anguish. But we urge all to develop tough skin to be able to absorb the pains.

Ultimately, it is our hope that the present pain which differs in degrees according to socio-economic levels, will lead to future gain. And to make this happen, we urge the government to live up to citizens’ expectations by investing proceeds of the present pain in the economy.