THE next debate would be over who is more shocked about the removal of fuel subsidy between President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and millions of Nigerians. Why are people complaining? Tinubu in his momentary wakefulness would fleetingly wonder if he did anything wrong.
We complain that politicians do not keep their promises. We even have a list of more than 100 promises Muhammadu Buhari did not keep. Should we not praise Tinubu for keeping his promise before the ink that signed him into office dried? He promised to remove the subsidy.
It was a public event in Lagos when he addressed the private sector on 21 December 2022. He was specific, “I will remove petrol subsidy”. He did. What then is the problem?
When did it become a “bad thing” to keep a promise? One can excuse the fact that most politicians survive on lying. One has told us the truth.
Tinubu cannot be blamed for fuel subsidy. Although his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, ran the country aground – it never kept it promises that included building new refineries – the fact remains that fuel subsidy was a major cash cow of previous administrations. The figures are staggering, yet they do not tell the full story.
Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) has been at the centre of the subsidy miasma for years. The way it weighs into fuel supply management is forbidding. On what bases did it fix the new prices? If there is no subsidy should there be price regulation, and one managed by NNPC Ltd, one of the competitors in the envisaged free market?
Quantity of fuel consumed balloons according to amounts the authorities want to claim as subsidy. When controversy ensued about how much fuel Nigeria consumed daily, the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali named 57 million litres, a figure slightly below the 60 million litres of the Goodluck Jonathan days. NNPC Ltd was pushing 120 million litres daily as the national consumption.
Trillions of Naira that was expended on subsidy made it a big economy. The supporters had the power to funnel the money wherever they wanted. Muhammed Buhari did nothing. His forte was burrowing Nigeria into more trouble through borrowing.
Issues around fuel subsidy require urgent attention for us to benefit from the possibilities of the new regime. Tinubu’s announcement made it seem that subsidy removal could be speechified into benefits. Nigerians found that affronting; something almost worse than the afflictions.
Years of living under Buhari made many think that the worst was over. Their shock was more from Tinubu’s promptitude in fulfilling a particular promise without any provisions on procedures or a briefing from managers of the economy. Pictures from the inauguration suggest that Tinubu was barely in a position to know what he was reading. The speechwriters and hordes of opportunity seekers around Tinubu should be blamed for this.
Did they think through the speech? What was the purpose of starting off with such monumental matter as if it is of no consequence? Since there were budgetary provisions for subsidy until end of June, would the 30 days not have been useful in making preparations for the abolition of subsidy, negotiations with organised labour, captains of industry and the other leaders of the economy?
No easy way is available to end fuel subsidy. A plan was still required. Tinubu acted as if subsidy removal had no consequences. Unless his intention was to cause confusion, he had no business going that way.
He had taken his first unsteady steps as President. The labour groups should not get into the same manners. Instead of a strike, they should offer the government reasoned positions on the management of subsidy removal.
There are some issues that government waved aside in thinking that subsidy removal is the elixir to Nigeria’s economic woes. It would soon be discovered that a more wholesome approach is required for Nigerians to survive the consequent harsh results.
Comparisons with elsewhere belittle the points.
Which countries have more dependence on individual electricity supply than Nigeria?
Where is mass public transportation dependent on petrol than Nigeria?
Do those countries have our population?
Consequences of increased price of fuel are already obvious though people are still using their “savings”. The Naira is weak. The fuel is imported. If the Naira further weakens, the possibility of N1,000 per litre fuel would be a matter of months away. Is government concerned?
Insecurity has limited opportunities in agriculture, denied rural folks incomes, and caused high food prices. High levels of oil theft hurt government’s easiest revenue source. These matters meander into the removal of fuel subsidy with telling consequences.
When Nigerians buy fuel, it is for their farms, factories, homes, offices, schools, hospitals, and vehicles. Small businesses are about to be wiped out of existence. How would they survive? Increase in salaries is not a solution as only a small number of the population is employed, and inflation is on the increase.
Tinubu cannot kill a snake that he has not seen its head. A lot of mischief has been introduced into subsidy removal. One cannot rule out the chances that beneficiaries of subsidy are the ones leading Tinubu through this path that did not engage the people.
Let the President gather some Nigerians across sectors to deliberate on measures to ameliorate the effects of subsidy removal. They should provide practical, sustainable solutions covering the immediate and the future with lots of consultations with the people.
Nobody is telling us what happened to turn-around maintenance of our refineries. How would Dangote Refinery affect the local market? Who will determine the price of its fuel? Whose interests would concern NNPC Ltd in the new dispensation?
Our common interest should be about the survival of Nigeria and contributions to make that possible. A focus on our lives and not a staggering, stumbling, tumbling Tinubu is the need of the moment. In case we have forgotten, Tinubu is on permanent subsidy and there are no hints that it would be removed.
“THIS is nothing but an allegation perpetrated by mischief makers, those who want to drag my name in the mud but I thank God, for this money they are alleging that I declared, I pray to God to give me such an amount of money so I can use it to help my people.” – Dauda Lawal, new Governor of Zamfara State, in an interview with Radio France, Hausa Service, responding to allegations that he declared assets and cash of N9 trillion. He still did not say what he declared.
MRS. Aisha Buhari, after eight years in office, most of which she spent abroad, and the enormous opportunities that were fanned her way, who not for one day raised a voice for pensioners, most of who the system throws into abject perjury after they have served for 35 years, “They should consider us as former first ladies. They should give us some privileges that we deserve as First Ladies.”
.Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues