NIGERIA - ON THE REMOVAL OF FUEL SUBSIDY
While the Federal Government has made good its decision to withdraw the fuel subsidy, it would be in the best interest of the entire Nigerian populace that the government revisits its decision and make adequate readjustments before the country erupts in utter chaos. Whatever discussions and talks the NLC would be holding with the government, it is paramount to note that taking away one hundred percent of the subsidy is a completely wrong move.
I have listened to several arguments opposing and supporting the removal of the fuel subsidy. It is unfortunate that initially, most people seemed to only see the austere effects of the removal, on the aspect of transportation alone. Nigeria’s dependence on crude oil has led us to a situation that causes us to experience consequential effects whenever there is a change in the prices of petroleum products, particularly Premium Motor Spirit – PMS. By implication, with the removal of the subsidy, every commodity and I repeat, every commodity in every sector would also experience an increase in prices. I’m talking about monumental increases in the costs of living/housing, food, education, health, etc.
The Federal Government claims that it plans to use the money from fuel subsidy for the purpose of industrialization, the absence of which has be cited severally as the bane of Nigeria’s gross unemployment. This decision I am sure would be welcomed by every well-meaning Nigerian. But there is great need for scepticism.
Firstly, what concrete evidence do we have that this money would be used for the purpose for which it was meant? Nigeria has had a nasty history of taking loans from foreign sources, monies that never served the purposes for which they were meant, but ended up in the pockets and accounts of a very greedy few; what will this insensitive individuals not do to siphon this new fund which happens to be OUR OWN money and immune to international scrutiny? Bear in mind that there are Nigerians whose wealth thrive from the dilapidated state that is presently characteristic of Nigeria’s economy; these individuals would do anything and I mean absolutely anything to keep Nigeria the way she is. Hence these people are sure to thwart or sabotage whatever developmental plans the government has or plans to implement. What concrete measures have been put in place to ensure that while the government carries out her developmental schemes, there are also active machineries to investigate and prosecute any singular move or ambition to sabotage government plans? Absolutely Nothing! The EFCC and ICPC have done very little to nothing, partly because Nigerian laws seem to be void over some individuals, while some others deliberately hamper the activities of these anti-graft institutions. We have heard of many highly placed Nigerians involved in acts of corruption; none of them was successfully prosecuted and punished. I could go on and on listing several diverse avenues that the government has failed especially in its bid for nation building, and tackling corruption that hampers it. There is definitely nothing available to serve as guarantee that the fuel subsidy money would serve its purpose. This is not a fairy tale. This is reality and reality goes with facts. WE cannot give this government any benefit of doubt simply because the President’s name is Goodluck (all due respects to Mr. President). We need facts to prove but unfortunately, this government gave none.
As regards facts, you may wonder what example I have. I am of the opinion that rather than withdraw one hundred percent of the subsidy money, the government should have taken at most seventy percent of it and left thirty percent for at least two years to serve as a cushion to insulate the harsh effects that would emanate from the removal. With seventy percent of the subsidy money, the government can start its programmes and whatever positive results are recorded can serve as surety that the government’s plans are genuine and viable.
Also, why does it always have to be the masses bearing the brunt of every austere measure embarked upon by the government? If the Nigerian government needs money I proffer that it can generate so much from cutting by half, the salaries and allowances of political office holders, beginning from the President himself, down to the Councillor. They too should feel the pinch and make sacrifices too. And as the old Nigerian slogan goes: “They shouldn’t worry; they would suffer now and enjoy later.”
In furtherance to this argument, I purport that given the present harsh economic condition of Nigeria it would be absolutely wise that the jobs in both Houses of Parliament, as well as State Houses of Parliament be stripped of their status as permanent appointments. Senators and Legislators should cease to be direct federal government employees. They should be paid just for their sitting allowance and this through their constituencies. Also, these wages should commensurate with the adequate salary grade level of a civil servant. This way, Senators and Legislators would need to have jobs and businesses of their own, where their true income comes from; the parliamentary jobs in Abuja would no longer be their beds of roses. As a result, they would be truly committed to implementing policies since payment of their wages would depend on their performance. If the members of parliament oppose this decision – as likely they would – the president can sponsor the bill for this purpose and call on Nigerians to a referendum in support of the bill and I can guarantee you that all Nigerians would arise in support of the president.