Fuel subsidy, the new hot demand topic that everyone seems to scream about. I was in a shop trying to purchase a tin of my usual brand of caffeine this morning when I noticed that the price had gone up by 10 naira. Small isn’t it? Well, after a small discussion with one of the shop attendants, she whispered in my ears jokingly that I better buy as much as I could now because the price will definitely sky rocket after the subsidy had been removed. Funny, isn’t it?
Just as I sat down again, sipping my hot caffeine, preparing to draft a strongly worded letter to the PHCN office in my area for outrageous billings that has spanned for about four months. I decided to tune the TV to AIT and again subsidy was the topic. I listened to a gentleman Professor, a Special Adviser to Mr. President argue on so many points about fuel subsidy and I find so many points rather questionable but firstly let me categorically state that I am a firm believer that nothing public can work in Nigeria. To make anything and I say for any business to succeed efficiently, in Nigeria, it has to be a private business and at worst a PPP (public private partnership).
Professor Special Adviser said and I quote, “ President Olusegun Obansanjo removed part of the subsidy on fuel and that has not taken us anywhere”.
The question I want to ask is, what happened to the billions of naira raked in by the Obasanjo administration on partial removal of fuel subsidy? How was the money spent? Was the money stolen (After all that is our usual practice)? Would Mr. President deem it fit to show the Nigerian people some accountability in order to win our trust?
Mr. Special Adviser again said that the money gathered from removal of fuel subsidy would be spent on providing safety nets to cushion the effects in the price of fuel by buying more buses to ply our roads.
This is a grand scheme to further impoverish the people and squander our money. Where would the buses that would be purchased at exorbitant prices ply? On potholes and marshy roads? The previous administration of Oyo State spent millions of Naira in purchasing cabs to ply Ibadan roads a few years ago, in what conditions are the cabs today, most of these cabs would not be recognized by their manufacturers today. What of Lagos BRT? How would provision of buses alone cushion the cost effects? If there is a one million bus increase, is that an indicator that the market woman that sells roasted plantain can afford it? Wait a minute, if we must buy buses, why must we import? Can’t we negotiate a deal with these bus companies to build a factory in Nigeria? Won’t these factories provide more jobs for our unemployed youth? Or what is stopping us from exporting mass transit buses to other African countries?
Mr. Special Adviser also said that eminent Nigerians would be appointed to manage the proceeds.
What happened to the ministry of Finance, CBN, agencies, parastatals whose primary responsibility is to mange government money? We commit over 4 trillion naira (government budget) into these people’s hands and we cannot trust them with an estimated 1.2 trillion? Are we sure that this is not another scam? Now, are we sure, we are not giving some extra rich people a fantastic opportunity to scam us again? After all, we have heard of scams that rock PTF etc. How can we be sure that this plan, (if not intended to be) would not be politicized by future governments? Who appoints these “eminent personalities”? What would be the criteria to be used? What punishment would be meted out to these “eminent persons” for embezzling?
The poor Nigerian masses are not going to really feel the impact of removal of fuel subsidy but rich people like you (addressing the presenter) who own about 3 jeeps.
The supposed minimum wage in Nigeria as of today is supposed to be about eighteen thousand naira (18,000.00) which is not even paid by some state governments. But for the sake of this discussion, Let us assume that a government worker buys fuel for his “I better pass my neighbor” generator – say 4 litres of fuel daily, at the end of the month he would have purchased about 124 litres of fuel. If he buys petrol at 65 naira per litre, that means he would have spent an estimated sum of 8060 naira on fueling his generator alone. Now let us include other living costs such as transportation, feeding, housing, clothing, education of his kids, even maintenance of the generator, where does that leave him? If he now buys petrol for 150 naira per litre at the same consumption rate he would be spending 18,600 naira on fuel. Therefore, by inference, his salary can’t meet his consumption rate for power supply alone.
I can go on and on pointing out major flaws in this current fuel subsidy saga, but that wouldn’t solve any issue so, I would like to advise the Mr. President and members of his economic management team to first of all, think issues deeply and assess its impacts on the lives of the common man before he makes public pronouncements. Also, the Mr. President should try to buy the confidence of the people by ensuring that people that have stolen government money are brought to justice real quick (not with plea bargains), that would not only increase our confidence in him, but would serve as a deterrent for others who are planning to embezzle.
Long Live Nigeria
LANIRAN P. Tolulope