BY RICHARD ODU
There is something the Federal Government is not explaining to Nigerians since the petrol subsidy became a big issue. It is the obvious reluctance on its part to approach the issue from the point of resuscitating existing refineries or building new ones.
President Ahmed Bola Tinubu, within the first hour of his assuming office, had declared the removal of the subsidy on petrol. We must note that subsidy had earlier been removed from other forms of fuel such as kerosene, diesel and aviation fuel. Of course, after his categorical statement on the podium where he took the oath of office as president, Tinubu did not suffer heavy backlash from the people primarily because it was obvious that the subsidy had become an avenue for fraudulent Nigerians to milk the nation dry with fictitious claims. Everything about subsidy was indeed sordid.
The people had made up their minds that the subsidy must go, on that basis, not because it was not helping the people to get along in the convoluted Nigerian economy. However, they were deeply conscious that the government which understands the feelings of the people would readily cushion the effects of the removal.
The people’s attention, therefore, shifted to palliatives because the rise in the price of fuel clearly shot up commodity prices and made life unbearable for the already traumatised Nigerians in June. Tinubu waited for the organised labour to put pressure on him with the demands for palliatives before he saw a need to form a committee to look into it. We all know what committees are for – buy time.
That insensitivity spoke volumes about the people-centredness of the new administration. We can’t call it the lack of anticipation of the effects of the removal on the plight of Nigerians.
Many Nigerians are, however, not taken aback because they have been through that path. The same people, the All Progressives Congress (APC) were in charge.
But, subsidy or no subsidy, Nigerians deserve a better life than what they have been getting in a couple of decades, just as other petroleum exporting countries of the world. As the clamour for palliatives rented the air, the president asked for approval of a N500 billion loan which the House of Representatives readily endorsed by amending the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act.
The National Assembly also woke up to approve the sum of N110 billion for bullet-proof cars and palliatives for themselves! Meanwhile, we are looking at a National Assembly that has fed fat on the coffers of the nation to the extent that the people are calling for a drastic reduction in the legislators’ consumption of the people’s fund to save money for more meaningful ventures.
We are no longer in doubt that the honourable men and women in Abuja and the various state capitals represent themselves rather than the people.
The presidency simultaneously unfolded a rather nebulous plan to pay 12million households N8000 monthly as palliatives. That sum in the present Nigeria, can afford just a pot of soup for the benefiting household.
The same people, APC who ran school feeding programme in this country and just a handful of the citizens benefited from the huge funds quoted are up again with their antics! So, who are palliatives meant to serve?
If the federal government wishes to float a welfare system, they should work it out justifiably. There’s no justice in selective welfarism.
What palliatives are fitting for Nigerians?
On the lips of everyone is a call for the government to revamp the refineries in the country so that the people will no longer pay heavily for imported petroleum products. But the Lord’s of the manor won’t listen to it. They want to import, even though they are aware that the resultant trade inbalance hurts the nation.
Once, former vice president Yemi Osinbajo came up with the plan to license modular refineries. What stalled that move? For goodness sake, the issue borders on the availability of the petroleum products. Money saved from the subsidy removal should be channeled to the provision of the commodity through local production. No wisdom surpasses this. Using the money to increase workers’ salaries worsens the Nigerian economy. Apart from the fact that it will only benefit, perhaps, about 15 percent of the population who are government workers, simple economics points at it as veritable ladder for the upward climb of inflation.
There seem to be a vast chasm yawning between the rulers and the ruled. The disconnection, quite naturally gives out our democracy as a charade. We come away seeing the issue as a warfare between the ruler and the ruled. Instances of the division abound and the one that stands out prominently is the endSARS protest where the voices of the youth were muffled by force of arms.
Now, the people so badly want the products refined in Nigeria and the rulers are not listening. What do we call that? Who are the palliative meant for, the proletariat or the bourgeoisie?
Dr. Odu can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.