Yet Another Provocation: The Chagrin Of Long Suffering Nigerians

17 Feb 2012

By Bukhari Muhammed Bello Jega

Ever since the federal government announced to the chagrin of long suffering Nigerians, that, beginning from 2012, government will remove subsidy from fuel in the country; such decision has generated a lot of controversy and kickback from average and prominent Nigerians. The Federal government in a document submitted to both the Senate and House of Representative, under a Medium Term Expenditure Frame work (MTEF) contains projection for revenue generation for the next three years, including an estimated income from subsidy removal to the tune of N1.3 trillion. The medium Term Expenditure Frame Work, which is in line with The Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, which makes it compulsory for the President to prepare and submits the MTEF to the parliament every September, projecting revenue generation for the country in years, has finally nailed the determination of the Presidency to go ahead with the fuel subsidy removal.

Ironically, President Goodluck administration since his inauguration has never failed to amused Nigerians people, who rooted and voted for him, with the simply believe that, the doctrine of "Good luck" will set the country in the right direction. Not only is the government failing her perceived admirers, but, the policy and the leadership spectrum are already falling to the trap of the so called antagonist, who never believes the Man President Goodluck Jonathan has anything to offer the Nigerian state. The propose removal of fuel subsidy, to me, remain the greatest policy flip flop of the current administration. This is because the reason so far, given by the administration, cannot hold water in the real sense of word. Government often argued that, the subsidy, is not reaching the target people it was meant for; that so far, the government has spent over N1.5 Trillion on subsidy and yet, most of the fuels were either smuggled to neighbouring countries, or the major marketers, are shortchanging Nigerians. Let say, we believe the government, but, the question is; is it the fault of average Nigerians that, this products were stole or the failure of government and her related agencies to enforce and punish the so called saboteurs? I think the outcry of government is not only misplaced, but, shows lack of courage on the side of government officials to tackles the crisis in the oil sector.

I strongly, believe, as long as we import fuel; then subsidy due exist, but, the amount declared as part of the money so far spent on the subsidy is the problem and the corrupt aspect of the subsidy debate. If the government is really sincere on the issue of subsidy, why the government wouldn't publish the list of the beneficiaries of the Subsidy and punish those found to be guilty of diversion of the fuel according to the dictates of the law? Why transferring the burden of inefficiency and ineffective of government to fight corruption in the oil sector to the belligerent citizens? Why is government unable to refine the petroleum product internally? Why is government foot dragging on building new refineries or attracting foreign direct investment into the lucrative oil market in the country? Why is it that it is only the poor masses of this country that will always be asked to make to sacrifice in the name of economic stability? The reality is that people do not trust government any longer, especially within the backdrop of government promising to invest the revenue proceeds from such subsidy removal into infrastructural provision. This suspicious and mistrust is against the backdrop of decades of governmental failure to provide such amenities to the long suffering and belligerent Nigerians.

The proposed Subsidy removal is yet another provocations from President Goodluck led administration who has not yet shown any sign of flagging off his transformational train of agendas. Why provoking the long suffering, patient and hardworking Nigerians, who's only sin believed in President Jonathan's campaign slogans of transformational agenda or that of fresh air. If government complained of loosing revenue through subsidy at the short run; what about the long run implications of such policy measure especially as regards to economic, political and socio-cultural and security implications on the country. What about the government reviving the comatose refineries in the country. So far, there are no economic and socio-political measures put in place by the government to cushion the effects of policy. I think the concern of government is to removed the subsidy, so that, the government can saved her esteem in the eyes of Nigerians, after squandering the country's resources in the last April 2011 election.

No doubt; removal of subsidy will trigger economic crisis in the already fragile economy of the Nigerian state. Fuel as a unit of commodity has a multiplier effects on the social fabrics of the Nigerian state. While government is complaining of shortfall in revenue, what about the people that will be the greatest victims of the upheaval that, will come with the subsidy removal? Such upheaval include hyper inflation in goods and service, poverty and hardship, social vices and tension, unemployment as result of closure of industries due to inability to run the industries on costly diesels, insecurity, and hopelessness. Ironically, it was the same government that is unable to pay the N18, 000 minimum wages to her workers, but is quick on removing subsidy from fuel commodity. The government must understand the fact that, even the apostles of capitalism and deregulation, seriously subsidy fuel in their local economy; due to its importance to the welfare of their people. So, government must realize that, the economic hardship and short fall of revenue is a global crisis; but, what distinguishes governments from one another is the creative utilization of the little resources and measure to cushions the effect of such policy on the people; because the government is not only humane but, people's welfare is the number one priority of government.

Is in it a shame in 21st century of discovery and uncertainty, Nigeria is the only country, among the oil producing countries that has no functional refineries operating at full capacity. Paradoxically, the whole shenanigan ported nothing but, the failure of governance in the country in the last twelve years democratic experimentation. The inability of government to managed her refineries call for sober reflections in a world that is fastly changing. Over the years billions of dollars have been spent on turn around maintenances of the country's refineries without result to show for it. Government is not only shying away from it responsibilities of ensuring efficient management of the petroleum products for the benefits of Nigerians, but, government is defragging in rising against evil forces within the oil industries, who have refineries abroad and seem to be benefits from the hopelessness we found ourselves.

It is my opinion; the first priority of government is to see how to reduce the cost of governance, which has skyrocketed in the last few years. Over 70% of our national budget is used to run government activities, while only 30% for capital expenditure. This is unacceptable in the scheme of national development. This is not only paradoxical in the eyes of Nigerians but, only shows that, the Nigerian government is not yet in tune with the crisis of nation building facing the Nigerian state. The rate of poverty in the country is not only alarming, but, if the current 60% unemployment rate especially among the youths is anything to go by; then, Nigeria is seating on a gun powder waiting for fire to ignite it. The removal of subsidy will not only compound the situation; but, will alienate government from the people, which will be a very dangerous scenario in any social contract relationship.

At the short run government must shelve the purported removal of subsidy, due to it multiplier effect on the economy, until government address the infrastructure decays including the decayed refineries, fight corruption in the oil sector and make NNPC and her related agencies more transparent and accountable to the general public, drastically reduce the cost of running government and diversify the economy from monoculture orientation, to a more vigorous multispectral economy with agriculture, solid minerals and human resources development as major springboard. The current bleeding the government complains about should be seen on the part of government as failure on her part to tackle the crisis as hand; and should be the motivating grace on the part of government and her officials to rise to the occasion and tackled the various crisis in the oil industry. Government should not transfer her failure to manage the country's resources to the already frustrated and confused Nigerians masses. Government must listen to the voice of wisdom from all Nigerians that are kicking against this obnoxious policy. After all the essence of government is to provide succumb and smile on the faces of her citizens.

It is imperative to say, the proposed removal of fuel subsidy is not only ill informed, but, has no support based within the Nigerian economic, socio-cultural and political circle. It seems it is only the government that seem determine to push ahead with the proposed fuel subsidy removal, this to my mind, call for greater wisdom on the part of government official to retrace their steps softly, due to the backlash the proposed policy will have on the people and the economy. Government must listen to the voice of the people and put in place all the necessary measure that are currently lacking in the country, especially power supply and improvement in the living standard of the people before coming up with such plan. whatever the argument of government are, the removal of fuel subsidy will not be the solution to the crisis of short fall in the revenue projection in the country; but, the biggest obstacle to revenue generation and it utilization on the economy lies with corruption and lifestyle of our government officials; until government rise to the occasion an tackle this problem, removal of subsidy will just lead to more corruption in the country. Improve services delivery please not this unnecessary provocations!

Bukhari Muhammed Bello Jega

Wrote from Wuse Zone 4, Abuja



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