By Abu Mahmud Ahmad
“Nigerians are being deceived on the issue of fuel subsidy. The Federal Government takes out fuel for refining, only to come back and talk about removing the subsidy. That is nonsense and an attempt by a clique with the PDP-led the Federal Government to siphon the proceeds to be realized from the removal of oil subsidy,” General Buhari’s statement in 2012
Before buttressing my argument on cash handouts to the poor that may cost the government N2.4 trillion a year ($5.8 billion) in a bid to replace fuel subsidy more than what government subsidises in petroleum products, let set the record straight.
There is no any administration in the history of the country that carried out several welfarist policies like President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration aimed at alleviating pains.
They included the Conditional Cash Transfer in the market; the N-Power scheme that pays N30, 000 stipend to youths to enhance their skills; financial bailout to all state governments in the federation, hundred billions to anchor brower and Covid 19 financial support to households. Recently, the National Economic Council (NEC) said President Buhari has approved a fresh N656 billion Bridge Financing Facility for the 36 States as each state will receive N18.2 billion.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Shamsuna Ahmad said the support was to help state governments to meet their financial obligations, especially the previous budget support facility due for repayment.
However, the lists of current administration support programs are many all aimed at alleviating pains to the strata of the society at same times to create social safety nets for the impoverished and vulnerable peoples of the society but the programs did not make much impact to target beneficiaries.
Even with subsidies regime in the oil sector, but getting on with daily lives is pretty difficult to vulnerable peoples, considering, skyrocketing prices of goods and services in addition to the alarming unemployment and inclement economic conditions.
I don’t think, there is any logic for the administration to spend more than what the subsidy wouldn’t have cost the country. Nigerians argue that the supposed benefit would amount to a colossal loss as the expenditure would be higher than the 2021 subsidy expenses and is like sell dogs to buy monkeys. Nigerians may recall, in 2012, President Goodluck’s administration attempted to remove fuel subsidy which had hit bricks as Nigerians and members of then opposition now the ruling party, opposed the decision, accusing the then PDP administration of planning to siphon the proceeds realized.
President Buhari makes Nigerians to believe that oil subsidy regime is one of the most corrupt system in the country and also most confused policy in the mind of Nigerians.
In May 2016, then State Minister for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu had announced the removal of subsidy on petrol, fixing the new pump price at N145 per litre from N86.50k and later to N165.
Exactly one year after the coming of the administration to power. Going by the state minister admission, the subsidy has been removed with its current pump price at N165.
As the progressive administration pleaded that it would free Nigeria from being forced to subsidise a lavish lifestyle of elites Nigerians at the expense of ordinary but the administration has continue doing exactly what it opposed paying surprisingly, the administration continued subsidy payments.
This is even when it was announced that it had withdrawn the policy in May 2016, but since then, it has been confusion galore, as the Federal Government keeps paying huge subsidies after several announcements of “full deregulation.
In spite of the announcement of fuel subsidy removal, the people of the nation remain confused on the issue of subsidy.
To many, there is nothing like subsidy, but a scam. How can N5, 000 will alleviate hardship to poor considering the prices of foodstuff are increasing daily without control? Even those opportune ones (workers), things are very pretty tough to them considering the meagre nature of the minimum wage talk less of millions of peoples out of work.
To buttress this argument, there is need for the administration to think wisely not to introduce new subsidy regime in disguise. In spite of oil subsidy, regime remains unsustainable and economically disingenuous.
Did the administration want to scrap fuel subsidies because the nation’s budget can no longer contain the financial burden? Why does the administration policy shuffle always one step forward, and backward? I am averse to this cash transfer of N5, 000 because it is not a solution.
How can this cash support program reach intending target beneficiaries in a nation where millions do not have bank accounts? Did the administration realise there is a stack difference between the number of account holders and the active accounts in Nigeria? Let the administration apply more sustainable long running schemes that could touch lives beyond.
How could the administration ensure that the process will be transparent like those cash support programs from Togo to India which have helped the poor of these countries? One of the easiest ways to alleviate pains to the strata of the society is to have empathy to the citizens suffering.
As a matter of urgency, the Federal Government should revisit the policy of reducing the importation of food, especially now.
There is no prescription that every nation has to meet its food self sufficiency needs from domestic production. If the administration gives a corridor for food importation, the anticipated misery will be controlled.
Lastly, for those close to the corridor of power always do not want to hear that the perceived messiah is yet to figure out on how to improve the citizens well being and strengthen the economic policies that will allow foreign investors to come not an policies that would make investors moving out to neighbouring countries due to policies’ uncertainty.
Let the administration find a lasting solution in reducing cost of governance which will help to save more money as the cost of governance in the country is too high compared to the developed world.
With untold hardships in the country, it becomes clear that the progressive change is not forthcoming to the expectation of Nigerians. Instead of progressive transformation, the daily survival has become an uphill challenge as the people are languishing in extreme hardship.
Is the administration fantastically confused since it is now executing its own new policy of cashing out the same subsidy regime executed by successor’s administration ideas which current administration had publicly opposed?
Ahmad wrote in from Kano.