Enemies of fuel subsidy removal



By Late Prince (Dr) Samuel Ibiyemi, Founding Publisher, Nigerian NewsDirect

First published in 2012

The real enemies of subsidy removal are those saddled with the responsibility of checking excesses of government officials but prefer to overlook them. The ultimate aim is either to enhance a financial gain or protect certain political interests. The high rate of compromise had contributed to the inability of the promoters of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to secure success during the immediate past administration. Many bills had suffered the same fate in the past. It is either the House of Representatives knocking an important bill out of the floor or the Senate will not see any good thing in a bill passed by the House of Reps. Since the commencement of the latest struggle for the removal of fuel subsidy, it is not new that money has changed hands from the side of those against the action in order to protect the interest of sustaining subsidy and also continues to live on the gains exclusively while the government will continue to bleed. Since the commencement of the move by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), what is delaying the National Assembly from conducting independent opinion polls.

Perhaps, Nigerians are not unaware of huge amounts of money being released to labour unions by certain political figures in the country. These include fuel importers, beneficiaries of PPMC products allocation and officials who feared that removal of fuel subsidy will take away the business of raking so much money from marketers. Why will these lawmakers allow the votes of ordinary Nigerians go down the drain? How sincere are the verification of projects visited in the last two years? If for instance, the National Assembly is on verification of projects executed by the Ministry of Works and the ministry is being made to bear the full cost of hotel and transportation by the Federal lawmakers, what would be the response of the general public? And how sincere will the findings of this project verification team be after they have been spoiled by the Ministry and the project’s coordinator.

The greatest challenge is the sincerity of our lawmakers. We need them to address the issue of subsidy removal purely on merit. This is not the time to look for an opportunity to milk the government before taking action since it is for the benefit of the nation. However, the Federal Executive Council could also be listed as one of the enemies of subsidy if little attention is being paid on awareness of this important item among the populace. For instance, most Nigerians know nothing about subsidy removal apart from saying that they will pay N200 per litre once it is removed. There are Nigerians sleeping without electricity, going to work on bad roads and paying high fares as transportation costs. It is important for these lawmakers to take the campaign of subsidy removal to their constituencies by letting the populace understand that it will enable the government to increase funding of the Police and acquire sophisticated technology needed for adequate security everyday.

In Nigeria today, most communities do not sleep as a result of armed robbers operating free with sophisticated arms and the only free solution will come if the officers of the Nigeria Police can start the only patrol vehicle on ground. Nigerians should be educated and receive assurance that there will be constant and adequate electricity for residents, commercial and industrial utilisation. Both the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives should also be able to put pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan that failure to achieve promises attached with the subsidy removal would be followed with impeachment process. As part of the responsibility of the Federal Lawmakers, ministers found wanting at the moment should be investigated. If indicted, President Jonathan should sack such a minister without sentiment. If there are projects requiring the attention of the federal government, efforts should be made to fast-track its execution. Then, our president like Gov Rocha Okorocha of Imo State can then sponsor live programmes on television stations where he can tell Nigerians without criticism that Ore-Benin road was completed within 100 days, 10,000 megawatts of electricity was achieved in a year and adequate security now guaranteed for Nigerians and foreigners.

Is it not proper for our lawmakers to come up with targets within the law-making assignment for the Federal Executive Council as a group and individual governors and President? The lawmakers should be able to operate in such a manner that they will not be afraid of intimidation of the Federal Executive Council through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). But where is the image of our lawmakers in a situation whereby they are the instruments of corruption by state governors making illegal deductions from the allocation of Local governments within the state. Subsidy removal is a necessity that must start now if Nigeria must move forward. To achieve this feat, our lawmakers must ensure thorough investigation of factors responsible for the inability of our refineries to operate at full capacity. Alternative arrangement for efficient performance such as privatisation or diffusing of ownership structure like the model of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural-an option. Gas (NLNG) should be considered as an option.

There is no alternative to fuel subsidy and there is no second Nigeria in Africa. The breakdown of the Nigerian economy, the sixth largest population globally will worsen poverty in Africa. Sustenance of subsidy by relying solely on fuel importation will result in another colonisation. Jonathan must consider an end to fuel subsidy regardless of opposition.

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