Fuel subsidy removal, the need for refineries to work


Fuel subsidy was first introduced in Nigeria as early as the 1970s to cushion the effect of global  oil glut of 1973 by the then military government. It is simply a mechanism devised by the Federal Governnment to pay for the price difference that is below international oil price to cushion its effects on its citizenry.

Several attempts by previous administrations to remove the said subsidy have been vehemently resisted by Nigerians because of its harsh implications on the people. For instance, the Goodluck Jonathan’s government on assumption of office tried to remove the subsidy, but was seriously opposed by labour unions and Nigerians at large, forcing it to drop the idea.

The Muhammadu Buhari’s administration equally tried, but received fierce resistance from the people, forcing them to also jettison the plan. But we later heard that the Buhari administration having lost the people’s support on the subsidy removal, technically tinkered on the issue by refusing to budget for the subsidy beyond June in the 2023 appropriation law.

The implication is that they tactically shifted the evil day for the incoming government, which incidentally became Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s regime.

No wonder the current President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had no option than to take the bull by the horn by bluntly announcing the subsidy removal right from his inauguration venue. Hence, the announcement of subsidy removal during the inaugural speech of Pres Tinubu did not digest well with the rest of Nigerians, especially the labour unions, who saw the development as an effrontery to its members and by extension Nigerians at large.

The labour unions, talking about Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its  Trade Union Congress (TUC) did not waste time in asking all its affiliates to mobilise for a total showdown with the Federal Governent (FG).

TUC on the other hand requested for upward review of the current minimum wage from N30,000 to N200,000,which political watchers said is totally unrealisable, considering the fact that many states have not been able to pay the current N30,000 minimum wage.

The reason of course was not farfetched, as the abrupt removal of fuel subsidy caused  prices of all goods and services to triple in response to the fuel price hike from N195 to above N500.

Not even the fire brigade meeting fixed with labour could yield result, forcing the Federal Goverment to approach the National Industrial Court for intervention.

Somehow, the court issued an interim injunction restraining labour from proceeding to the proposed strike, until the determination of the suit instituted by the FG. Hearing has been fixed for 19th June, 2023 and only God knows the outcome of the suit.

Meanwhile, Nigerians have continued to grapple with the high cost of living awaiting the outcome of the  FG/NLC legal battle.

The Federal Governnment has stuck to its gun, insisting that the excess funds to be realised from the subsidy removal will be ploughed in the diversification of our economy, enhance infrastructural development and  create jobs for the teeming youth population in the country.

But the question on the lips of Nigerians is why the four refineries in the country cannot work. Turnaround maintenance embraced by the immediate past federal government for eight years could not produce any result.

The former Minister of State on Petroleum, Timipre Sylva had severally visited the two refineries in Port Harcourt and promised  that they will come on stream in six months time, months moved to years and until he left office, nothing happened.

This has actually made most Nigerians skeptical about promises from politicians and instead  of believing them, it hardened the hearts of Nigerians against government policies and promises.

So, for  President Ahmed Tinubu to come onboard barely few weeks ago and start promising heaven on earth, only heightened their skepticism and doubt. They of course looked at such promises as a mirage that may never materialize. The question now is why can’t the old refineries work and if it is impossible to revamp them, why has the government not built new ones.

After all, according to them, Aliko Dangote,has singlehandedly built one of the largest refineries in Africa within three years that is capable of dispensing 650,000 bpd and so why can’t government do better?

For us in Nigerian NewsDirect and in line with the thinking of generality of Nigerians, anything short of revamping the existing refineries in missing the mark. After all, subsidy existed because our crude oil is sold at a giveaway price to the western world, only for us to go back and import the refined product at exorbitant prices. So, common sense  tells us that if our refineries are rehabilitated to refine our crude locally, subsidy will naturally die.

Therefore, there is no reason bothering innocent Nigerians with fictitious figures of how much trillion has been spent on fuel subsidy, when practically it shows complete failure of government.

So no matter what the current federal government does to make petroleum products available and affordable to Nigerians, that can only add to the achievements of the Tinubu’s administration.