BY ARUKAINO UMUKORO
Following a sober Christmas celebrations in some parts of the country, the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan delivered a frightening New Year gift to Nigerians in the name of fuel subsidy removal. A N65 to N141 price increase amounts to a 116% increase that would also result in a comparative increase in the prices of goods and services across the country.
Okay. So President Jonathan did what four military rulers & three civilian presidents before him couldn’t do. Big deal. But is this fuel subsidy removal really in the best interests of 160 million plus Nigerians, where most of the Niger Delta have suffered oil spills amounting to an estimated 546 million barrels of crude in the last five decades, where the country’s four refineries have been run aground by mismanagement and corruption, where majority of the people live on less than one dollar a day?
Let’s cut the chase and temporarily disregard the figures being bandied about by government officials and beneficiaries as the cost of fuel subsidy and benefits of its removal. It is pertinent to state that the January 1, 2012 fuel subsidy removal by the federal government through its agency, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), is ill timed and insensitive.
Despite the postulations of the Jonathan’s administration that it would be in the best interests of the nation in the long run, it must be said that the ill timed decision would affect every sector and facet of Nigerian life. And there are a thousand and one reasons to doubt the sincerity of the federal government in reinvesting the fuel subsidy money into other sectors.
For one, Nigeria is the 5th largest exporter of petroleum in the world, yet still imports refined oil, owing to the fact that her refineries have been run aground by gross mismanagement and a corrupt ruling elite. Some of these countries where their fuel prices are relatively high or almost the same as obtained in Nigeria today are not even oil producers like Nigeria. While most of them also have a better standard of living, far higher minimum wage and trusted leaders. For example, how can you compare the United States of America with a minimum wage of almost $2,000 a month with Nigeria where the minimum wage is N18,000 or $120 a month.
If the country had a sincere government and was not populated by a thieving class for this long and the country did not have endemic corruption; then Nigerians won’t be questioning their moral authority over fuel subsidy removal, doubt their intentions or distrust their claims that the money would be reinvested into other sectors.
Fuel subsidy removal would affect not only transportation but almost every facet of living costs in Nigeria where there are no proper or functional regulatory pricing structures and so the prices of goods and services go up and scarcely come down. Otherwise fuel subsidy removal won’t be an issue of debate.
If Power Holding Company of Nigeria PHCN was working and there was constant supply of electricity, most Nigerians won’t be enraged over fuel subsidy. At least then they won’t have to spend their hard earned money on fuelling their generators to power their homes and water pumping machines.
If the country’s four refineries had been fixed long time ago and it was working at optimal capacity, fuel subsidy removal or non-removal won’t be an issue.
If the federal government cuts down its size, including the outrageous salaries of its officials, cuts down on its ‘irresponsible’ expenditure; then fuel subsidy removal won’t be an issue, because they too would severely feel the pinch.
If these government officials and ministers take public transportation like most Nigerians, instead of flying first class or cruising around chauffeur driven cars wherever they go on taxpayers’ money, then fuel subsidy removal won’t be an issue. If they experience incessant power outages like most, fuel subsidy removal won’t be an issue.
If the nation’s refineries are working and there was no questionable deregulation of the oil industry, it would encourage healthy competition, paralyze the so called cabal, make petroleum products more affordable for Nigerians; then fuel subsidy removal won’t even be mentioned. The country’s telecommunication sector is a prime example.
If the country had a better transportation system – good roads, efficient rail lines, safe waterways, even subways; then fuel subsidy removal won’t be an issue.
If the manufacturing sector and Small Business Enterprises had some form of support from the federal government to help grow local businesses in the country and so reduce importation of goods and services, which in turn would improve the country’s economy and so the welfare of the citizenry; fuel subsidy removal would be negligible.
These are some reasons why Nigerians have decided to stand up and resist an insensitive decision by the federal government and greedy market forces to protect her rights to a better life. That is why the fuel subsidy removal issue has become a wakeup call to national consciousness for many Nigerians across different walks of life, of different tribes, cultures and religion. It has become an organized resistance to misguided leadership, sycophancy, corruption, bad governance, mismanagement of national resources, monumental greed among people in power, gross financial, political and moral irresponsibility and insensitivity of public officials in high places. The ultimate salvation for any country stuck in the valley of decisions lies in the desire of the government to listen to the cries of its people.
God bless Nigeria.