President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria insisted that fuel subsidy must go and that Nigeria cannot continue to borrow to fund its economy.
At a recent banquet in Aso Rock, he said:
“We are witnessing a nation, at least those who are my age, 50 years and above, as the years are going, the challenges are becoming more. Most societies are becoming more enlightened. The demand for power has increased; the demand for water, the demand for everything. Probably at independence, how many cars did we have in this country? Even after the Civil War, how many vehicles did we have? How many roads? How many streets had light?
“I remember the day I was chatting with a group of elders and they said after the war there was electricity everywhere, they travelled out and so on. I came to live in Port Harcourt in 1955. Even then, it was only Port Harcourt that had electricity, even the big cities, Bonny. But now, government must make sure even the smallest village and settlements have electricity light.
“Without light, you cannot preserve farm produce. See how the demands for everything has expanded over the period, there are more challenges. And we believe with the present for the past several years, government has been borrowing money to run its affairs and the amount we borrow continues to increase. Who are we borrowing this money for? Who will come and offset the debts?
“I normally asked. And of course the professionals in the oil industry are making predictions that the oil reserve that we have, that in 35 to 40 years, it will dry up.
“By God’s grace we will discover more oil reserves but based on what we have now and assuming we are unable to discover more in 35 to 40 years it will dry up. I pray not to live up to that time anyway, but some of the people here will witness that situation.
“So, even now that we have oil we are borrowing and we are not expanding the economy. In the next in 35 to 40 years, assuming we don’t discover more oil reserves, what will happen to our children and grandchildren? Do we begin to plan a country where our children and grandchildren will become slaves? Even now, Nigerians are running out of this country. There was a time we were talking about check out, but now that slogan has died down.
“It will come to that point government must look for ways to expand the economy. We must look for other ways of earning money. We must go back to farming. And not just subsistent farming that we know, but really taking farming as a business. We must create wealth through farming; we must industralise; we must begin to produce things in this country and we need resources to do that.
“And, especially with the number of people graduating from the universities every year, how do we create jobs for them? And I believe we cannot continue with the number of people graduating from the universities every year. How do we create jobs for them? And I believe we cannot continue to borrow. In fact, last year, our capital budget was N1.146 trillion and we borrowed the whole capital budget and even a little more.
“This year, with the present budget, we are paying back the part of the money we borrowed, but what is in the budget is only N560 billion, just about half of the money we borrowed. Who will pay the balance and when, with interest? There is no way we can continue to run the economy this way.
“We find it difficult to do things that appear not to be popular and I know that one of the things that worry us is the fear of the unknown. If there is subsidy, what will life be? Yes we know there will be a little pain because we know ourselves; Nigerians sometimes exploit opportunities.
“Ordinarily, the pains would have been minimal in the sense that as we are talking now diesel is deregulated since Obasanjo’s time and nobody is going to touch diesel and most of the vehicles we use in carrying load use diesel.
Ordinarily, transport cost for any vehicle that uses diesel is not supposed to change, but Nigerians, being who they are, at the beginning will try to be funny and we must encourage use of gas and all that and use of vehicles that have fuel efficiency.
Most countries, even the bulbs they use now are the ones that consume very little power. Nigerians must adjust and I believe that apart from the fact that some people will want to exploit us at the beginning, just like when GSM just came in, when MTN started, they were even hoarding the sim cards.
To buy a sim card at a time, you had to do funny things because people were desperate, but now the companies give you sim card with credit on it just to hook up to their line. I tell Nigerians that we are very hopeful and so nobody should fear.
“There is no government, maybe in very few cases in history. Well, it is also recorded somewhere in the Bible where somebody wanted to take over from the father and promised to flog the people more, but of course we also know what happened, the whole empire scattered. There is nobody who will want to deliberately inflict suffering on his people. Goodluck Jonathan can never be one.”
The President went on as the audience listened attentively:
“I know the pains Nigerians are passing through, yes, I am here in the State House and being fed by government, but that does not keep me so far from the people. There is no day that I don’t interact with Nigerians both low and high and I appreciate the pains of the people.
We are facing challenges but we must take certain decisions to reposition our economy so that things will ease out. If we don’t have the courage to do so, then we will continue to be dying in pains, until God knows when. So, my belief is that at a particular time, people must be courageous to take the rightful decisions.”
“We may experience some minor pains for some months, but people will want to exploit. Ordinarily if people don’t want to exploit us, it is supposed not to be so when you look at the chart, even if you remove subsidy on fuel on the world average, the price of fuel in Nigeria still be among the last 30 percent, the charts are there because most countries add a lot of tax on fuel, but we are not adding any tax”.
Do you agree with President Goodluck Jonathan?