There is no hiding the fact that there is severe, acute and chronic hunger in the land. People are finding it so difficult to feed and some are dying. I read of an alleged true story that happened last week in one of the states where a woman had to boil hot water and put salt in it for her five children to take. Because of the deadly combination on an empty stomach, the children were said to have all died after taking it. Perhaps the woman did not know that it was a dangerous combination and probably she knew but did it to relief herself of the burden of the pressure from the children. Whatever the case may be, the children took it thinking it was an alternative to food, but ended in the grave. What a pathetic and painful story. Alot of these stories are told everywhere. We are witnesses to the other dimensions happening across our communities and neighbourhoods.
The federal,state and local governments are doing their best to provide palliatives to the poorest of the poor to cushion the effects of the removal of the fuel subsidy but because of the high population, the effort is like a tea cup in an ocean. The federal government should do something the more and release more funds to the states and local governments to purchase more foodstuffs for the people. The governments can equally plan ahead by encouraging farmers to plant more hunger- relieving crops like cassava, maize,potatoes,etc which are normally harvested in the first few months of the rainy season to cushion the effects of hunger. Governments can also encourage dry season farming by farmers so as to get additional foodstuffs and save for the rainy days. Communities where irrigation agriculture is done have less problems of hunger because they make harvests two times a year and by so doing,saved more food in the house.
What is happening in our communities leave much to be desired especially a situation where hunger will force people to steal fresh and unripe crops from the farm. People have to keep vigil on their farms to avoid such ugly humanitarian situations.
As an agricultural nation, the people don’t need to wait for government to encourage them in agriculture. Farming should not be a pleasurable occupation for anyone living in Nigeria, not those within the middle class. No one needs to tell you the importance of having to put food on the table of your family. We have different types of farming these days and many don’t need land the way its expected. Within the compounds, yams,maize, potatoes, cocoyam, and manynother crops can be planted inside sacks. Many people are doing it and getting value for their investments. With just a borehole within, a lot of crops can be planted and harvested successfully. While government does its own, the people should do their own. Where government fails to do it, the people who are on the receiving end should not wait to blame anyone, but must move swiftly to help themselves. There is serious hunger in the land at the moment. A hungry man is an angry man and an angry man is automatically is violent- bound.
The Subsidy removal has no doubt created a lot of problems for the people and things are no longer easy for them. The economic situation is getting worst by the day and yet, nothing concrete seems to be in place to cushion the effects of the pain.
When the President announced an 8k palliative for some selected families, he was immediately told of the unworkability of the sceme. He stopped it, and since then, nothing is heard from him again except for the recent release of 2billion naira to the 36 states.The federal government should please do something urgently to wipe away the tears from the people. We commend the government for this effort, but its jot enough to make it go round the millions ofnthe suffering masses.
For years, the issue of subsidy has been a factor in our oil based monolithic economy and each time its been discussed, varied positions are expressed at the expense of the suffering masses.
When President Bola Ahmed Tinubu announced the withdrawal of the subsidy on his inauguration day and the scarcity of the produch started, huge blames were poured on him for the hasty decision.But as the wise leader that Tinubu is, he quickly mobilise action against the tide to demonstrate remorse and show readiness to resolving the problem. The decision caused serious hardship leading to reckless hoarding of petroleum products by the marketers. But months after the removal, nothing has been put on the table for the people to get some relief. A litter of PMS now is between 615 and 617 naira while that of diesel is close to 1000. Transport fares and prices of basic food consumables have skyrocketed beyond the reach of the masses.
In the past, subsidy payments have milked the nation dry by collaborators within the oil industry and its withdrawal is long overdue. But withdrawing it without putting in place palliatives to absorb the pains of hardship compounds the economic problem of people. The situation in developed nations which is absent here, is that alot of safeguards are always put in place to make it easy for the people whenever policies like this are being implemented. For instance, developed nations have good transportation systems covering good roads, viable aviation sectors and sound rail systems such that the people don’t need cars to congest the roads. Trains are always on the move and even in your bedroom you know when a train has arrived a station or a bus near your house. You can plan your schedules smoothly based on the reliability of the existing transport arrangements. You know when a bus will arrive your vicinity and Vice versa. But here in Nigeria, the opposite is the case. The nature of the transport system is such that its only when you get home that you thank God Almighty. Because of the absence of petroleum products transport fares go up in geometrical progression leading to exorbitant cost of foodstuffs and generalise conditions.
Its a good thing that those who had initially opposed subsidy withdrawal have come to terms with the reality of the situation,hence the desperate moves to tackle it.
Those who politicised it years ago and tormented the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, have suddenly made a U- turn. The unnecessary delay in removing the subsidy had slowed down so much progress for the nation. Many sectors have collapsed because of insecurity and past governments have chosen to look the other way round. There is no way key ministries like those of finance,budget and planning in connivance with some relevant agencies will feign ignorance of what was happening. They can not in all honesty be absolved of complicity because the approvals and releases go through them without any queries and questions.
Previous regimes kept singing the subsidy withdrawal song without any action. While the new mustered the political will, it is yet to ensure adequate safeguards and palliatives are put in place to reduce the sufferings of the people. The recent opening of the nation’s borders is one way by which physical imports will augment and serve as inherent palliatives for some bussiness groups who benefits from such international exchanges.
Up till now, the nation isbyet to recover from the sudden subsidy withdrawal.
The fragile economic environment could not absorb the shock and the market situation immediately changed for the worst and soon the marketers began to hoard old stocks thereby creating artificial scarcity. That also forced government to rush in fixing prices for different locations.
The policy action is too sudden and too hard for the majority of the people to bear. It’s almost impossible in some instances. This is because the gap in differentials is too big to be managed by many individuals especially that there are no palliatives anywhere and at any level to cushion the effects of such a sudden action.
The purchasing power of many individuals is still as poor as it was many years ago. People have not come to terms with the existing economic situation of unemployment, poor and lack of salaries and even the recently introduced currency changes and cash shortages. This can only compound the existing problems of the people under an extremely high cost of petroleum products regime.The labour community which is the most hit has mobilised and is insisting that without any palliatives in place, the policy ahoukd return to status quo.
Even though subsidy removal is long overdue because of the endemic corruption that has been in place, its sudden withdrawal without palliatives is creating more harm to the economy and the people than good. It has heightened inflation without measures being put in place to fill the gaps. Already the purchasing power of the people is weak, and therefore they cannot cope with high cost of living,increase in prices of fuel itself and all other goods and services. Transportation cost has multiplied and the cost of housing, food, clothing,etc has also skyrocketed. Because of the corrupt nature of the marketers in our country, there will be continous increase in the pump price as we ate witnessing today. Marketers keep conniving among themselves to hoard the product by creating artificial scarcity to escalate the suffering of the people.
In some countries where things are done right for the interest of the people, measures are normally put on ground before such policies are implemented. In Indonesia for instance, government was said to have commenced mass cash transfers to its citizens as palliatives so as to strengthen their purchasing power and cope with the subsidy withdrawal within the critical period. In the United States for instance, such massive cash transfers were witnessed during the COVID-19 crisis as palliatives to cushion the effects of COVID-19.People must not die in the process of implementing any good policy to address an economic problem. If it will take the people to die before addressing a nation’s economic problem, then its not worth it. It behoves on the new government of President Tinubu to act fast to ensure that the ongoing hardship is halted.
The federal government must invite all ideas and think outside the box to free Nigeria and Nigerians of this avoidable calamity. The nation is so rich with numerous and endless opportunities yet the people are the most suffering in the world. Such should not be our story in Nigeria. We must work hard to change the narrative.