The subsidy removal has no doubt created a lot of problems for the masses and things are no longer easy for people. The economic situation is getting worst by the day and yet, nothing seems to be innplace to cushion the effects of the pain.
When the President announced an N8k 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. The federal government should please do something urgently to wipe away the tears from the people’s eyes and replace it with smiles.
A lot of debates have trailed the contentious subsidy withdrawal across the nation. Discussions by both the knowledgeable and unknowledgeable sections of the population have truly enriched the conversations. While those who understand the concept have advanced alternatives or palliatives to cushion the effects of the policy, those who know little are hammering on the harshness of it and the ways to smoothen it. 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 suffering masses. It was ridiculous that while Nigerians can mobilise themselves for protest and other demonstrations especially on minimum wage issues, no one has opted for similar protest against the most deadliest problem of subsidy which has caused alot of troubles for the people. The more its been discussed the more confused the people become because of the heavy grammar of experts on both radio and television.
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 and miscalculated presidential statement.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. Am very sure the President would have regretted the premature statement because of the hardship it caused leading to heartless hoarding of petroleum products by the wicked marketers. But months after the removal, nothing has been put on the table for the people tonnage 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 infrastructure, tangible and untangible are always 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 to torment the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan on grounds that it will create the present situation of untold hardship and suffering for the people have graciously made a U- turn. The unnecessary delay in removing the subsidy had slowed down so much progress for the nation. The previous government was undecided about the matter and could not muscle the courage to do it, but because the reality kept dawning on every successive government, especially the new administration, the action was carried but not without its attendant crisis and consequences.
It has been very ridiculous to note that previous administrations in the country have spend more money on subsidy than education, health, agriculture and even security even when the latter is the biggest problem of 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.
For 8 years, Buhari kept singing the subsidy withdrawal song without a single action and the political will to do something and change the narrative. The new president Bola Tinubu must ensure that 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.
As i said earlier, what created serious crisis on the matter was the hasty Presidential statement on the subsidy. The fragile economic environment could not absorb that shock and the market situation immediately changed for the worst and soon the marketers began to hoard old stocks thereby creating artificial scarcity even before government will sit to agree on a template. 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 should return to status quo.
Even though subsidy removal is an economic neccesity to free resources and plough them back towards the development of other critical sectors, provide infrastructure,education, boost agriculture, etc its sudden withdrawal without palliatives can create more harm to the economy and the people than good. It can heighten inflation if measures are not put in place to fill in 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 the marketers will keep conniving among themselves to hoard the product by creating artificial scarcity to make permanent 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 the corona crisis.
The federal government of Nigeria should use the 3.6 trillion naira budgeted for in the 2023 budget for subsidy to provide palliatives to Nigerians and make life easy for them. The provision is to take care of the subsidy for 6 months beginning from January to June. We are still in June and therefore the action is still within the time frame. Last year 443 billion naira was budgeted for the same period and the money went down the drain. The FG can use these funds to augment for the people while it commences gradual withdrawal of subsidy. 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.
It is a very big shame that since the issuance of licences for the building of domestic refineries to refine domestic petroleum products, only Aliko Dangote has done well to start and complete one. All the government owned are still comatose.
We believe that his action will encourage other businessmen and women to follow suit to open the economy and gradually make fuel available, reduce its price and create massive jobs for the people to reduce poverty and crime.
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 be unacceptable. The only thing that can make people know and appreciate what subsidy is all about, is the immediate provision of adequate safeguards and palliatives to change the tide and make people feel better.