WHO IS AFRAID OF SUBSIDY REMOVAL? (A Minority Report By An Undergoverned Nigerian.)

What exactly is our problem with subsidy removal? Sometimes, we allow our political persuasions to impede our capacity to view key national issues dispassionately.

To start with, President Tinubu did not remove subsidy. The Buhari administration already did before he (Buhari) left office hence it wasn’t captured in the 2023 budget. It is also important to assert firmly that successive administrations have touted the idea of subsidy removal, but lacked the political courage to do so. Perhaps, this singular act by the Buhari government may eventually boil down to becoming one of its main known achievements. With Nigeria’s dwindling earnings, it had become clear even to the lay man on the street that it was no longer feasible for government to continue to subsidize the petroleum industry especially as the subsidy regime has been said to be characterized by sharp practices. Marketers have been said to inflate their invoices or in most cases, claim subsidy for products they never supplied.

Against the backdrop of the aforementioned reality, the most sensible thing for any responsible and responsive government to do would be to stop payment of subsidy. But here’s the deal, the very reasons Nigerians are worried about subsidy removal. In a country where impunity and corruption in high places have almost become a norm, what are the guarantees that the trillions of Naira that the government will save as a result of subsidy removal will not end up in private pockets? Which Nigerians got the five thousand Naira monthly disbursements to indigent citizens? How were the beneficiary schools selected for the school feeding programme that gulped trillions of taxpayers’ money? In a country where political patronage and loyalty to the ruling party are all the insulation one needs to be absolved of corruption, how are we sure that the huge economic gains of subsidy removal will not become the next jumbo feast for politicians? These fears are rife and genuine. For instance, the more Abacha loots we recovered, the more loans we got. If those recovered Abacha loots were judiciously managed and specifically channelled into people oriented projects, perhaps our educational and health sectors could have been better today. Corruption is the reason Nigerians are uncomfortable with subsidy removal.

We live in a country where things are known to happen without consequences. The NNPC can not say that they don’t know who those marketers are that inflate their invoices or get the government to pay for products they didn’t supply. They know who the culprits are, but in Nigeria, most economic crimes are committed by the big people and friends of government in collusion with people in government. It is the reason law enforcement is comatose except when a poor, ordinary Nigerian is involved.

Let’s not be deceived, if we truly yearn for a change towards a foreseeable new Nigeria, we have to be ready because it will come with a lot of belt tightening. If my principal, the people’s president, Peter Obi were to assume office today as president, I have no doubts in my mind that one of his first major moves would be to permanently put an end to the fraud called subsidy. Agreed, his (Peter Obi’s) would have been a much more trustworthy call to sacrifice by Nigerians because not only has he demonstrated capacity in the past to be incorruptible, he is also known to possess the credentials of stopping people around him from being corrupt. Needless to say that once your family and friends know that they can’t do whatever they like and get away with it, they will sit up and others will take a cue. This is the universal best approach to fighting corruption.

So, friends, Nigerians are not averse to subsidy removal in itself. What they are afraid of is to be subjected to making harrowing sacrifices only to make a few government officials richer as has always been the case. Their fears include how the government would deal with the attendant socioeconomic frictions that will come with subsidy removal. For instance, transportation cost is going to shoot up across board and with it, cost of food items. Cost of living is going to hit an all time high. So, beyond the mere pronouncement of subsidy removal, there is a whole lot of cushioning that the government must do before throwing Nigerians into the impending economic lion’s den.

CHARLES INOJIE
30-05-2023

By osibanews

Eliel Otote A is an Actor and Filmmaker, with a bias for journalism. He was a freelance feature writer with the Nigerian Observer in the 80's in Benin City, he also presented programmes on both radio and television. Eliel is the Editor and Publisher of OSIBAnews Network Magazine, of which this blog is an affiliate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *