Dear Lagarde, Sorry, Nigeria Cannot Remove Subsidy On Fossil Fuels
By Kalu Nwokoro Idika
Dear Christine Lagarde, sorry, Nigeria cannot remove fuel subsidy. You are asking for the impossible. This is just an inevitable reality IMF (International Monetary Fund) must graciously deal with. Asking Nigeria to remove subsidy from fossil fuels is just like telling the hungry sharks in the downstream sector that there won’t be further flesh for them to feast on.
There are a lot of crooks benefiting from the billions of U.S dollars siphoned in the name of fuel subsidy. So, it will be more of a suicide mission for any government to attempt such destructive advice.
Goodluck Jonathan made inroads in the subsidy brouhaha when his government announced officially on the 1st of January, 2012, that subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) has been removed. Concomitantly, within hours this announcement was made, there was a heavy tension across the board. Religious groups, political organizations, civil societies and other notable men and women moved into the major cities in Nigeria in protest against the government of Jonathan. Many bemoaned Jonathan for his callous action. While Jonathan and his economic team were busy doing the best they can to convince Nigerians about the rot inherent in the subsidy charade, and why it should be thrown overboard, the cabals who are feeding fat from the subsidy show ganged up (through their media stooges) and discredited his government and also accused him of attempting to exacerbate the economic woes of Nigerians.
After much debate and negotiations between the government of Jonathan, civil organizations and other interest groups, an agreement was reached which resulted to the removal of some fraction of the subsidy. While all these were going on, Jonathan’s government never thought of social safety net which will be there to curtail the harsh effects of removing subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit. The poor masses ended up shouldering the selfish interest of few political omnipotents in the corridors of power. Although, Jonathan’s government made an attempt to reinvest the little money they forcefully dragged from the pockets of these demagogues in charge of the subsidy fraud. He used the money to initiate programs like, YOUWIN and SUBSIDY REINVESTMENT EMPOWERMENT PROGRAM which resulted to the creation of over 2.3 million jobs for the youths.
Many Nigerians who cannot think beyond their mental scope mischievously believe that petrol subsidy is nothing but the only means the poor masses can enjoy the dividends of nationhood. This is a wrong view widely held by millions of Nigerians who do not understand the gravity of the economic damage done by the subsidy sham. Nigerians do not even know that petrol subsidy is ripping off billions of dollars which would have been channeled in addressing important problems.
One serious question Nigerians have failed to ask is, as an oil rich country, why should PMS be sold at a very high price after huge sums have been paid under the cover of subsidy? And why should the commodity be scarce? Why is it that there exist discrepancies in the price of petrol across the board in Nigeria irrespective of the government price tag on the commodity? All these things are happening when billions have been settled for subsidy. If there is anything like subsidy, the problems identified above will not be there. Subsidy on PMS should ensure its availability, unified price and sufficiency.
IMF should not even make the attempt of thinking the removal of subsidy from fossil fuels will in anyway address some of the basic issues raised by Madam Lagarde in the annual spring meetings with the World Bank in Washington DC. During the oil windfall when Nigeria had surplus in her coffers, the leaders who were on board the political ship could not muster enough courage to address most of these issues. So the idea of removing subsidy just to have adequate fund for education, health and roads is just the usual recycled story we are used to.
Mr Mohammadu Buhari who was shouting from the back of the goal post before 2015 that petrol subsidy was somewhat a scam and his government will get rid of it, surprisingly has done nothing about the removal since he took over the mantle of leadership. His government has paid more than what Jonathan’s government wasted on petrol subsidy.
I would also add as a ‘by the way’, as far as Nigeria is concerned, IMF can remove all the petrol subsidies at gunpoint and hand it over to Nigeria, the money will still be diligently plundered by private pockets. The solution to the economic problem of Nigeria is beyond removing subsidy on PMS, but lies heavily on the question of if there would ever arise a leader who will be courageous enough to fight and defeat the thieves causing this havoc on the Nigerian economy.
Sorry madam, Nigeria cannot remove subsidy from fossil fuel. The cartel ravaging the nation’s economy will view your advise as a major threat to their livelihood.
Don’t forget, petrol subsidy in Nigeria is nothing but the birthright of few privileged individuals. So, an attempt to remove and muzzle the subsidy demagogues will lead to instant anarchy.
Kalu Nwokoro Idika is a political analyst at Family Writers Press; E-mail: Kalunwokoroidika@yahoo; Twitter: Kalunwokoro