Monday, 16 May 2016

Fuel Subsidy Removal, What Has Changed Since 2012?

A popular Yoruba adage reads: “Nkan ti Taye se, ti o mu je, ti Kehinde ba dan wo, o le te si” meaning ‘What Taiwo (a twin) does and he goes scot-free, Kehinde (the other twin) may do the same and be in serious trouble.

What I am saying in essence is that, what Mr Goodluck Jonathan did in 2012 and he got lashed for it by Nigerians, Mr Muhammadu Buhari has done the same in 2016 and same persons that meted the previous judgement on the former are cool with it and are even praising the latter. Why? Is this not double standard in display by Nigerians?

Protests greeted the Nigerian streets immediately the former President on January 1, 2012 during his New Year broadcast to the nation announced the removal of fuel subsidy jacking up oil price from the official N65 to N141 per litre. I can remember vividly how the Freedom Park in Ojota, Lagos State hosted the biggest and wildest protest Nigeria has ever witnessed in a decade, this in a bid to force the former President to swallow his decision. In fact, the rest of the world knew Nigerians are beginning to realize what is good for them. However, the announcement of subsidy removal this time around was stylishly made, even if one is not too careful, one would think the President is not on the same page with the decision because Mr Buhari was in UK as at that time and the Presidency was mute for more than 24 hours after the announcement.

The question now is that what has really changed since 2012 that Nigerians can refer to as succour in order to agree with this subsidy removal? I mean what social programme has been put in place especially within the last one year by the government of the day that one can say will cushion the effects this increment in fuel pump price will have on the masses especially at this economically disadvantaged period?

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Even the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) been the pressure group of Nigerian workers and perhaps the most powerful representation of the Nigerian masses up there are currently divided on the issue of the fuel subsidy. Wednesday, May 18, 2016 has been set as the deadline given to the Federal Government to reverse the decision. A number of media outlets reported on Sunday, May 15 that the Private Sector Employee Association has vowed not to join the industrial action. Same thing was reported of Pilots and Aircraft Engineers. This was not the case in 2012. Even PENGASSON and NUPENG have come out to agree with the FG on the decision as against their opinion in 2012. Then, you will ask what has really changed?

The popular Nigerian activist who was at the centre of protest in 2012, Mr Femi Falana did not even condemn the fuel subsidy removal but his own point this time is questioning how the State Minister for Petroleum came about the N145/litre margin, from what I could grasp, if the PMS pump price was set at the N135/litre, the exact high point after subsidy removal, he could have praised the decision. The reaction of the prominent APC Chieftain, Mr Bola Tinubu may not be too surprising though, he had repeatedly sued for the removal of fuel subsidy since the inception of the Buhari-led administration. Tinubu was reported to have influentially mobilized the whole of Lagos State masses to revolt against the previous administration in 2012 as a result of the subsidy removal, what has now changed?

The minimum wage value actually may have changed since 2012. The dollar to naira exchange rate which used to be about N180 to 1 dollar now goes for about N360 to 1 dollar in the parallel market. The implication of this is obviously not complicated. The prices of imported goods on which Nigerians largely live on will now be doubled. Let us do the calculation together, a Nigerian who lives on the unreviewed minimum wage of N18,000 valued at $100 before which now values at $50 has a deficit of $50 now. Prices of goods are inversely proportional to the value of money. I think this is a change!

Mr Ibe Kachikwu, the time giving minister has not failed this time as he has once again said in about 8 – 9 months, the price of PMS will go down, by then, he said our refineries will be fully operational. Only a few persons who have not been following the Minister’s time giving may entirely shove that down their throat but many Nigerians see this as a message of hope which is though workable but may not be the case.

I would only advise the Nigerian labour forces to hold on to their demands. They should say no to increase in pump price except an upward review of the minimum wage is accepted and implemented by governments at all levels. Poor Nigerian workers who live on a minimum wage of $1.67/day should not be made to pay the sacrifice of Change alone as we have been made to believe. The Executives and the Legislators should also cut their expenses, jack down their salaries and reduce the cost of governance for the sake of the Change we all profess and seem to believe in. I want to believe a Minister traveling to China requesting for a loan of over N13m to execute the traveling expenses lacks the locus standing and moral justification to tell a Nigerian worker to continue to pay N145 for a litre of PMS while the N18,000 minimum wage scheme is still in vogue.

David Adetula
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  1. @David Adetula ,first of I want to give you Kudos for a well written article.In my opinion though the topic is not well justified.It is time we begin to take a look at facts and make opinions around them.The simple answer to question been asked is the price of crude oil.In 2012 a barrel of crude oil sold at $118 in the foreign market but now it sells at $40 or less. Judging by this figures,What do you think will happen to a country who rely solely on oil exportation for majority of its revenue?taking Venezuela as the guinea pig. What the current administration has done is to take away the subsidy on PMS and use such on capital projects like making our refineries work,thereby reducing dependence of imported PMS.And about Kachukwu's statement on the soon to come reduction in price of PMS,it will happen as the forces of demand and supply will determine its price locally.

    Kudos again for the write-up and just to mention I do not have any political affiliation of any sort.

    1. @Ako Seye, Thank you for taking your time out to read my write-up. I also appreciate your remarks.

      I think the undertone of my thought was not well captured by you. I agree with you that we are in the hard times. Even in the same article, I acknowledged that the value of naira has indeed changed. However, my concern is the abject poverty and sustained sufferings the masses have been subjected to while our so called leaders continue to live luxurious life. Why are the masses alone made to pay for their ineptitude and inadequacies over the years?

      I understand the fact that we all have our roles to play in changing the status quo but not until our leaders realize the sacrifice for change has to be paid by us all, nothing will really change. My article actually centered on the fact that nothing good (social programmes) that will ameliorate the effect of the fuel subsidy removal has been put in place, yet our people are told to pay the hard way. It does not hard up that way.