Subsidy Must Go; It Has Done More Harm Than Good! By Ogundana Michael Rotimi
In December 2011, I was back in Lagos from Umuahai, Abia State, to celebrate the Christmas break with my family and friends. My plan was to go back within the first week of the new year, 2012. I budgeted ten thousand naira (N10,000) for my transport fare both to and fro. The celebration was on and we were still in the mood of celebration, only for the Former President, Goodluck Jonathan to announce the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as Petrol. This removal suddenly increased the price of PMS from N67/L to N145/L consequently inflation hits the economy and everything went excessively expensive.
On getting to the park on the 4th of January 2012, same bus I boarded from Umuahia to Lagos for N3,500, was boarded back to Umuahia for N10,300. This time around it was not about the transport fare, but there were fewer buses that were ready to embark on the journey.
Not too long, people took to the streets; activists frankly frowned at such a decision by a government that showed less care for the masses but only for the cabals. There were massive protests at various centres across the country condemning the action. That was the birth of Occupy Nigeria. It was definitely a wrong time for any leader to perpetrate such wickedness to the people he governs.
However, for history and posterity sake, it must be on record that majority of the elites that were against the removal of fuel subsidy by Goodluck Jonathan led administration, was not against it because they didn’t know that the subsidy has done more harm to the nation than good. They know that the subsidy in place is just a way of giving money away to the cabals and also a loop point for corrupt government to cart away with public funds. Yet they stood against the removal because the timing was wrong and because they wouldn`t trust a government that pampered corruption and corrupt practices with the removal of subsidy.
The protests that lasted for about a week ended up in the partial removal of fuel subsidy, and gave birth to the “Subsidy Re-Investment Programme” known as SURE-P.
The failure of SURE-P proved that the Goodluck Jonathan led government couldn`t have been trusted with the complete removal of fuel subsidy. SURE-P was a scam; the project was baseless, fruitless and yielded no results. Such would have been the case if the subsidy was completely removed.
Flash back, check most of the flash points and the placards during the protests, you will notice that it wasn`t actually that Nigerians were comfortable with the subsidy in place but were scared to trust the government to make effective use of the money that would have been realized from it. Some of the placards and flash points read thus; “Kill Corruption Not Nigerians. Kill Corruption Not Subsidy. Victimized The Cabals Not Nigerians. Cut Government Expenses Not Subsidy”. The meaning of this is simple; the people actually needed the government to show some commitment in doing the right thing such as fighting corruption, disbanding the cabals, cutting government excess etc. before thinking of removing subsidy.
Goodluck Jonathan`s administration proved itself not trustworthy; Hence, we couldn`t have trusted his administration with the removal of fuel subsidy and with such huge amount that would have been realized in the process. This was exactly what the massive rejection was all about.
I personally rejected and condemned it and wrote a lot of articles against it. The story won’t have changed with President Jonathan if he was allowed to remove the subsidy on PMS. The money would have been stolen, squandered and wasted. And the nation would have been back to square one.
A government that wants to remove subsidy must first show commitments to fighting corruption and rejuvenate the very corrupt Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), before talking about subsidy removal.
As it stands now, Nigerians can no longer cope with the present subsidy regime. Funds that should have been used for capital projects and infrastructural developments have ended been embezzled by the so called cabals in the name of subsidy. Even with the large amount being paid for subsidies (A total of about N7.5 trillion was paid between 2006 and 2014), the subsidized products are not still usually readily available for public consumption and where they are available; they sell for prices much higher than what they should have been sold.
President Buhari seems ready to fight corruption and to deal decisively with corrupt practices. In view of this, this subsidy must go. This is the right time to let it go. All what the Buhari`s government must do, is commitment to the rehabilitation and upgrading of the refineries (The two in Port-Harcourt and the one each in Warri and Kaduna). The fact is, only the right government is right to remove subsidy at the right time.
President Muhammadu Buhari body language has shown that he won`t tolerate corruption, irrespective of who is involved. Buhari`s government came at the right time and could be considered a rightful government. It is now left for him do the right thing.
The hard truth is; this is the right time to let go of subsidy, it has done more harm than good.
God Bless Nigeria
Ogundana Michael Rotimi
I tweet @MickeySunny