Fuel Subsidy And AIDS (Acquired Integrity Deficiency Syndrome)
If you don't take the dead rat out of the room no amount of fresh air can give you a fresh breath.
Year after year we seem to be squatting at the same spot; sometimes the greatest effort we make will be a leap from the ground unto the top of an anthill which always attracts maddening cum thunderous applause that we have achieved a lot without realizing or remembering the legendary adage that, “A bird that leaps from the ground and perched on an anthill is still basically on the ground”.
Again we are being treated to the usual noise... the subsidy carpet has been laid, in various forums; the President has stated categorically no going back. In far away Australia, the Petroleum minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke was engaged in double speak on the matter.
Within last week, CAN the umbrella body of Christians through its leadership have lent its support to the removal of subsidy, and before them were some select group of 'government-business' people. As all these noise increases, the governors are speaking from both sides of their mouth. NLC is given terms for its support and the National Assembly is summoning everyone and everything.
Labour and Productivity, Minister Chief Emeka Wogu took the lobby of the federal government on the proposed removal to the National Assembly, with a plea with the Senate to support the move.
According to Wogu, government's plans to deregulate the downstream oil sector are part of policies that are designed to improve the well-being of the masses.
He said “...that what will accrue to the Federal Government from the removal, will be judiciously used as well as monitored and managed by eminent Nigerians who are well respected in the society.
Wogu who expressed concern that the current quantum on subsidy has weighed so much on the economy of the Nation, however called on Nigerians not to throw the baby out with the bathing water, but to critically look into the fuel subsidy removal policy as it will be of immense benefit to them.
“The Federal Government will provide safety nets and will invest the accrued revenue from the removal of subsidy in infrastructural development which will generate employment, fund education and health among other programmes that will have direct impact on the well being of the masses,” he said.
On the strength of such fine talk, support from who is who; economics according to Ngozi, Sanusi and World Bank, how can one doubt this government?
The reasons for doubts are not far-fetched and in these few lines I challenge those in authority from Mr. President to his last lieutenants to prove me and millions of Nigerians wrong.
The first major increase of petrol pump price was by Obasanjo in 1978, from 8.4/5kobo to 15.30 kobo, an increase of 73.86%...Reasons, a good majority of users were using the commodity more for pleasure and there was need to bring discipline into the society.
Another reason was that the price had been maintained at a low level for 12 years despite galloping inflation and wait till you hear this, that government had been subsidising the price of petroleum with more than N95million every year.
After that, Shagari increased from 15.30kobo to 20kobo in 1982, reasons; austerity measures to ensure that everybody sacrificed something in aid of the country's ailing economy, secondly to stop subsidizing petrol consumed locally.
IBB between 1985-1993 increased fuel pump price five times starting from 20kobo to finally 70kobo, amongst his reasons included that government subsidies were generating controversies, savings from same would be used for education, to check smuggling, to help checkmate the suffering brought about by SAP, there was no official reason for the last increase.
In his 'sit-down-small' government Shonekan equally increased from 70kobo-N5.00 and told us it was necessary to ensure the survival of the oil sector, and that those in the sector were operating at a loss.
Abacha briefly reduced the 614% increase of Shonekan but soon moved it again from his subsidized N3.25k to N15.00 in October 1993, reason; production cost had risen, there was need to decrease the level of subsidy, and smuggling, he was later to reduce it to N11 as a result of strikes, and protests.
Abdulsalam played same symphony. First from N11.00 to N25.00 and back to N20.00 in some three weeks, and the argument continued that there was need for deregulation, government had no business fixing prices.
Obj came in civilian toga, hiked it to N30, and brought it back to N25.00, then N22.00, reasons to reduce smuggling, reduce government's subsidy, contain fuel scarcity, it was done to strengthen the economy.
I will spare my readers the agony of the rest but really what has changed, same old story of subsidy, no good roads, glorified chemists' shops as hospitals, dying public school system, ponzhi employment schemes called 'YouWin' when indeed the nation keeps loosing.
Fuel is still being smuggled, economy still ailing, no massive revamping of refineries 'cept on paper, not much happening in terms of manufacturing, we are only served hardship as a meal to pamper the spoilt wants of a ruling class.
We are blessed with a leadership and citizenry that have long lost any form of integrity...So this may a difficult ask...we learn slowly, we forget quickly and no matter the best of intentions it's always a case of “A bird that leaps from the ground and perched on an anthill...”
Very little will change if we do not put a face and name to ask government to be responsible, the continued lack of integrity by those in power will continue! Time will tell.
Prince Charles Dickson
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