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RE: FUEL SUBSIDY IMBROGLIO

By NBF News
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I am a Nigerian who can be classified as belonging to the lower middle class. I am therefore faceless and voiceless, and can be classified as a babe in the political and economic discourses relating to our country. I only take solace in the scriptures, particularly this verse that says,'out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants I have ordained strength because of my enemies' (Psalms 8:1-2). Therefore, in my babyish and amateurish analysis, lies the voice of God.

The recent happenings in our country call for serious concerns….from Boko Haram insurgence in the north, kidnappings in the south-east, calls for resource control in the south-south, to fuel subsidy removal imbroglio across the country. The truth however must be told that Nigerians have continually been fooled by both government on one part, and the labour union, civil society groups, religious leaders, and the so – called political/economic experts/analysts on the other part.

These groups are the same people who simply interchange roles in an evolving nation as ours. The list is as lengthy as imaginable. The lower class has remained constant and at the peril of these evolving upper class members.I strongly believe Nigeria can get out of this recycling mess if only we can annex the power in unity. We are so ethnic and religiously biased that our life is a misery – we live in poverty; mediocrity, laziness, insecurity.

Our best brains rot away, while mediocres hold sway in top levels of our national life; we recycle old sycophants and obsolete people who are out of ideas of the prevailing situation and methodology required in solving the 21st century problems.

At the time we should be among the top 20 economies in the world, we are rated among the top 20 poorest economies. We are naturally blessed with high human and natural resources to put us among the comity of the top richest economies. Our brilliant brains are eroded to other economies, becoming nation – builders in foreign lands, while we import mediocres from other economies as expatriates who live and behave like gods in our God – given land without commensurate inputs to our nation - building.We promote imported goods against home – grown products; every facet of our economy is at the mercy of foreign invasion.

The mediocres in power have systematically killed our productivity level, turning us to petty traders through importation of sub – standard goods, even the imported fuel we consume in Nigeria is among the lowest quality, while we export one of the best crude oil in the international market.They tactically ensure that the power and energy sector remain a mirage in furtherance of the choking of our economy; our life expectancy ratio is continually on the decline, yet we are adjudged to be the happiest people in the world. I cannot imagine how the researchers came to such a conclusion.

The fuel subsidy imbroglio was one of the best opportunities the ordinary masses had to correct some of the ills of this nation.The so – called labour union; civil society groups,religious leaders, and socio-political analysts are all but stooges, working with government for the same objectives – every group has a conscripted role to play. I was forced to this conclusion when labour leaders and government arrived at N97 pump price for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS). I did not need a seer or a professor to understand the game plan or what the outcome of that struggle would be. I am a middle – aged man and as such I can speak on the state of the nation as perceived and interpreted as the years rolled by.

Labour leaders, civil society groups, religious leaders, government and the so – called technocrats, are supposed to be knowledgeable, networking ideas and ideals for the good of all. They have collectively failed us as a people. I don't need a Professor Fabayo or Professor Pat Utomi to analyze our present predicaments. An average matured Nigerian with at least a secondary school certificate should know that the life – line of our economy is the petroleum sector; the fastest selling commodity in the world is crude oil, because of high demand for energy, which is presumed as the mainstay of our economy.

The drive for industrialization lies in the growth of the Power and Energy Sector which, indeed, are complimentary goods.It is common knowledge that the downward trend in Power and the Energy sector is responsible for the dragging growth in our development; high rate of unemployment, high crime rate, social unrest, widening gap between the rich and the poor, and disunity among our people. So why on earth will any responsible government toy with such tools? The government has made pronouncements on increased tariffs on power rate; suspended, but inevitable. My Economics lecturers at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, taught me complimentary goods. Energy and Power are complimentary goods, so if energy price moves upward, power price will automatically follow suit.

I thought the removal of the oil subsidy will afford us an opportunity to, once and for all, deal with the cabals enslaving us, and put government on their toes through a radical and revolutionary but peaceful approach, in making our demands known to them. I thought that for once, we were going to act in a different away; catch government unawares, slaughter the cabals, and forget our differences and forge ahead as a nation. I strongly believe the outcome of the struggle had been well construed by both labour and government. Our actions had been well predicted; we've always been a puppet in the hands of our leaders. I had thought we will not make the same mistake again; I had envisioned the following:

That labour would force government to bring down the price to N65, no more no less. That, I thought we would all agree upon, if there is widespread opinion that this Administration cannot be trusted. On the second thought, I hoped government would remain adamant, emphasizing the genuine reasons for deregulation, while dialoguing with both labour and the general masses. I was hoping to hear such things as:

This will be the last time there will be anything as deregulation by this government or any other successive government. That Government will put every necessary thing in place to augment the sufferings of the people through provision of vehicular mass transit scheme, and acceleration of the rail mass transit procurement to help push down the cost of transportation before full deregulation.

That government was going to improve the Power Sector, through deregulation, and that as Energy and Power are complimentary to each other, the creation of more refineries will encourage the construction of wide – spread Independent Power Plants across the federation, and thus help to revamp our Industrialization process; creating employment, infrastructural development, social amenities, improved security, and integration of core value. I hoped that Government would use the example of the Telecommunication and Aviation Sectors as vivid examples to illustrate the need for full deregulation; that government would promise these and lots more on bended kneels, promising to resign if, by the end of this year, there is no meaningful improvement in our lives.

Alas! What do government and labour expect of us? PMS Price has been reduced from N145 to N97 per litre. Labour has forced government to subsidize fuel by about N48 The masses should accept this as a good bargain There is going to be minimal downturn impact on the economy State governors can now afford to pay minimum wage Labour has fought a good fight, Every citizen is expected to resume at their duty post. Both government and labour have embraced the tenet of conflict resolution, there is no victor; no vanquished. In reality where do we stand? Pump price has increased from N65 to N97, Government has successfully increased pump price by N32, which is about 50% increment. Governors can definitely afford to pay minimum wage, what was given through the front door but has been collected through the back door.

Subsidy is retained, and so the dreaded cabals remain relevant. When government announced subsidy removal, fuel price immediately jumped to over N140, Government had since Sunday, 15 January, 2012, announced a drop in price from N140 to N97, yet the cabals are finding it difficult to adjust to the new price. This government and successive governments can still play on our psyche once they are broke.

The vicious circle of drowning our economy continues Labour and its associates have played their part, smiling to the bank to our detriment; business continues as usual. The good fight has been postponed once again. Some day, within the next generation, pump price of PMS will stand at frightful figures; then some of us will regret our actions today, if we are alive. Generations unborn will curse us as being among the class of people that made life unbearable for them. We have all mortgaged our children's future for our selfish means, today.

ONASOGA Abiodun Olusola, Lagos..