BY EBUN SESSOU
Recently governmentrevealed its intention regarding the removal of fuel subsidy, a programme that has occupied national discourse in the last 19 years.
Indications are that for a country with a reserve portfolio in excess of 36 billion barrels of oil and daily output capacity put at about 3 million barrels per day, a deregulated environment would engender an environment conducive for investments to thrive. Refineries would start springing up across the country, jobs would be created and the country would become a petroleum-products refining and petrochemicals hub, at least in the West Africa sub-region.
Granted, prices of petroleum products would increase in the short run, in the medium to long term, investments in development of infrastructure would go up owing to the large volume of human and vehicular traffic, jobs would be created, technology would be domiciled and under such circumstances, the gross domestic product, GDP of the country can only go up.
But, Nigerians say removal of fuel subsidy will only aggravate poverty, increase hardship and above all, increase the level of joblessness in the country.
Those who spoke to Saturday Vanguard suggested that government should focus on other resources that have been abandoned for long and invest in them to make the country better for everybody.
Saturday Vanguard sampled the opinions of Nigerians and reports:
Eugene Chika, a Lagos based okada rider said, “if government removes subsidy on fuel, things would be difficult for average Nigerians. “All the essential amenities of life will be difficult to get. That is why I am not in support of removal of subsidy on petroleum products because Nigerians are still benefiting from it.
“There are many places government can delve into and not in the area of removal of oil subsidy. For instance, there is coal in Enugu, we have cocoa and nobody is talking about it, I believe government should exploit those areas. Nigerian government should not make life difficult for the masses. They should go into areas that have been neglected. People should be benefiting from government and not the other way round. They should not inflict hardship on people”, he concluded.
For Chris Okeke, “Nigerian government has failed to fulfill its promises. They have promised different things and they are yet to fulfill any of those things. Teachers’ salary are not paid , yet there is nothing we have seen so far. Nothing has been implemented.
“What they told us to be expecting is that prices of petroleum products would be reduced for the masses to enjoy. But nobody has gained anything from government’s programme. Up till date, we are still buying a litre of kerosene at the rate of N150, yet nobody has done anything about it. The expectation of good governance seems to be a mirage. What we were hearing now is that subsidy on petroleum products will be removed thereby increasing the prices of those products,” he lamented.
Meanwhile Evangelist Thaddeus Anunne suggested that those who are fomenting trouble in this country should be dealt with. “I saw the story on the pages of newspapers and heard them on radio. If they eventually remove it, the question to ask is that, what is the reason for the removal? If subsidy is removed, it simply opens the doors for governors, ministers to have extra ghana-must-go by their side. How many of the governors are punished after being probed, they only go away with people’s money.
You can only hear about a project being executed on the television and newspapers but in the real sense of it, those projects are not there. By giving them this money, then, you have empowered them more to accumulate and embezzle more money for themselves and wait for the consequences. How much of the money do we recover no matter the EFCC’s intervention? I don’t trust the EFCC because they only make noise. Those who were caught with people’s money have not been punished for it. But, a clerk who steals can go to eight years imprisonment.”
He continued: “The fuel is ours, how can we think of removing fuel subsidy that we use internally? How can we justify removal of fuel subsidy? We have the crude oil and all other things necessary for economic development of the country; yet, we live as servants in a foreign land. The truth is that the government of this country is not honest.
“If they remove the subsidy next year as planned and increase electricity tariffs, it means they have decided to kill the poor masses on the streets. I don’t know if some persons are behind this problem or they are always looking down on the masses. They are only talking about themselves; they have not considered the poor man who cannot afford three square meals on a daily basis. Children will find it difficult to go school.
“I think, government should think of investing on agriculture instead of increasing the agony of the people. There are so many countries that are operating without oil. Togo has no oil; Malaysia invests in rice plantation and gave room for employment. If they should increase the price of any crude oil in this country, it is sabotage,” he said.