NIGERIANS ignore threats. Ask General Sani Abacha, or those who advised him that he could rule with threats. Nigerians have seen too many governments (19 in 51 years – an average of a new government every two and half years) that threats that the country would collapse unless President Goodluck Jonathan increased prices of petroleum products would be regarded as regular fare.
No matter where the debates come from, none of the so-called economic considerations has found reason for the importation of petroleum products. Is it possible that if we refined enough fuel locally the prices could be lower? Why do the refineries no longer work? Why are economic-minded folks no longer talking about the domestic refineries?
Little economics follow the debates. Each time we are told de-regulation would work magic; we are presented with the glowing pictures of a future that remains unattainable since government started muting the idea in 1987. We have been through strikes, riots and several engagements with governments, none of which produced any of the promised lofty achievements.
Governments have seen de-regulation (price increases) as the easiest way to raise the billions of Naira they require to meet domestic obligations. The debate is no longer about the chicken and the egg – which comes first – but about the unfaithfulness of governments to the development of Nigeria.
Do we need de-regulation to develop railways? Why must we tie de-regulation to development of infrastructure like electricity, which other countries borrow billions of Dollars to develop, because they know its centrality to their economy? Why do government thrive on conspiracy against Nigerians?
Too much deceit attends the price of petroleum products for it to make any meaning whether economic or political. Who are the beneficiaries of the subsidy? When government pays for the inefficiencies it has wilfully brought to its operations, is that subsidy? There are too many questions.
On discovery that it can no longer continue with the embarrassingly deceitful arguments, government has resorted to threats. They are being issued from all sides, some emotional, others merely political.
“We at the CBN have always insisted that government should do away with the oil subsidy, because it is good for the economy. It may be harsh at the beginning but in the long run it would be beneficial for the country and it will help the economy,” Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said last September. He followed that up with the more emotional appeal that there would be nothing left for posterity, if we did not make the sacrifice. Would posterity be built on a vacuous present? Who are making the sacrifice except ordinary Nigerians?
There is no posterity without the present. The price of petroleum products cannot be resolved on sentiments, clothed in economic attires. When will the refineries work? Why do they not work? Who will benefit from the increase on prices of petroleum products? Can Nigerians, who government has sanctioned to a minimum wage of N18, 000 per month live with the all-round increases in prices that the measure would entail?
Threats will not do it. Government has fallen in its responsibilities to Nigerians. Every reason given for increasing prices of petroleum products make that point.
Unfortunately, whether fuel sells at N 100 a litre today, or N250 per litre, it has no relationship to the sustenance of Nigeria because fuel subsidy is a bogey that works for every government, but reminds the people that posterity is a mere myth.