THE removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government as a deliberate policy aimed at conserving and maximizing the oil wealth of the word’s sixth highest petroleum producer/exporter, has attracted national and international discourse since the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration made its intention known to the public.
Economic experts, including the Central Bank governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Federal Minister of Finance, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonji–Iweala, Federal Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Deziani Allison-Madueke, among others, in a recent television debate with representatives of the Civil Liberty Organisation did try to convince Nigerians that this policy measure was capable of enhancing the economic fortunes of this country.
They had admitted that the oil subsidy which hitherto was only beneficial to a few Nigerians and foreign investors will now be diversified to improve the lot of a greater majority of the less-privileged Nigerians through the provision of infrastructures that would provide employment for the teeming jobless citizenry as well as improve education, health, power, water resources and agriculture.
The human rights group, which included the human right lawyer Olise Agbakoba, tried vehemently to persuade the Federal Government spokesmen and women that such a policy will not augur well for the economic welfare of most Nigerians. Those who contributed to the view expressed by the CLO included the former NLC national leader and now Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomole.
Nigerians who watched the fantastic debate would agree with me that it was a debate of titans. That debate reminds me of one of ex-president Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida’s style during his fascist administration, namely that of throwing his government incipient policies for open debate before final implementation or rejection.
The effect of this policy measure is that the public was collectively held responsible for any failure not traceable to implementation. Consequently, the opposition itself was morally unfit to raise a voice because it also contributed in addition to the fact that the policies were executed by combatants.
This is why some Nigerians, including former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, had suggested that the removal of fuel subsidy should be gradual.
I make bold to confess that after watching the analysis of the two parties, I was confused like many Nigerians. I was convinced that the country has arrived in terms technological know-how with particular reference to managing the economy.
No resource person in economic and financial administration can underrate a person like Dr. Okonjo- Iweala on the African continent; the same is true of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who before his appointment was an active member of the CLO, but who admitted that the removal of the fuel subsidy was an economically feasible action.
However, he went further to confirm that the oil subsidy was not utilized by government in the past; hence it should be removed for proper accountability.In the same vain during a recent television interview, a popular Archbishop of Lagos said that he, like many other Nigerians, was not opposed to the removal of fuel subsidy, but wanted to know where the subsidy was allocated.
The point to be emphasized here is that, there seems to be a stalemate as to whether to remove or not to remove it. The two schools of thought appear to be convincing after a thorough examination of the issues involved.
When one realises that many countries like Niger and Ghana had taken a similar policy measure to their economic advantage, one will be forced to endorse the removal; on the other hand if one uses the immediate short term experience of the average Nigerian, one will be forced to oppose it.
Since the past few days Nigerians are groaning under the pressure of over 100 per cent increase in transport fares after a corresponding increase of fuel pump price from N65 to N141 in the urban areas and between N150 and N180 in semi urban and rural areas.
In the final analysis, it would appear to me that many Nigerians are not opposed to the removal of fuel subsidy if they are sure that such funds would be properly accounted for. My candid opinion therefore, is that the Federal Government should have extended the period of awareness sensitization to enable all stakeholders to actually appreciate government’s good intentions and thereafter in a very calm atmosphere start a graduated removal of the oil subsidy with little or no stress.
*Hon. Uche Nwadialo, wrote from Delta State.