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Suffering and smiling: How we’re coping with subsidy removal

By Taye Obateru & Grateful Dakat
That the removal of subsidy on petrol by the Federal Government on New Year Day has brought a lot of hardship on Nigerians hardly needs restating. What with tales of woe, especially by those who travelled for the festivities and got stranded because they could no longer pay their way back to their destinations among other problems?

Right now, there are stories of many workers, especially in the private sector who have decided to quit their jobs because what they are paid is not enough to take care of their transportation to and from their offices. Despite the stark realities that the removal has brought with high expectations that the current agitation by Nigerians for a review of the policy would bear fruits, some Nigerians in the Plateau State capital, Jos, said they have resolved to make the best of the situation by embarking on some belt-tightening measures to enable them cope.

To many residents of the state, the situation is akin to the scenario painted by Fela, the late Afrobeat legend in his song “double wahala for dead body and the owner of the dead body”. While they battle with the pains imposed by the subsidy removal, they also have to think of ensuring that they make the best out of it so that some responsibilities are not completely neglected.

“It is a case of giving a little here and a little there so that no responsibility is completely abandoned”, Dele, an automobile technician told Saturday Vanguard.

Perhaps in what has made some people rate Nigerians as the happiest people in the world, many of those spoken to appear to have shrugged off the situation and are now devising ways of coping despite the pains they are in. As Philip a civl servant put it, “things are tough and we are hoping and praying that government will reverse the policy, but life must go on even though we are not happy.”

To Armstong, there is nothing wrong with deregulation but the real problem is whether the sacrifice would be worth it at the end of the day and therefore end the suffering of the common man who he said has always suffered subsidy or no subsidy.

According to him, “Even without the removal of subsidy, the common man had always suffered . Now that they say they are removing it, let’s see if it will benefit us as they have promised. For me, I am trying to adjust to the situation; My legs are still strong, so I trek when I have somewhere to go, after all trekking is a form of exercise.

Steven Arigbe, a business centre manager was more positive as he believes whatever hardship the subsidy removal has brought was a sacrifice for things to get better. “It is not that I’m not feeling the impact, but I know that no change is sweet at the beginning but the reward that would accrue in future is what we should focus on and I believe it will outweigh the current inconveniences.” Another resident, Okafor Uche, a trader explained how he was adjusting to the situation: “I don’t use generator as often as I used to do anymore.

Everything has to be timed and placed on a scale of preference. When there is PHCN light, I try to make the most of it like ironing, heating and doing other things before the light goes off. That is how I have adjusted to the prevailing condition.”

Another Nigerian who resolved to take the issue philosophically is Vitalis Ogbe who believed that what cannot be helped has to be endured. “For me, it is not a problem as such. What I do in situations like this is to accept it and this makes it easier for me to cope with the situation. I do not go out anyhow now, it must be very important and if it is a ‘trek-able’ distance, then I trek. It is a case of a bad system that cannot be blamed on any particular person”, he submitted.

Kelechi runs a barbing salon. He said he has also deregulated by increasing his charges to enable him cope with the situation as, according to him, he relies more on his standby generator to do his work. His words: “I am a barber and I need to sharpen by blades, buy fuel for the generator on a daily basis, transport myself and take care of other needs.”

So, while the groaning and pain and the agitation against the removal of subsidy on petrol continue, Jos resdients are characteristically finding ways of coping with the situation despite all odds. As the saying goes, the struggle continues.

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