THE elaborate posturing by the Federal Government towards the removal (once again) of the controversial petrol subsidy must be shelved until the right things are done.
The people, who depend on petrol for their livelihood, must be protected first.
We have always been exponents of petroleum products deregulation because that is the ultimate destination for a market economy, as the telecom industry has shown.
The deregulation of the telecom industry was a winner because it affordably brought the poorest segments of our society into enjoying a service that a government official once said was “not for the poor”.
There is no reason why a deregulated petroleum products economy should not bring the same benefits, and that is what we want.
It is a matter of diligent planning and execution by experts deployed by a visionary, patriotic and people-oriented government.Happily, Nigeria is a top crude oil and gas producer.
Before we contemplate total removal of subsidies, we must acquire adequate local refining capacity.
We cannot remove subsidy when we still import petrol, neither should it be done when only Dangote Refinery comes on stream.
It will simply throw the people to the rapacious dogs which is a recipe for disaster.
Let us start by selling the existing moribund government-owned refineries, consolidating the proceeds from the sales and raising new capital and joining up with capable private partners to build new refineries.
Let us also leverage on the enabling regulatory environment provided by the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, to facilitate the establishment of numerous modular and cottage refineries in all areas with easy access to crude supply.
Let us also allocate subsidised crude quotas to the refineries to enable them supply finished products at affordable prices to the domestic market, while government organs do their work to prevent diversion of products through the borders.
Any neighbouring country seeking to patronise Nigeria’s domestic petroleum products market should comply with the terms and conditions that protect our interests.
If subsidy is removed without first taking these protective measures, there will be anarchy. It could lead to the truncation of our democracy.
Everyone in Nigeria needs petrol to fuel his/her car, commercial motorcycle, tricycle, commercial bus, taxi, water pumping machine or generator for domestic and office activities.
Without adequate train and water transport, the masses depend on road transportation.
With government’s failure to provide adequate power supply, water and effective public transportation system, petrol and diesel are the only ways out.
Having failed to do the right things, the Buhari regime can still lay the right foundation that can carry a subsidy removal that the people can live with.
The hare-brained idea of giving cash palliatives to 40 million poor Nigerians from the proceeds of subsidy removal must be buried. It is a bonanza for corrupt public officials.