By Senator Chris Ekpenyong

I recall when the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Timipre Silva, and the Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mele Kyari, addressed the Senate on subsidy removal.

They said they were going to encourage the revamping of four refineries as soon as possible.

This was good news because they were part of the Muhammadu Buhari administration that promised Nigerians that the subsidy would be removed.

The Buhari team had promised this in 2015 when the President was campaigning and people were clapping for him because it meant the refineries will be productive.

Six years after, this administration is still talking about the cankerworm called subsidy

Let us explain why I called fuel subsidy a cankerworm

Fuel subsidies became institutionalised in 1977, following the promulgation of the Price Control Act, which made it illegal for some products including petrol to be sold above the regulated price.

This law was introduced by the General Olusegun Obasanjo regime to cushion the effects of the global “Great Inflation” era of the 1970s, caused by a worldwide increase in energy prices.

Between 2006 and 2018, Nigeria spent about N10 trillion (US$24.5 billion) on petroleum subsidies.

In 2019 and 2020 about N3 trillion ($7 billion) was spent on subsidies.

It means that Nigeria has spent over $30 billion on fuel subsidies over the past 16 years or so. In 2018, it spent 722 billion. But it spent only $1.5 billion on health. Nigeria’s growing fuel subsidy may have contributed to the country’s health-financing gap.

As of 2021, according to the World Bank, Nigeria spent 4.5billion dollars on fuel subsidy alone (about 2 percent) of the budget paid for what we don’t know.

A few people benefit from subsidies by inflating figures for oil imports and over-invoicing the government for the cost of imports.

They have used their political connections and influence to scuttle attempts to remove them. This scam called subsidy should be removed so that this country can make progress.

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The political will should be there to face this reality. Nigeria isn’t going anywhere with subsidy, so it should be stopped. Government should use the subsidy money to revamp the various near-comatose refineries.

It will profit us more and allow the operations of modular refineries so that individuals can participate. Prices of PMS will also be determined by market forces.

This nation is blessed and we can be more blessed by harnessing our blessings. Imagine our refineries are working and crude oil is being refined here. It will give rise to other industries which will be depending on the byproduct of the refined crude as their raw materials things like paraffin wax, used in illumination, candle wax and other uses.

Others include slack wax, a raw refinery output comprising a mixture of oil and wax used as a precursor for scale wax and paraffin wax.

Sulfur: By-product of sulfur from petroleum contains percent of organosulfur compounds for industrial uses. Bulk tar is used in tar-and-gravel roofing.

Asphalt is used as a binder for gravel to form asphalt concrete, which is used for paving roads and others.

Petroleum coke is used in specialty carbon products such as certain types of electrodes, or as solid fuel.

There are also petrochemicals or petrochemical feedstocks such as ethylene, propylene, acrylic acid and benzene-toluene-xylenes and others. These organic compounds are turned into polymers, plastics, and pharmaceuticals, among others

Won’t the above give birth to other industries? That will engage our increasing population of young people across the nation?

This wickedness called subsidy must stop and heaven will not fall. It will just be a pain we should endure for a while for the economy to blossom because there’s no salvation without sacrifice

The Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research estimates that the budget for fuel subsidies in 2019 was sufficient to have enrolled the entire population of Nigeria in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). It was a shocking fact in a year where tens of millions of Nigerians battled grossly inadequate health infrastructure.

Nigeria and its people have suffered enough self-harm from the toxic relationship with fuel subsidies. They deserve better. It is time for all stakeholders —government at all levels, private sector organisations, labour unions, civil societies, students and youth groups to stand up and agree that fuel subsidies aren’t welcome anymore. It is time to dump this bad relationship and start over

I know the hardest part of ending a bad relationship is falling into the mindset that you can’t get out. Nigeria needs to reject defeatism and believe it can build a better future through sacrifice

Finally, I align myself with the words of Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who described Nigeria’s petrol subsidy regime as a scam and said Nigerians made a huge mistake by protesting against subsidy removal by the Goodluck Jonathan administration

Nigeria must kill this 45 year- old cankerworm and end the monumental scam.

*Ekpenyong, former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, who represents Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District in the Senate, writes from Abuja

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