March 2, 2024

Tinubu right on subsidy removal, but needs only 12 ministers — Agbakoba

Tinubu right on subsidy removal, but needs only 12 ministers — Agbakoba

Legal luminary and human rights activist, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has said President Bola Tinubu was right to have removed fuel subsidy.

Besides supporting the subsidy removal, Agbakoba said he was fully in support of correcting the economy. However, he noted, “I do not support the slow pace at which the government is tackling the problem of hardship now.”

The SAN, who is an expert in maritime law, and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, made the points in an interview with Vanguard.

10 ministers

He also told Vanguard that Tinubu needed to reduce the number of ministers to 10 or 12.

He said: “What are you doing with 48 ministers?  It is just too big. You don’t need all that. I recommend a maximum of 12. 

“So many ministries can be merged and others abolished.  What is the Ministry of Information doing? All the press secretaries in the Villa cover what the Minister of Information does. Tell me, what does the Minister of Information do daily? Nothing! 

“We also do not need Agriculture and Housing ministries.  My take is that the government has no house and does not need a Minister of Housing.

“There should be a very clean sweep; you can bring it down from 48 to about 10 to 12 ministers.

“We should abolish that section in the constitution that says every state must produce a minister. 

Subsidy removal

Recall that on May 29, 2023, President Tinubu declared that subsidy was gone. He later described subsidy as an elephant that would bring Nigeria to its knees.

According to Agbakoba: “Why should we in good heart and sense, feed smugglers and be Father Christmas to neighbouring countries, even though they say not every day is Christmas?

“The elephant that was going to bring Nigeria to its knees is the subsidy. A country that cannot pay salaries and we say we have the potential to encourage ourselves. I think we did the right thing.”

We institutional palliative — Agbakoba

Speaking on the subsidy removal, Agbakoba said: “The principle of subsidy applies across the world.  Every government uses the proceeds to offer palliatives to the aged, the poor and the unemployed. 

“The problem with our own is the method of delivery. 

“For instance, in the US, there is a social security law.  So, the palliative process is institutionalised. It is not administrative.

“Even at that, there is a process of verification of people who are entitled. I don’t see how it cannot be done here.  We have a lot of identification tools like BVN, NIN and others that can be used for people who are qualified for the palliative.

“On the larger issue of subsidy, it is really not a bad idea. France has just announced 45 billion euro to subsidise electricity.

“The budget of the United States is $5 trillion and half of it goes into subsidising education, free health, and support for the aged. The UK pays 200 billion pounds to support the national health system.”

‘Where’s the subsidy money’

Continuing, he said: “On the point whether President Tinubu was right to remove it, yes, he is right, to recreate the economy.

“But what hasn’t happened is the consequential follow-up, which is a gap creating the hardship now.”

Also suggesting a way out, he added: “We need to pass, as a matter of urgency, the social security act which will use existing data to identify people who are entitled to get palliative.

“What we have is the administration, where the government said it has set aside N100 billion for palliative but we don’t know where it is going.

“Where is the money that has accrued from the subsidy removal? How much has been paid as palliatives, and where is the money going to? 

“Those are the gaps I will want the government to cover.  If they do so, it is not going to be difficult to persuade Nigerians that ‘yes, this is a very tough period that we must go through to correct the economy’,” Agbakoba added.

Vanguard News

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