May 6, 2024

Tinubu’s subsidy and bankruptcy faux pas

Develop your states, make them economically viable - Tinubu tells APC govs, others

President Bola Tinubu

President Bola Tinubu’s assertion at the recent Special World Economic Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that the removal of petrol subsidy and foreign exchange reforms by his administration saved Nigeria from bankruptcy, was received with mixed feelings by the citizens who have been forced to endure horrendous hardship over the past year.

On the surface of it, the president appeared correct. The cessation of subsidy increased the monthly federal allocation take-homes of the three tiers of government. However, the naira’s value became so low that many governors resorted to using substantial portions of their state funds to buy dollars for selfish personal profiteering, which worsened our currency’s woes.

Even the intrepid measures taken by Yemi Cardoso’s Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to rein in the naira from nearly N2,000 to the dollar to about N1,200, are already coming unstuck as our currency once again dropped below N1,400 to the dollar early last week. With rising costs, scarcity of fuel and woeful power supply, there is no respite yet for the economy under Tinubu’s watch.

One factor that the president cannot sweep under the carpet is the historical blame he has to personally bear for the fuel subsidy imbroglio which has remained insoluble. Nigeria endured series of Labour unrests over efforts by the Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Yar’ Adua regimes to introduce market pricing for petroleum products.

Tinubu joined in organising nationwide protests against former President Goodluck Jonathan’s effort to remove fuel subsidy in January 2012. Tinubu shut down Lagos, the nation’s economic capital, to put pressure on Jonathan to drop the policy. This was a major disservice to the country at a time Nigeria’s economy was far better placed to absorb the shock. Perhaps by now, the very investments that Tinubu is shopping around the world for would have flowed in, and the nightmare would have been behind us.

Ironically, when Tinubu’s party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, took over power under Muhammadu Buhari, several efforts were made to impose the same discredited petrol subsidy removal. Buhari eventually abandoned the full implementation to Tinubu, who promptly shifted the burden to the already impoverished populace on the first day of his coming to power.

Very few of the supposed measures to cushion the effects of the policy, such as cash transfers and cash awards to civil servants, have been implemented, albeit, inchoately. The promised electric vehicles and compressed gas buses are nowhere to be found. If anything, the Federal Government has added electricity tariff hikes to our burdens, while petrol subsidy payment has returned through the back door.

The Federal Government dodged the bankruptcy by transferring it wholesale to the populace and the operators of our economy. There is no basis for chest-beating yet, as there is no dividend in sight.