OPINION: WHY OSINBAJO'S EXPLANATION OF FUEL HIKE IS ANTI-MASSES
By Samuel Yerokun
I would like to take on the Vice President over his defense of the anti-people policy of his government on the recent fuel price hike. What had been done is not subsidy removal but increase in the pump price of fuel discharged to the citizens for the purpose of taking more money from the pockets of the people. The oil marketers have nothing to lose business-wise but the masses have a lot to lose as they spend more without any increase in salaries.
Governance must be about the people, the people and the people. Every single kobo generated in revenue belongs to the people and political office holders from the president to lg Councillors are employees of the people. They are paid from the commonwealth of the people and should seek the best interests of the people at all times and, should be answerable to the people.
The VP claimed that the independent oil marketers were unable to get foreign exchange from Cental Bank of Nigeria and could not bring fuel or enough fuel into the country. He claimed the CBN has not got enough. The relevant question here is ''What happened to the availability of foreign exchange in less than 1 year of Buhari's government? It's obviously the bad policy of this government and Buhari was warned severally when he started restricting forex and dismantling the apparatus which enabled forex to flow in the open market and, which put a check on exchange rate. The VP forgot to mention that it was Buhari's bad policy that affected the availability of foreign exchange. So, why should the citizens be punished for the government's self-chosen misadventure?
Moreover, the VP claimed that his government has an expectation that the independent oil marketer would source foreign exchange at the of N285 and would be restricted to selling at between N135 and N145. But the price had already been set at N145 the VP is yet to tell us what the situation would be if the independent oil marketers secured the foreign exchange at a lower or higher rate than is expected?
The VP is right on competition in the open market which he believed Nigerians could benefit from - although without a time-frame, I believe that some of us have heard about price fixing among top players in different financial sectors even in the US and UK and it will be very unfair to leave the citizens at the mercy of these independent oil marketers especially in a country which is even struggling to deal with corruption in the civil service.
Nigeria's politicians should stop behaving as if they are leading slaves or have more rights over the commonwealth than other citizens. If these hired political administrators are no longer effectively efficient, they should leave the stage before its too late.
Is it morally and lawfully right for the citizens to be punished because the government cannot draw up a well-thought-through policy to deal with the claimed subsidy thieves?
Unfortunately, many of our learned and informed friends have been dragged along this concentration on claimed subsidy thieves and erring oil marketers at the expense of the people.The subsidy thieves or oil marketers should not be our focus if we indeed seek a Nigeria that caters for its citizens. Do Western nations subsidize some basic amenities for their citizens? Yes. In fact, a reported link from Saudi Arabia has it that Riyadh subsidizes electricity and water for its citizens among other things. UK does, US does. So, on what exactly at the moment are Nigerians enjoying the benefits of subsidy?
This piece wrote is written as a comment to a post comparing Nigeria with Saudi which was recently reported to have increased fuel price too:
Nigeria and Saudi cannot be compared as many people have noted above and I'll go into more details based on the link you provided up there. Saudi subsidises many basic amenities including water and electricity. In fact, according to that report, the subsidy on these basic will be slashed (not totally taken off) in a spate of 5 years. Take that has 1
2 Saudi's increase of fuel price is to address tge decrease in revenue generation but Nigeria's ome has to do with the challenges of the oil marketers. The Nigeria government lacks the right initiative to address this and in the course of that, the people are being punished
Related story: Vice President makes official explanation on new fuel price!
4. Spending wise: Saudi's budget for 2015 and 2016 are said to be similar without any strain on banking and liquidity, could this be said to be the position Nigeria is in too?
5. In paragraph 11 of the report in the link, it states ".....any changes would be structured to minimize the negative effect on the low and middle-income citizens" That is a country which puts its people at the forefront of every reform. They are already thinking about what to put in place BEFORE THE CHANGES takes effect but guess what the Nigeria government have for its citizens?......."bear the necessary pain!"
I do not intend to make this post long, so will keep it short. I will not also go into Buhari's earlier claim that no subsidy exists only for him to take power, made subsidy payments and now claiming its removal. If it was not existing, the removal of it should not have affected price of fuel and goods.
Is there a way we could deal with subsidy thieves or figure-manipulations while the citizens continue to enjoy subsidy on fuel? Yes. And, the system is very, very simple. We had a discussion about this during the era of the last government when Nigeria had the Oil Marketers versus FG face-off.
The simple system is to capture the actual volume of petrol discharged at the pumps which detail is retired and actual payment made. This would have handled the oil marketers without infringing on the rights of Nigerians to subsidized petrol. You read it well? Nigerians' rights to subsidized petrol!Or do you think Nigerians do not have rights to government-subsidized benefits funded from their commonwealth? I know some of us will argue that the subsidy fund could be used for infrastructural development but will those development make pepper cheaper and affordable? Is their no allocation for infrastructural development in the budget? Will you support the government to rob your parents of their comforts and your children of their future?
Think about it.
I have to conclude: the people must be the focus of governance and the same way the economy has suffered because Buhari is chasing looters, so also have Nigerians started to face more hardship because the government is fighting subsidy thieves. Should the people suffer and lose their rights?
When the Nigeria UK Parliament was set up by USDP then, the purpose was to have a sort of a parliamentary-style discussion on national issues such like this on the platform of BENTV. Those in support and those against were meant to face each other on what their understanding of the particular issue is and why they are for or against. Unfortunately, that has not happen yet because of logistics and importantly Nigerians' attitudes on some matters.
We have very brilliant and intelligent Nigerians but once it relates to these career politicians and they appeared to have borrowed the brains of the politicians, one would almost cry when you read what some of them write.
If it has to be about the benefits to the Nigerian citizens especially the low and middle-income earners and the masses, Nigerian politicians at the moment cannot get it right because the system cannot deliver it and most of them if not all are just there for their pockets. That does not mean to steal but if a person does not have the capacity to deliver as a governor and he/she paid his/her way to get to that position, he/she is a fraud because it means that he/she is not even qualified for both the post and the salaries and emoluments.
Yerokun Oludare Samuel is a pro-good governance commentator and media practitioner based in Scotland.