Fuel subsidy removal and concept of change
It is common knowledge that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) recently rejected the Federal Government proposed N5, 000 for 40 million poor Nigerians when the subsidy on Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS) is removed. While describing it as ‘nonsensical’ the argument that the complete surrender of the price of petrol to market forces would normalize the curve of demand and supply as it is being wrongly attributed to the current market realities with cooking gas, diesel and kerosene are very obtuse, the Congress according to media reports warned that the bait by the government to pay 40 million Nigerians N5, 000 as a palliative to cushion the effect of the astronomical increase in the price of petrol, is comical.
The NLC captured what has been on the minds of Nigerians. Engineering change is not the problem but how the government defines/understands the concept of change. This understanding daily reflects in the Federal Government choices and slanted decisions that today paints our nation with the politics of fear and bankruptcy of ideology, perpetuates poverty and promotes powerlessness, impedes socio-economic development, leaves our democracy down-graded and troubled; visits Nigerians with tears while eroding opportunities for sound policy formulation.
More importantly, aside from the fact that the planned fuel subsidy removal has recently seen the relationship between the Government and the Governed transcends to a chaotic coexistence, leaving Nigerians as both victims of blasted hope, there are of course more reasons why Nigerians are not particularly happy with such development and can no longer trust the social contract or the framework of rules that governs state.
Recently, life in the estimation of Nigerians who once lived in comfort and loved to stay alive, has become not only a burden but the shout of the ‘good old days’ now rends the nations’ wavelength with the cost of living comparatively high and national security now a problem, our value system which used to be sound has gradually been eroded and people no longer have value for hard work and honesty.
The country is currently the direct opposite of what it used to be. There is uncertainty and collective fears of the future, stemming from state weakness, clientele and indiscriminate repression which has resulted in the emergence of armed responses by marginalized groups and nationalist, ethnic or other populist ideologies.
The situation says something more.
Across board, there exist political and institutional factors: weak state institutions, elite power struggles and political exclusion, breakdown in social contract and corruption, identity politics. Socioeconomic factors such as inequality, exclusion and marginalization, absence or weakening of social cohesion, poverty among others.
Most importantly, with the promised change by the present administration; Nigerians thought that they (FG) will make conscious efforts to enhance primary health care facilities across the country, reduce costs and unnecessary pressure on secondary/tertiary health care facilities. I have personally thought that the promised change in 2015 would increase the number of, and improve the quality of all federal government-owned hospitals to world-class standards within five years.
In the area of education, Nigerians are particularly not happy that the present Federal Government is unable to carry out a thorough review of the education sector and tackle the main causes of the sectors’ decline, implement fully and enforce the provisions of the Universal Basic Education Act with emphasis on gender equity in primary and secondary school enrolment while also improving the quality and substance of the schools.
Without a doubt, Nigerians had earlier believed that the present administration would reinstate the now abandoned Teacher Training College to train teachers, make substantial investments in training programmes at all levels of the educational system, re-introduce technical and vocational education nationwide by giving adequate material support to such institutions. They (Nigerians) expected the APC led administration to spend up to the UNESCO budgetary recommendation on the education sector.
Whatever may be the failures, we must as a nation return to where it started from. This is because, despite the validity of the Federal Government’s present argument, nobody will believe them particularly as Mr. President had during a media broadcast on October 1, 2020, insisted that Petroleum prices in Nigeria must be adjusted as it makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia.
Lets again listen to that remark; we sell now at N161 per litre. A comparison with our neighbors will illustrate the point; Chad which is an oil-producing country charges N362 per litre; Niger, also an oil-producing country sells 1 litre at N346; In Ghana, another oil-producing country, the petroleum pump price is N326 per litre; Further afield, Egypt charges N211 per litre. Saudi Arabia charges N168 per litre. It makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia. Buhari concluded.
No nation, in my view, can become great under a leadership arrangement with such orientation/thinking.
Utomi, programme coordinator (Media and Public Policy), social and economic justice advocacy, (SEJ), wrote from Lagos.
He could be reached via; firstname.lastname@example.org or 08032725374.