Of obnoxious economic policies and plight of Nigerians
Sir: The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) notes with utmost dismay the recent 100 per cent increase in electricity tariff by the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC). The increase termed, Service Reflective Tariff, which was initially halted by the National Assembly and deferred to the first quarter of 2021 has now been forced down the throats of Nigerians taking effect from September 1 across the 11 electricity distribution companies (Discos) in the country.
While the dust is yet to settle on the insensitive increase in electricity tariff, the Federal Government through the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has added salt to a festering wound with the hike in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) with a new depot price of N151.56 per litre from N138.62 per litre. This, coupled with the earlier increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) from five per cent to 7.5 per cent in the midst of a COVID-19 global pandemic that has stripped many Nigerians of their means of livelihood, has made lives unbearable for many homes. The hike in the pump price of petrol has taken an immediate toll on transport fare, foodstuffs and other related services as prices have skyrocketed. With employment rate currently standing at 27.1 per cent and inflation at 12.82 per cent according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the economic reality with these latest developments is that more Nigerians would be out of jobs to join those that have lost their jobs and have become poorer due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
While we are not against the deregulation of the oil sector and efforts of the Federal Government to pursue economic reforms, we join other well-meaning Nigerians to demand reforms with a human face and reject the hike in electricity tariff, new fuel price regime and increase in VAT.
These hikes are capable of further impoverishing Nigerians and weakening their purchasing power. These policies are ill-timed, anti-people, unjustifiable and therefore unacceptable.
The security implication of these economic decisions is dire. More people would now be readily available for recruitment into terrorism, insurgency, banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping and other crimes. This is a looming danger as Nigeria presently cannot afford an upswing in security breaches. It is disheartening that at a time when other governments around the world are seeking creative ways to offer palliatives and stimulus packages to their citizens to ameliorate the devastating effect of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Nigerian government is thinking of inflicting more economic pains on its people. Rather than work for the people and fulfil campaign promises, government officials are busy sharing palliatives among themselves in the form of contract awards running into millions of naira and getting involved in mind-boggling corruption scandals.
Perhaps the government needs to be told that deregulating oil prices without active local refineries is hollow economic thinking. The government should be working towards fixing the four refineries before its deregulation policy comes into effect to avoid worsening poverty, high production costs for businesses and collapse of disposable income.
In a similar manner, NERC should not be in a hurry to increase electricity tariff when the Discos cannot guarantee a steady power supply. The Federal Government should be concerned about providing Nigerians with adequate power supply and not pushing for a hike in electricity tariff to make citizens pay more for darkness. NAS wishes to advise the Federal Government to rethink these economic policies and immediately reverse the recent hike in electricity tariff, PMS and VAT.
It is the duty of the government to care for its citizens, and this responsibility should not be abdicated at this crucial time. The government should seek ways to cut the cost of governance across the three arms of government and stop the unconscionable looting of the commonwealth of Nigerians. We call on the National Assembly to urgently call off its recess and reconvene to join the growing voices of those demanding the immediate and unconditional reversal of the hikes in electricity tariff, PMS and VAT. This is the time to stand by the people.
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