Soon after the International Monetary Fund, IMF announced that Nigeria should consider removing fuel subsidy, the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed spoke in a way to suggest that the government will do so to shore up revenue. As if on cue, pronto long queues began to appear at petrol stations and today another round of crisis is brewing. Well, if this government wants to test the resolve of citizens, let them ignore the fragile economy and heed the advice of IMF and see the wrath of the people. There is absolutely no need to increase prices of petroleum products at this time. It is ill informed and a time bomb that will do no good to anyone.
The masses had thought that fuel queues are a thing of the past. The people are for good reasons instead looking forward to a time not too distant when petrol will be refined at home. It is bothersome that we have been on this matter for decades. A country blessed with crude but a major importer of refined products. There is really no excuse, but unfortunately, excuse is what the people hear every now and then. The most ridiculous is using availability of more cash to help provide critical infrastructure. The Breton Woods institutions have continued to use this against our people when government prefers to bend to the advice of World Bank and IMF than find solutions to our problems internally.
To begin with, we are not averse to IMF recommendations where such advice or template is to make for a better managed economy for the well being of Nigerians. However, we cannot continue to be objects where a litany of economic strategies is tested to see how it will pan out. It does not make a lot of sense to see that each time we have revenue issues the easiest path to trod is removal of fuel subsidy (to free money for development). The same IMF considers the development of the human as the best strategy to economic independence. So what happens where the economy is subjected to torture as a result of its dependants not being able to function because they just can’t afford anything! It is not a joke. The economy can literally shut down if we do not take care and ensure some level of subsidy or redistribution.
If it is true that government may be considering raising the price of petrol, then we think it is not fair. First, the removal of subsidy should be predicated on something not the nebulous looking for money to build infrastructure. That is no longer tenable. You can’t be raising money for government from the pockets of those that cannot afford it. Government cannot remove subsidy on a product that is imported where that product is the engine of production and fair living. Petrol is not a luxury in Nigeria; it is the air we breathe.
There should have been policies and investments in public transportation and the infrastructure around it up to 70 per cent. Right now, government is doing something but it’s not even up to 10 per cent. Then we have to work round the clock to ensure that some of the policies around the downstream sector of the oil industry have begun to bear fruits.
We need to see Dangote refinery working. We need to see all the licensed simple-technology refineries working too. We should be doing 60 to 80 percent of our domestic consumption at home before we put this burden on Nigerians. If we increase fuel price today in the belief that it will create more revenue for government, yet loose the peoples’ support, what will the gain be? People may withdraw their support because they just will be unable to cope economically. There is a limit to forbearance. Dangote’s refinery by timeline is supposed to come on stream later this year or latest early next year. Why can’t we wait till then? Why can’t we do the maths to determine how much we will pay for that product if we begin to refine at home? How much will pump price be if we discount transportation from wherever we buy from, import duty and taxes, other costs that accrue to imports and refine at home, what will be the cost?
We don’t support any price increase. The lame statement that Nigeria has more than 1 billion litres of fuel as such no need for petrol scarcity should be discountenanced. Government should stop this artificial scarcity by action rather than words. The economy is fragile and any hiccup will cause a damaging spiral. Purchasing power should not be diminished. We are yet to recover from the 2016 increment.