Subsidy: Can Jonathan risk another protest?



SOMETIMES, there is a bait to rush into conclusion whether there are certain forces, shall we say, mythical, that some people can’t resist, that often drag them into taking certain decisions regardless of the clear and present danger.

Each time I write about President Goodluck Jonathan, it is borne out of a genuine desire for him to succeed. This is contrary to the view of his legion of boutique admirers and pack of political jobbers who see any criticism of the President as a hammer blow on a man who means well for his country and the citizens.

Let’s get this point clear: No man that I know who seeks the highest political office in his country that does not love his fatherland. It will be unkind to say that President Jonathan hates Nigerians and therefore would want to punish them with bad police.

But every so often, history is replete with stories of Presidents who run aground in the office because of a combination of factors. Some of them the failure to apply talent and discretion on the job. It could also be due to failure to put one’s ears on the ground and know what exactly the people want.

After all, in whose interest do governance and governing exist? Understanding these nuances and taking the right advice, often determines a President who succeeds and the one that fails to performance.

It’s in view of public perception of President Jonathan that many people have called him a lot of names. But, whatever “wimp” imagery (to borrow the words of Dan Quayle, one- tıme U.S. Vice president), no President would like to contend wıth beıng labeled a plain dumb.

However, that regrettably, is what President Jonathan is often up against. Undoubtedly, everybody does not have equal obligation. Some have better faculties, better intelligence and creative abilities and they apply them than others. In that regard, you begin to ask: where does our President fıt ın?

This question suffices because, ambition that is not anchored on talent, vision and introspection of things that went awry, is like a flighty horse to ride, and the same mistakes, if not worse, could happen. Like a game of musical chairs that never stop turning, President Jonathan is at it agaın.

A few weeks ago, the President stunned his audience at the Nigeria Summit in Lagos when he said his administration is still hell-bent on complete removal of subsidy on fuel as part of the so-called deregulation of downstream petroleum sector. He however gave assurance that the removal would be done after consultations with Nigerians.

Who are the Nigerians, the people or the fat cats that are often the beneficiaries of such an action?. Nothing new has changed in government argument, from the last partial removal that triggered a landmark wave of strikes nationwide, to the ongoing plan.

In the words of the President,” we cannot continue to waste resources meant for a greater number of Nigerians to subsides the affluent middle class who are the main beneficiaries of fuel subsidy”. The President’s body language indicates that his mind is made up already on complete subsidy removal, regardless of the jejune reasons given.

Like in the January 2012 fuel hike, no one ıs convinced government has a better plan other than raise money and spend, as usual, recklessly.

A brief rewind to the last increase when government hiked petrol price from N65 per liter, to N141 per litter only to be forced to reduce it to N97 per liter after days of intense protests organised by Labour unions and civil society groups, with a heavy toll on the economy.

For the period that strikes lasted, the economy reportedly lost N1.5 trn, with a daily loss estimated at N320 bn.

That, of course, put pressure on the economy that was already on a cliff. With Nigerians facing the worst security challenge in peace time, with government already wrestled to the ground by Boko Haram and millions of Nigerians living ın constant fear, can Jonathan government risk another wave of nationwide strike?

Any government loses the moral authority to govern the very moment it cannot be trusted by the people.

For instance, to what extent has government’s Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programmed (SURE-P)a package of palliatives designed to ease the pains of the last fuel hike benefited the majority of Nigerians who are always at the receiving end of its polices?

One recalls that under the scheme which was launched with fanfare and headed by a renowned technocrat, Dr Chrıstopher Kolade, the Nigerian Labour Congress(NLC)and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) were to receive and manage 450 and 150 mass transit buses, respectively out of the 1,242 buses that government claimed it has bought to ease transportation problem while the remaining buses would be managed by competent indigenous transport investors.

From hindsight those palliatives have not worked as planned, or rather they were not well thought through, or better still, were hurriedly put together to placate angry Nigerians to shield their swords during the one week that the entire country was shut down.

From all indications, government merely retreated to fashion a new offensive against the masses who see any increase ın the prices of petroleum products as an indirect form of taxation on their disposable income.

What character ıs that leader who gives with one hand and takes away with two hands? What manner of a President that refuses to read the mood of the nation before going ahead to implement a controversial policy? It will be a grave error of judgment for a President whose fingernails are already burnt by serous national security challenge to pour fuel onto a fire.

Beyond that, what concrete action has government taken to address the corruption ın the oil sector, ın particular, at both the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency(PPPRA) that stink like filthy rags. These two organizations are friends of fraud in Nigeria’s oil sector.

If you are looking for a case study of fraud and abuse, this as where they happen. Again, has government fixed the four major refineries? They are deliberately sabotaged not to work so that importation of fuel will continue, and of course, the subsidy scam goes on.

The action of the President in respect of the rot at NNPC indicates no sincerity of purpose to reform the oil industry, or better still, covering up some powerful individuals within the corporation. What happened to the Ribadu report is a clear indication of a government of “sincere deceivers”.

Also, the tinkering with the original SURE-P document gives government away as not sincere enough to implement the contents of the document that should have helped its case for full deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector. Government works when the people believe their President that he would deliver what he promised.

But the suspect him and withhold theır support when they can’t trust him. Public service ıs a place where to offer one’s service with zeal, sincerity and patriotism. It should not be a platform to deceive and equivocate.

The last nationwide strike and protests brought to the public domain, stunning revelations of how the oil sector has been mismanaged over the years. The logical question ıs: Has government addressed those issues before contemplating another fuel price hike with ıts unpleasant consequences?

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1 Comment

  1. Alhaji Dan-azumi Gana on

    Nigerian shall this time resist all attempt remove the remaining part of oil subsidy. The poor masses did not vote you (JONATHAN) to continue inflicting indefinate suffering on them.

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