.suggests immediate ways to cushion its impact

From Sola Ojo, Kaduna

As the removal of subsidy on petrol enters its second week, the National Social Protection Forum (NSPF) has lamented the impact of the development on the poor and vulnerable Nigerians and the need for the federal and state governments to cushion the impact on these groups of Nigerians.

NSPF is a coalition of Civil Society
Organizations and Partners in Nigeria with a membership of over 140
organisations, advocating for the expansion of social protection in all the states and the FCT with support from development partners.

The Forum in a statement by its National Coordinator, Dr. Taiwo Benson acknowledged the economic rationale advanced for this step, but wish to bring to the Government’s attention the impact the measure would have on the masses, especially the extremely poor and vulnerable who now constitute over 133 million of the over 200 million population (NBS 2022).

According to him, the Forum noted with dissatisfaction the manner and approach that was taken in removing the subsidy.

He said, “whilst we do not dispute the need to take this measure as there are potential benefits to be realised such as increasing the nation’s revenue, which has been shrinking over the years,
we are concerned that the immediate effects of this measure will disproportionately affect the poor.

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“Understanding that an increase in fuel costs produces a ripple effect
in the economy due to the sudden increase in the cost of production, which is then passed on to consumers. This inadvertently leads to an increase in the cost of living, thus pushing the poor further into a position of destitution.

“Whilst we commend the Federal Government for the steps taken in advance social protection such as the approval of the revised National Social Protection Policy and the recent signing of the Social Investment Program Agency Law, we expect that the gains from the removal of the fuel subsidy will be used by the government to increase the level of social protection financing and expand effective coverage of existing social protection programs for all citizens of the country”, he said.

The Forum however recommended the immediate upward review of the national minimum wage to maintain purchasing power and to also, ensure that a sizeable proportion of disposable income is accessible to Nigerians.

“Implement measures in the short term to expand the National Cash Transfer
(NCT) programme to cushion the impact of subsidy removal on the poor.

“Government should convene a national dialogue with various stakeholders
to brainstorm on how to resuscitate existing refineries and create conditions
for robust private sector investment in building new ones to increase
competition and reduce cost.

“Government should move quickly to ensure that an adequate and effective power supply is provided to enhance the productivity of small and medium-scale businesses (SMSBs) (i.e. informal sector) which happens to be the largest employer of labor in the country.

“Government should operationalise the National Health Authority Law (NHAL) to reduce out-of-pocket health expenditure that has been identified as a key driver of poverty and vulnerability, particularly for those already near the poverty line and below.

“Government should commence the immediate provision of an effective mass transit system and alternative transport means (rail and air) for commuting people and farm produce from rural to urban areas”.