The Bola Tinubu administration in less than two months, has hit Nigerians harder than any previous administration. An already tottering country is about to shatter, no thanks to the insensitive weighty decisions the new government is reeling out.
Without any plan in place to mitigate the consequences of fuel subsidy removal, Tinubu announced just minutes after being sworn-in, the federal government’s immediate hands-off of fuel subsidy. Though a lot of waste had been recorded in the subsidy business, the no-subsidy policy has spiked the price of petroleum products, raising the price of litre of fuel from N261 to N500. While Nigerians were yet to adjust to the confusion and severe hardship created, another hike in price was silently announced, pushing up the cost to N617 per litre.
At N500 per litre, businesses were in turmoil, workers unable to go to work, families were sleeping hungry and commercial drivers drifted into borrowing to raise enough money to fill up to be able to make any gain with the added challenge of passengers being too poor to pay transport fares. In the midst of all these, food prices jumped daily, since everything in the country is connected to energy from petrol. Nigerians are choking and government is feeling unconcerned.
The president asked for sacrifice from the people even though he surrounds himself with splendour and elegance on long convoys. He is not giving any respite to the already suffocating populace.
The programmes he is planning to cushion the effects of the harsh realities of the sudden fuel subsidy removal offer no real promise.
He has asked the National Assembly to approve the sum of N500 billion for palliative measures with the humiliating plan for a mere N8,000 each per month grant for 12 million poor families while N70billion will go to National Assembly members, who are already very comfortable. Eight thousand naira a month is less than the N750 per day government spends on a prisoner in the corrective centres
The majority of households in the country are at least six in number going by the country’s four children per family policy. Therefore, giving a family N8,000 monthly will have no cushioning effect in their current plight. They have to feed, send children to school, transport themselves around so, that meagre sum is meaningless and not a palliative measure.
With the record of the Buhari administration which Tinubu is continuing with, there is no assurance that the proposed sum will actually get to the very poor as claimed. Palliatives to cushion the impact of COVID-19 ended in warehouses and the pockets and homes of politicians in government as exposed by ENDSARS. The Humanitarian and Disaster Ministry shamelessly told Nigerians that the billions (N5,000 each monthly) supposedly sent out religiously to the 10.5 million poorest of the poor under Buhari, had no proof as beneficiaries do not want to be identified. Nigerians are tired of pipelines for fund looting.
With the new fuel price hike, education will be badly hit. Some bodies are already taking actions to further adapt. For example, COEASU has already directed lecturers to go to school only twice weekly to be able to meet the demands of the new regime. More pressure will be on students. Some state governments have cut working days from five to three. At N617 for a litre of fuel, more austerity measures are bound to follow, which will destroy the existing work pattern.
Traders cannot sell and even petroleum product retailers are groaning. Nigerians are asking why the government cannot sincerely and boldly rehabilitate the refineries so that the international exchange rate fluctuations will no longer determine their fate with regards to fuel.
What is that insurmountable obstacle blocking our getting the right things done? Why should the Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna refineries not be made functional so that the crude oil in abundance will become truly relevant to the common man? When will Nigerians begin to enjoy the positive dividends of democracy?
The answers lie in addressing the root of our problem, tackling the substance not the surface. Who is rebuilding our infrastructures, making the roads and farms safe from terrorists and accident? What security measures are in place to guard against loss of produce by farmers? What is being done to mitigate flood, erosion and dissertation? These are the real issues and putting our refineries back in action will be the starting point.
The president and his men should forget pursuing market associations or continuous tax policies, and bring up real pro-poor policies and not policies that benefit only one percent of the population. The rest 99 percent are still Nigerians and deserve to live!
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