Link from The Smile of a Nigerian Scorpio (http://www.nigerianscorpio.com)
Since the announcement of this policy, i’ve seen and heard a lot of comments criticizing the public protests that have followed. This is what i’ve decided to address in my post.
The problem with the removal of the fuel subsidy goes beyond economics and a failure to understand this is what has angered the Nigerian public so much. People are not opposing this policy because they are stupid and cannot understand (at least at a basic level) the economics behind subsidy removal. We already know that it is folly to be paying so much to import something that is domestically produced and ought to be refined domestically too. So making economic arguments in response to the public reaction completely misses the mark.
No, the issue is the complete lack of consideration the Nigerian government gives to the welfare of the people it is supposed to be leading. Coupled with the blatant corruption that has led to Nigeria spending N1.3 trillion on this subsidy, one can begin to understand the public frustration at this horribly executed policy.
No one has yet explained the strange increase in the amount allocated to the subsidy (from N300bn to N1.3t). The government has talked about how the savings from subsidy removal will be used for development projects but they haven’t explained whether the companies that received these subsidy payments actually delivered what they were paid to. This is the kind of situation where an inquiry is needed because if they didn’t people should be held accountable but the government has said nothing about this. It’s not enough to just announce a new policy and sweep the past under the carpet. N1.3t is a huge chunk of money! The public really should know how exactly such an outrageous subsidy scheme came to be in the first place but i don’t hear any plans from Jonathan’s government to go into that.
A proactive government would have made arrangements to alleviate the harshness of the policy on the public before making a shock announcement on the first day of a New Year. But not the Nigerian government. It was only after the first rumblings of discontent that plans were announced to introduce 1600 buses. Why were these buses not already in operation before the subsidy removal took effect?
Not only did the Nigerian government fail to take ameliorative steps on their own end, they did not give people an opportunity to prepare for the effects of more than doubling the price of gas overnight. And then when people gathered to protest, they were met with police brutality. Protesters have been harassed, sprayed with tear gas and even killed just for registering their discontent with the government’s actions. As if that was not bad enough, word got out about clumsy attempts by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation to suppress reporting about the protests. Do all these actions strike you the reader as those of a government that gives two hoots what happens to the Nigerian public?
So when people complain and protest about the removal of the subsidy, do not answer with economics alone. The fuel subsidy is only symbolic of a greater problem with Nigerian governance. Until the present state of Nigerian governance can be justified by economics, ethics or even plain common sense, there is not much that can be reasonably said against people protesting such oppression.
NB: I read on Chxta’s blog that the Nigerian House of Representatives claims to have no position on the removal of the subsidy. I could only laugh. They can have a position on same sex marriage but they cannot have a position on the subsidy? Bunch of jokers.
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