For a while now, I have deliberately ignored commenting on the happenings in our country because one cannot speak against this government without being labelled ‘pro-Jonathan’, ‘pro-PDP’ or ‘anti-Buhari’. I know that this government needs time to get her foot firmly planted but refusing to see anything wrong with some of her policies – or the lack of it – is just wrong.
Today however, it is important that I break my silence.
The Minister of Petroleum (State), Ibe Kachikwu, announced that fuel subsidy had been removed and the new pump price of petrol would now range from ₦135 to ₦145; with ₦145 as the price cap/ceiling. This is, by simple calculation, a 67% increase from the official pre-fuel-subsidy-removal price of ₦86.50.
In the last 2 to 4 months leading to this removal, Nigerians had to battle fuel scarcity and annoyingly long queues at filling stations. As anyone who has had to endure such queues, you know that the wait was dreary, stifling and a complete waste of time. Even at that, there was no guarantee that we would get fuel at the stipulated price. I remember being on a queue for 4 hours as my friend tried to get fuel. After the long hours of wait, my friend got the fuel and had to sneak ₦500 to the fuel pump attendant so she could get fuel for her generator.
Even more than the long queues were the consequent effect of the fuel scarcity; THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING WENT UP! The price of food, clothes, fees and taxes, and transportation went up. The things one could spend ₦1000 on gradually became fewer and fewer.
I felt the pinch more with transportation. I do not drive so I have to use public transport to get me where I want to go. The transport fares in Lagos that were already too high, got higher still. My daily transport of ₦700 went up to about ₦1200; more than 71% increase. This may be comfortable for a person with a steady, high income but as I didn’t have a job or business at the time, it was a big bite on me. Even among friends who had what I would deem ‘plush’ jobs, the complaint about the increased cost of transportation was bitter.
With this fuel subsidy removal, thus increase in fuel price, I believe that life will get progressively harder. Oh! The logic behind the removal is stellar as explained below;
· Nigeria CANNOT afford to pay fuel subsidies now;
· Competition would probably bring the price of fuel down;
· More people will be able to get into the business of refined oil, thus removing the case of the cabals;
· Channeling the money that would have been used for subsidy into renovating our refineries and producing our own oil needs;
· Improving other sectors of the economy with the subsidy money and;
· Eventually cutting down on fuel imports when we have our refineries up and running.
But the timing is poor! Many Nigerians are literally groaning under the current hardship we are facing. Just as Nigeria cannot afford to continue to pay these subsidies, Nigerians CANNOT afford this current policy!
Already, fuel stations are beginning to hoard the product with the prospect of selling at higher prices. This means that transportation fares WILL go up again! Food prices will follow suit and soon enough, EVERYTHING will be more expensive.
If this fuel subsidy removal came at a time when basic salaries were manageable, many Nigerians would not grunt under the burden that is about to get heavier. But no; salaries are poor! How will Nigerians survive this? And for those of us who have no viable jobs…do I even need to ask?
One doesn’t need to be ‘pro-Jonathan’ or ‘pro-PDP’ to see and SAY that though the long term effects of this removal would probably be great, the current effects will be damning on most Nigerians.
What then are we to do?