By Fatai Abiodun
Everywhere was tense on the 29th of May 2023 when President Bola Tinubu upon assumption of office made the announcement of the end of the fuel subsidy. While many of his allies hailed him for a bold step, I joined other well-meaning Nigerians to publicly condemned such action.
Before a twinkle of an eye, the petrol price rose from N167 to N545 causing immediate inflation. The ill-informed IMF praised him for such ‘brave’ decision and the so-called ‘Economic Expert’ also described it as a bold step for economic rejuvenation. Today, their beer-parlour hailing is now causing havoc for Nigeria and Nigerians.
Prior to the 29th May 2023, I was contributing to a program on Radio in Abuja where I maintained that no one would dare remove the subsidy without putting appropriate measures and embarking on a voyage of discovery to identify why the subsidy was there initially.
From May 29th 2023, the fuel price has gone up by 37.4 percent month-on-month to N632.17 per litre in July 2023, up from N460 per litre in June 2023. This cost doesn’t even include other additional expenses like transportation and taxes, which could push the final price to nearly N700 per litre.
I was called names and many people questioned my loyalty to President Bola Tinubu for being one of his supporters. Alas, I maintained my stand that I do not support President Tinubu to cause havoc for Nigerians while I agreed that removal of subsidy is inevitable but the timing is not palatable with the payment of N30,000 as minimum wage.
As they say, that truth has no expiry date and the effect of the subsidy removal has caused told and untold hardship for Nigerians. There are those who opined that the subsidy has been removed by the immediate president and I do tell them that no law prohibits President Bola to put it back in the public interest.
The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. Any act of the executive that can lead to inconvenience to the masses is unconstitutional and illegal.
It is very disturbing that the only thing the President could say is to give him more time when he could not exercise a reasonable time before its removal. It’s trite that anyone that wants equity should come with clean hands. The claim that the subsidy benefits only the few is not correct or maybe the President has left touch with reality.
An effective system of democratic governance involves following due process. One would have expected the President who promised to kick the ground running upon assumption of office to have carried out a proper feasibility study on fuel subsidy before the impromptu announcement.
The idea that allowing market forces to determine the price is a wrong notion and cannot be of benefit to the masses. Petrol is not a sim card and no one would have a refinery and think it would be used for Corporate Social Responsibility.
The rate at which Nigerians are suffering, if an election is to hold today, President Tinubu will not get 1% of the total votes. No reasonable person can successfully defend the illegal action of the president. If our democracy were to be working to the optimum level, it’s enough to commence an impeachment proceeding against the President for that singular action of causing inconvenience to the masses.
There is no orientation to anyone that is hungry because the subsidy on fuel touches on all sectors of the economy. Some top states with high GDP can now tell us how much is their GDP ratio after the removal of the fuel subsidy.
The only thing left for the president is to summon the courage and reverse the unprepared policy on fuel subsidy removal as the situation is getting worse day by day and the economy is no longer finding it easy.
The removal of fuel subsidies is not rocket science. The government needs to carry out sincere feasibility studies so as to know what to put in place for the smooth implementation of such gigantic decision.
Fatai Abiodun writes from Abuja.