The Positive Lessons from the Recent Fuel Subsidy Removal in Nigeria
Immediately the Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan announced the full implementation of the fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria on new year’s eve, the country Nigeria as we knew it took a very dramatic and very unpredictable turn in which everything unimaginable was very possible and our palpable fear for the country to break up or even end up with another deadly civil war became more and more real.
Hitherto, we only had one major concern – how to rein in the dreaded Boko Haram Islamic extremists in the North of Nigeria whose main aim was initially to do away with all forms of western education which they claim is corruptive and now to convert the whole of northern Nigeria into sharia states!
And to buttress their point and ingrain their demand in the minds of the Nigerian people, they have introduced the shocking trend of bombs going off in many strategic places in Nigeria.
Now everybody is afraid and no one knows who is who again or where the bombs will go off next and worse is that the Federal government of Nigeria is seemingly incapable of finding the best way/s to handle the monster as the Boko Haram has succeeded in striking strategic areas like the UN building and the Police Headquarters all located in Abuja, attacked several churches and burnt them down and also maimed many ordinary citizens as if to show the government that it can do nothing to stop them…
And all of a sudden, I am beginning to understand what if feels like to live in places like Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Iraq where according to news reports, bombs normally go off unexpectedly and on daily basis.
Amidst all these wahala which is the Nigerian slang for saying trouble, the Nigerian President literally gave Nigerians the special 2012 New Year gift by announcing the immediate removal of the fuel subsidy which has made it possible for many Nigerians to be buying petrol at the “cheap” official price of 65 naira per liter.
And what a Greek gift it turned out to be!
With the official price of PMS now jacked up to 141 naira per liter, prices of many goods and services spiked overnight and intensively.
What manner of insensitivity on the part of the federal government!
That was exactly how many Nigerians felt! And they reacted as thus - This is it! Enough is enough! How long can we take this? How does this government think they will always succeed in taking us for a ride all the time? Something has to be done!
And predictably, the Nigerian Labor Congress, NLC and the Traders Union Congress, TUC immediately called for a nationwide strike aimed at forcing the government to bend on its knees and bring Nigerian to a cataclysmic halt.
And that gave birth to the term we now as the OccupyNigeria Protest similar to the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York.
People turned out en masse in some major cities in Nigeria to support the strike action by protesting against the fuel subsidy removal by the government.
Now this is where it all starts to get funny and confusing.
According to the federal government, the fuel subsidy removal will help to curb the government wasteful spending and thereby save money for the government by preventing those who literally do nothing but benefit from the billions of naira that the government is paying to some oil cabal involved the fuel importation business in the name of subsidizing the price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS commonly known as petrol for ordinary Nigerian consumers.
Furthermore, the government is also selling the idea to the Nigerian populace that the money thus saved will be used to provide the basic necessities of life which has been lacking in the lives of many Nigerians – good road network and transportation, safe and portable water, uninterrupted power supply.
They also want people to believe that the money saved will also be used to build many refineries that will even make the importation of fuel to Nigeria a thing of the past as well as bring unemployment in Nigeria to an end.
Sound argument, you might be tempted to say...
So why on earth are most Nigerians not buying that idea from the government?
Well for many reasons actually. Chief among them is the question of trust. It is no longer a secret. People don’t trust the government.
This is not the first time that the government is coming up with such a ‘white elephant’ scheme or plan to deceive the people. It has happened before. Successive governments before the Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP government have actually increased the fuel price at one time or the other.
Each time they have given some sanguine reasons why the fuel price must be increased but in the end, the masses have continued to suffer without any tangible result to calm down their battered spirit which is always trapped in the confusing sea of turmoil and regrettable hopelessness.
So this time, it was a general agreement that enough is enough.
So this is basically the main reason why the OccupyNigeria protesters came out with full force. Their reasoning was that the so called “cheap” petrol which Nigerians are buying at the official pump price of 65 naira per liter is the only tangible benefit people are getting from the government hence their demand that the fuel subsidy should stay!
Even if that means paying such huge amount of money to those oil cabals…
Secondly, the protesters were also of the view that it is because of the government’s inefficiency, inability or insincerity in fighting massive institutionalized corruption in the land to a standstill is the reason why the government is unable to find the financial resources to provide Nigerians with the dividends of democracy thus making our people to continue facing such a terrible economic difficulties on daily basis.
One of my very good friends on facebook even posted that it is actually the Nigerian masses that are subsidizing government’s ineptitude or failure in providing us with steady power, adequate security, employment and suchlike in which case we have no other option other than to provide those things for ourselves and not the other way round. So in a way, it is the people who should be removing their subsidy and not the government!
I think he is absolutely correct!
And then there is the question of the timing. The protesters are of the view that Nigerian president choose the wrong time to announce the implementation of that fuel subsidy removal policy. Many people have already traveled to their respective homes in the villages to celebrate the Christmas and New Year with their families there. You can imagine their shock when they discovered that with the official pump price of PMS is now fixed at 141 naira per liter, meaning that their transportation fee has just got doubled within such a short period of time making them to suddenly find themselves kind of stuck in their respective villages without the financial means of traveling back to the big cities where they ply their trades!
Another issue connected with the feeling of wrong timing by the Presidency is that most state governments are still yet in the process of deciding on when and how to go about with the implementation of the 18,000 naira monthly minimum wage when that terrible announcement was made. So tell me, from where will people get the money to pay for the sudden hyperinflation that just hit us from nowhere following the announcement of the fuel subsidy removal?
Granted, the debate as to whether to remove the fuel subsidy has been going on for a while in Nigeria but people were given the picture that the government is still consulting and deliberating on the best ways to go about the national issue with all stakeholders involved when all of a sudden, like a man who has lost his head, out comes the Nigerian president with his New Year’s eve announcement!
Some people had only one or two word to describe that move by the Jonathan led government – absolute wickedness!
Some called the Nigerian President some unprintable names while some others wished him something I know he wouldn’t so happily wish even his worst enemies. Some said he was clueless and slow which is why he has not been able to even handle the Boko Haram threat as he was supposed to only to come out to create another series of wahala for himself and every other person…
But that’s just the way it. People will always have something to say…
The government on its part tried to show its concern by announcing what it called palliative measures that will help cushion the adverse effects of the fuel subsidy removal.
But the OccupyNigeria protests still went on because those palliative measures was supposed to have been first put in place before the eventual fuel subsidy removal assuming the government really knows what governance is.
So the only option was for the government and the organized labor to have a series of round table talk, meetings and deliberations to find a way out of the impasse.
Finally, out came the Nigerian president again to announce the reduction of the official pump price of PMS from 141 naira to 97 naira per liter!
The issue of whether this final move by the Presidency was a psychological ploy played out by the government in connivance with the representatives of the labor unions by first of all moving the pump price of petrol to such a very high amount only to bring it back to the agreed price when the people protested just to give the agitating masses a semblance of a listening government is another story for another day…
But now the story is that people have gone back to work and things are gradually settling back to normal across the nation and that is where I come in to give you the positive as well as the funny side of the fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria.
So let’s begin. Sorry it took such a long time for us to start. I just wanted to paint the whole picture of what is going on in our Nigeria today so that you will be able to really appreciate the saying that every experience is worth it no matter how good or bad it may be at first.
The issue of economizing
People began to question and take a second look at their extravagant lifestyle. Because of the increase in the prices of most commodities, many people started to consciously make it a point to buy only those things they really need. It was no longer a problem for many people to separate the difference between need and want. There was no longer the question of whether something is just a need or a necessity. You just know that it is of no use to buy it if you don’t need it.
It is time for serious belt-tightening all over the country. Call it austerity measures if you like…
This will definitely force many Nigerians to develop proper saving habit as well as proper management skills required to conserve the scarce resources namely their money.
When you go to beer parlors, you don’t need anybody to tell you now that you don’t have to drink yourself to stupor most especially if you are the one buying the drinks!
One of my friends told me he has even stopped buying portable sachet water which is popularly known as pure water in ordinary Nigerian parlance because pure water has also experienced the increase in prices too. His reasons now? His tap water now is just fine and okay!
Wow! Don’t tell me he just discovered that now?
The environmental issue
When fuel was “cheap”, you normally see many cars on the streets. But now it is almost as if there is a very noticeable reduction in the number of cars that ply our roads these days.
You can imagine what that means to our own Nigerian portion of ozone layer?
But that is not even the whole story.
We normally use small generators to power our homes in Nigeria because of the shameful failure of successive Nigerian governments to provide us with constant electricity. The adverse effect of this trend when it comes to air pollution cannot be overemphasized.
But that is not even the point because I might be able to deal with the air pollution but the corresponding noise pollution is very terrible.
And some of those generators know how to make noise like my neighbor’s own! I sometimes find myself wishing I could just migrate to somewhere else just to avoid those terrible noise. Admittedly, on a number of occasions, I have also wished my neighbor’s generator will just self destroy and let me have my peace and sound sleep…
But the good news I can attest to now is that I now sleep soundly because my neighbors don’t just put on their generators anyhow anytime these days – all thanks to the fuel subsidy removal.
The health issue
I am beginning to notice that many people are now trekking rather than using their personal vehicles or even public transportation.
This will in the long run give us the opportunity to benefit from the various healthy advantages of physical exercise because people can now sweat and make their bodies stronger in the process, even though they are not necessarily doing that on purpose.
One other avenue that might just have been opened up for serious marketers is going to be in the bicycle importation business.
If and when the fuel subsidy is finally completely removed and the prices of goods and services remain very high, the bicycle culture will surely happen fast in Nigeria! We might even start using those bicycles which normally do not need any other form of energy except you the rider pumping down on the pedals and away you go!
Physical fitness and healthy body once again…
End of sentimentality, political and/or ethnic bias in Nigeria?
The biggest lesson the fuel subsidy removal threw up in Nigeria is the question of people being so sentimental as against astute reasoning.
One very funny thing thing I have noticed in all that protest and noise made during the OccupyNigeria protest was that majority of all those protesters who are now calling the president names actually voted for President Goodluck Jonathan in the April 2011 general elections.
There is actually no problem in there except that most of those voters voted for him out of sentiments, ethnic bias and other personal reasons best known to them.
Some said they believed that because the man’s name is Goodluck, that means he is going to be bringing lots and lots of good luck to Nigeria. Some said there is a hand of God working in the man as evidenced by his no stress and swift rise in power from deputy governor to president within a very small period of time – something that has never happened before!
I have also heard some people who said they voted for him simply because he is from the south and as such they don’t want power to return to the North.
Sadly though, I have NEVER heard anyone say that they voted for him simply because of his track record of the great things he did to touch the lives of his people positively as a deputy governor, a governor, a vice president, an acting president and then finally, a president!
Now the fuel subsidy removal has thrown up amongst many other begging questions the issue of whether the man is the best man to lead the country presently. So in a way, many of those protesters could actually be protesting against their mistakes in not being able to reason well enough and consider all the sides of the argument being presented before them then before casting their votes.
And now, it is like they are paying the price for that wrong judgment call!
That is why I am not surprised in any way when I hear some people confess that they have resigned to their own fate and they are just waiting for 2015 to come for them to vote the guy out of office forgetting that the man has earlier stated that he was only interested in just one single 4-year term!
It is as serious as that!
But all the same, being myself, I always try to find humor even in places where there is little or none. That is why I choose this moment to write this very long story and even went as far as calling it the positive lessons from the fuel subsidy removal even though I am sure not many people are in the mood to see any positivity in there at the moment.
But I will still try. I am going to find a way to make my fellow Nigerians to laugh even if there are not so many reasons to do so right now!
And so to my fellow Nigerians, I have this to say to you right now. I know you are very angry at the moment. I know that your anger could be as a result of the fact that you don’t use your cars as much as you would have loved to. And I know you don't cherish walking either. I know that you are also having this odd feeling of suddenly finding out that your free movement has been systematically curtailed due to the fuel subsidy crisis and the consequent sudden increase in prices.
I know that many of you are not so privileged to be using your small generators as you would have loved to even though you are yet to have that uninterrupted electricity this government has been promising but never realizing.
I know that many of us have now done some drastic cuts and reductions in the budget making it harder for us now to buy what you wanted as we don’t have enough purchasing power again to do so right now not minding that unemployment is still threatening and biting us hard.
I know that most of us are regretting our decision to put Goodluck Jonathan in Aso Rock. I know that many people are angry that it appears his government has compounded our problems by removing the fuel subsidy and telling us to bear the pains for now just because we are going to benefit in the long run and I know the disillusionment and hopelessness that follows such statements.
I know that it is now taking more than serious determination and struggle for us to survive everyday in Nigeria now in the face of a government that seems not to care if we make it to the next day!
So believe me when I say that I understand your anger. From my small knowledge of human psychology, I know that most people when they are angry can only be calmed down by giving them something to put the blame on, something to hit, something to kick, something to attack, in fact, something to tear apart!
That is why I am giving you this picture by the right. Take a close look at the picture. What do you think it is saying? Of course, to me there is only one clear message in there. The picture is saying “you can put the blame on me!”
Ha ha ha… Anyway, see ya next time!