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Home Fuel Subsidy Palliatives Can’t Cure Our Pains — Nigerians Cry Out Over Fuel Subsidy...

Palliatives Can’t Cure Our Pains — Nigerians Cry Out Over Fuel Subsidy Removal

Citizens, including lawyers, human rights activists, academics, and artisans have faulted the palliative measures put in place by some state governments to bolster the consequence of the removal of fuel subsidy on the people, saying it was a wrong strategy.

Indication reveals that some governments announced payment of N10,000 monthly for public sector workers, some allowances for medical personnel and occasional distribution of food to the poor and most vulnerable households as well as free bus rides for students of tertiary institutions. In their reactions, a number of the residents insisted that it was a rip-off while others said the Federal Government should have put in place a proper plan before getting rid of fuel subsidy.

Professor Ihechukwu Madubuike, two-time Minister of Education and Health, said that for any palliative option to be meaningful, it should not be selective but one that would impact everybody. He argued that the effects of fuel subsidy removal “is on everybody” irrespective of one’s socio-economic status, hence, nobody should be discriminated against in government palliatives.

The effects of fuel subsidy removal are on every citizen. So, the government should think of cushioning plans that everybody will benefit from.” Professor Madubuike blamed President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for hastily removing fuel subsidies without any ready action plan to cushion the effects of the removal.

He said that the savings from the fuel subsidy should be evenly distributed to benefit all citizens irrespective of their class because everybody gets the heat of the subsidy removal.

He explained that the first step to be taken by the government to cushion the effects of subsidy removal was to crash the cost of governance. He said it was a contradiction for the government to be talking of fuel subsidy removal on the one hand, only to be recklessly increasing the cost of governance on the other hand. Our Presidents are behaving like kings and monarchs. But monarchy is gone even in Britain, people oppose it now. The former Education Minister who decried the high cost of governance in the country insisted that only a conscious downscaling of the cost of governance will save Nigeria from imminent insolvency. He strongly advocated a shift from consumption to production. He regretted that Nigeria had remained the only oil-producing country without a functional oil refinery, a development, he said, smacks of cluelessness in leadership. “We must think differently if we must move forward as a nation. We must start producing something, and stop being a consuming nation”.

In a similar fashion,Mr Ayo Fadaka, former South-West Zonal Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP said, ”We have a fundamental economic problem that can only be addressed through a comprehensive action and not tokenism as currently obtained by state governments reactions. The Tinubu administration that exacerbated our economic woes is yet to put on its thinking cap in the midst of this crisis and that is disappointing. Government at all levels must think deeply and rescue Nigerians from serious economic woes, as failure to do that is simply to plan for a crisis. We are all poor now and rapidly reverting to hitherto unimaginable practices as people now trek kilometers to eke a living, this is not an advancement but retrogression”.

Before Tinubu’s inauguration, the poor could still get an uninspiring meal for N100, that is no longer possible today because of the accelerating and galloping speed of inflation. The devaluation of the Naira clearly indicates that President Tinubu did not come into office prepared to tackle the sloppiness of the Buhari era but to accentuate same and this is disappointing when due cognisance is accorded to the education and training of both men, Buhari was a soldier with a questionable O Level result while Tinubu is a certified accountant with a pedigree. We are suffering in today’s Nigeria and we need help, I just hope that one day soon, social crisis will not erupt and create a dislocation that will be very costly to the nation.

On the other hand,Bishop Edem Offiong of the True Worshipers Assembly, Calabar, Cross –River state, said, “The situation is dire. The church offering has dwindled, attendance has gone down drastically, and the joy of being in the presence of the lord has disappeared from the faces of many members owing to what they are going through. In spite of the low offering, after service, many members line up to see me and from what we have collected, we share to them. Therefore, how can you see people dying and you keep money for programmes or development of the church. We have to give out. The palliatives talk is just trying to take the mind of Nigerians away from the real issues they are going through. Very soon, you will see people dying of hunger, diseases, and abject needs. Perhaps, this government is bent on placating its creditors in International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and China who are insisting on reduction of the country’s population to get more loans”.

A Professor of Political Science at the University of Calabar, Ntimasu Ossopong, submitted that “provision of palliatives to cushion the effect of subsidy removal is just a joke. 90 percent of Nigerians feel the pain of what is going on in the country, so who do you palliate and who do you leave out. How can N10,000 or N8,000 meet the needs of an average Nigerian? Those talking about palliatives to cushion effects of what we are facing are just not serious yet. As a professor I live at 8 Miles, in the outskirts of Calabar and each day I come here (University of Calabar), I buy 10,000 fuel which cannot bring me here the next day. My salary is less than half a million. If I take taxi, I pay N3,000 back and forth. Moreover, at my status, I cannot ask students to give me money and yet my needs are mounting. Some junior lecturers earn far less, yet, they have families, and other needs. Therefore, the whole thing is just funny”.

On his part, Comrade Nnanna Nwafor, the Executive Director, Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development (FENRAD), expressed doubt in the sincerity of government with the various palliative measures being promised. He said he was not convinced that government was serious in rolling out any palliative to cushion the biting effects of subsidy removal on the citizenry. Nwafor who said that the impacts of the subsidy removal on the masses had been devastating, said that government ought to have adopted gradual/phased subsidy removal instead of unprepared outright removal. He advocated social welfare packages that every citizen would benefit from, but regretted that such programme would be sabotaged or abused due to endemic corruption in the country.

According to him, “All these palliative measures cannot go a long way to addressing the suffering people due to government insincerity, corruption and government long term of betrayal and lack of data to ensure the most vulnerable persons are captured. I can see insincerity and lack of trust by government to fulfil this promise”.

While contributing,President of the Movement for Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) and lawyer, Fegalo Nsuke, said, “People need a functional system that offer opportunities and encourage production and not to be made to live on humanitarian gestures. Moreover, given Nigeria’s resource endowments, citizen’s living standards can significantly improve with investments in infrastructure and investor-friendly incentives”.

The present state of Nigeria is pathetic and I do not think things will get better with palliatives given the state of our roads and distribution system, power supply, and other essential infrastructure. Therefore, the government should begin with building infrastructure and providing security for farmers to boost food production while other sectors are being developed. The palliatives will not be sustainable if standards of living continue to decline. We also have to face the realities.

Workers must get commemorate pay rise to cope with the pains of subsidy removal. Nigerians will not pay same price for energy like citizens of Saudi Arabia and be on a minimum wage of N40,000 per month (approximately $50). In essence, palliatives will be meaningless in an economy with exponentially rising inflation, increasing unemployment and high insecurity. Government should deliberately invest in building social infrastructure and food production. That will be a better way to mitigate the effects of the subsidy removal than free transport and all that, which are not sustainable.

The Executive Director of COMPPART Foundation for Justice and Peace Building, Uyo, Mr. Saviour Akpan, argued that, “giving palliatives to people as a means of cushioning the effect of fuel subsidy removal is a temporary measure that has no sustainability plan. It is a wrong policy; it is encouraging consumer economy. I do not support the idea of giving money to any group of people because it will create room for laziness”.

Government should channel the money into productive ventures that would better the lives of all citizens. Government should ensure development plans that are sustainable through the provision of rural infrastructure .let the money be used to revamp all the refineries in the country, build rural roads and tackle the challenge of rural electrification. Again, there is a need for the introduction of technical and vocational education, especially in rural communities. The problem in Nigeria is that endemic corruption does not encourage inclusiveness in policy formulation and implementation, he said.

A Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chieftain in Delta state, Alhaji Mumakhai Unagha, declared, “The fuel subsidy is endless as it has brought untold hardship to the entire country. It is not limited to the poor but to the average Nigerians which is very unfortunate. The federal government should urgently find an urgent solution to it; if not the country will slide to anarchy”.

I am convinced that the federal government never envisaged that it would have such a negative effect on the masses. Otherwise, President Tinubu would never have announced the removal. Subsidy removal was a well-hatched and planned theory of the West to sabotage Nigeria to which our educated experts never thought of. The idea was wicked and unacceptable. Ordinarily, what we thought was that before the subsidy removal, the various refineries ought to have been put in place and new ones built. I believe that the government will be able to manage the situation to avoid snowballing to a full-blown and uncontrollable crisis. Nigerians are hungry and dying on a daily basis.

The federal government should fix all the refineries, which is the only way to salvage and save the situation. The N500 billion budgeted to remedy the hardship is not the solution, rather reverse it for now. Palliative is not the solution. Now that we have experimented with the removal and its effects proving tough economic hardship, we should reverse it. We need the subsidy.

Also reacting to the development,a member of the Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, in Bayelsa state, David West, said, “The palliatives should be holistic and encompassing to benefit the totality of the people because what is currently going on is just centered around civil and public servants and they consist just a minute proportion of the population”.

The vast majority are independent people. Government should invest the subsidy in critical infrastructure that will benefit everybody. Government should invest the subsidy on rebuilding the refineries, making sure that one or two refineries are functional, expanding the railway transportation system and roads, and there should be adequate power, which will reduce the consumption of petrol which will benefit everybody. I am not in support of cash transfer of N8,000 to 22 million households for six months, and after the six months, what happens? As members of the civil society and citizens of this country, we should hold government accountable.

Former president Ijaw Youths Council, Eric Omare Esq., regretted that several weeks after the removal of subsidy, the federal government was yet to have what he termed a clear-cut policy direction to reduce the impact on Nigerians. “Having regard to the hardships being faced by Nigerians because of subsidy removal, I strongly think that there should be palliatives. First, those that should benefit are the low-income earners, students, unemployed and aged people.

However, my problem is that there is no clear-cut policy direction by the government on palliatives to reduce the impact of the subsidy removal. I think that government must, as a matter of urgency, come up with palliatives to cushion the effect of the subsidy removal at the local, state and federal levels. Nigerians are passing through pains.

A retired senior civil servant, Elder Chris Odi, said, “I am not too comfortable with the nature of the palliatives because they are not sustainable. For how long will the government continue to distribute food items to the poor? Instead of cash that they will give for some time, the government should add it to the workers’ salaries. Another big issue is how the palliatives will go around to reach non-public sector workers, or how the government will identify the very poor in a country without a proper database”.

The way forward for me is to distribute buses to all the states to convey passengers free or highly reduced fare; ensure there is no electricity tariff hike for now; support farmers with farm inputs so that food prices can come down.

In addition, the government needs to fix the roads for easy evacuation of farm produce from the hinterlands to the markets. The biggest palliative, however, will be the fixing of the nation’s refineries so that petroleum products will be readily available for local consumption and export. The government needs to revive the country’s moribund industries to employ the teeming masses. This will facilitate production, which in turn will encourage export and strengthen the naira.

Programme Manager/Head, Niger Delta Resource Centre, Morris Alagoa, said to newsmen that;“If the federal and state governments want to initiate social security schemes or welfare schemes for Nigerians as some groups and individuals have been advocating over the years, it is fantastic”.

Instead of looting treasuries and engaging in money laundering at the expense of the masses, the federal and state governments should provide legal framework for social welfare or social security for identified categories of Nigerians. Such schemes should have legal backing so that no incoming administrations can toy with it. Unless legislated upon, the idea of giving cash to so-called poor in the society is another avenue for those in the corridors of power to steal such funds. Rather, the federal and state governments should use such funds to find lasting solutions to the lingering and epileptic power situation, get functional refineries, including embarking on a thorough research on local refinery and encourage the locals with modular refineries to make products cheaper, available and reduce unemployment and violent crimes. Such a system should create formal avenues for local refiners to obtain crude oil at domestic price and not OPEC price.

Convener of the South South Reawakening Group, SSRG, Elder Joe Ambakederimo, asserted, “Before the petrol subsidy was removed, many state governments preferred giving handouts to their citizens, who daily throng Government Houses from Monday to Fridays, throughout the month, appealing for one form of support or the order. The state governments should invest in a multi-modal transportation system and establish agriculture commodity boards that incorruptible persons will manage”.

These boards will be off takers of farm produce to be sold at subsidies prices. In the short term the cash handout and free bus ride must be across board for many who are not civil servants; who are unemployed or working in small businesses, including providing for owners of small businesses to keep them in business. The medium term strategy would be embarking on a social housing scheme. The long term strategy would be the provision and construction of rural roads for purposes of evacuation of farm produce, and the light rail to get to all the nook and crannies of the state. When people can move around without stress they feel no pain and this is the real palliative.

A Public analyst,Zadok Akintoye said I believe that payment of extra money to civil servants by some state governments may be an evidence of the knowledge deficit on how the economy works and how it would respond to such increases. Putting more funds in the hand of workers will not resolve the value-depletion of the Naira to other currencies, which has further worsened our economic situation. I disagree with government increasing wages, but will suggest that they do what is required in tackling the widening exchange rate of the Naira to the dollar. Increasing wages only postpones the inevitable by tokenizing the core issues affecting our nation. In the short term, the government should remove all taxes on salaries of public servants as an emergency intervention to provide more funds to them at this time; reduce customs levies on goods and services essential to citizens wellbeing; increase levies paid on luxury items and tax the rich more; create new monetary policies that mitigate round tripping and effectively protects the CBN from being taken advantage of; support the Naira against the Dollar and fund the LGA’s directly. The provision of buses and other consumables are not sustainable in long term and would further plunge the country into economic crisis.

Secretary of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, ILoT, Sir Amorighoye Mene, said, “The truth is that all Nigerians, particularly the poor and low-income families, are passing through very difficult times. Therefore, government and private companies should provide bonuses and allowances to cushion the costs of transportation; mass transit vehicles to move people, goods, and services within their domain and subsidize the cost of conversion of vehicles from petrol to gas, which is far cheaper and more environmentally friendly; government should invest in sundry measures to drastically reduce the cost of living, particularly in the area of food items, health care, and education. The government should create the enabling environment to promote private sector growth to create employment for the unemployed, particularly in the agricultural and mining value chain, and other sectors”.

In Plateau state, Comrade Friday Bako said, “N10,000 monthly palliative is not enough to address the high rate of inflation, cost of living and improve the standard of living which today is very low since income per capita is also very low. What the nation needs now are sound economic policies that will stimulate economic growth and improvement in the salaries and allowances of workers to reflect the present realities”.

Mr. Raymond Gukas explained that the entire palliatives plan is a scam. How can they determine who is qualified and who is not? And how many of the needy have bank accounts? Or is it meant only for the city dwellers, what of the villagers without bank accounts are they not Nigerians? There are so many unanswered questions, the same people continue to empower themselves whenever they need to rehabilitate themselves.

Mr. Solomon Praise, a Private School teacher added, ”This so-called palliative measure is a scam. What modalities are on the ground to ensure that the targeted poor people will be the sole beneficiaries of palliative? Is there a comprehensive data to know who are these poor people, where they are located and what is the number of people in each household? Will the disbursement of the cash be done by hand or via banks and if it will be done from house to house, who are those that will carry out the exercise and how trustworthy are they that the money will not miss? If payment will be via the bank, how many of these poor households even have a savings account? The government should have given palliatives and ensured it is working well before the removal of the fuel subsidy. The money and resources for the so-called palliative should be used to build a strong and stable economy. I am not in support of the so-called palliative measures because it is another way of corruption for some government officials and individuals”.

Plateau State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Sylvanus Namang noted, “The palliatives being announced by some states are scratching things on the surface. It needs a holistic approach across all sectors of the economy which had collapsed. When it comes to the states, politics must be removed so as not to equate it with the distribution of political patronage”.

Another APC member, Dr. Elkanah Garang stressed, “The proposed N10,000 will not make a significant impact in the lives of public sector workers with the economic realities of present-day Nigeria. Wages need to reflect the government’s commitment at all levels to ameliorate the inconvenience of subsidy removal. The pressure should trickle down to States and Local Government administrators to ensure funds released by the Federal Government are not misappropriated”.

A journalist,Mrs Zainab Babaji,said, “It is not feasible. Considering how some other programmes such as the school feeding programme, social investment programme, etc, were managed, there were a lot of allegations of corruption and misappropriation where many people who were captured did not benefit from the programmes. Unless a structure is put in place to ensure prudence, the programme will not be effective”.

Mrs. Kaneng Pam-Hworo from the National Orientation Agency maintained, “My opinion is that the fuel subsidy removal is timely. Palliatives distribution at all levels to the workers and the general public is welcomed to cushion the effect of the untold hardship on Nigerians. The N10,000 monthly payment as palliative for as long as six months will go a long way to assuage the pains and hardship of the people. In addition to the provision of free buses to convey students and workers, the government should ensure that the cost of foodstuff and medicines is reduced to make it affordable to the poor Nigerians”.

Hon Stephen Adewale, Social Democratic Party chairman in Ondo state noted that Palliatives are essentially temporary aid that might not be attainable or financially viable in the long run. However, these small measures being introduced as palliatives by the state governments will go a long way in cushioning the excruciating effect of the fuel hike until the government is able to successfully introduce a curative measure that permanently alleviates the burden of the fuel hike on the masses. However, state governments must implement palliative policy that will be felt by all citizens in order to guarantee that the actions being implemented reach every individual. First, the ideal method to accomplish this is to implement a successful transport system that will enable students to commute for free. This measure should also be extended to the residents who will pay little as transportation fare.

The monetary palliative measures introduced for public workers cannot be sustained for a year. The N10,000 proposed for workers by some states is not even enough to buy 20 litres of fuel and how does one survive on 20 litres for 30 days? The government should embrace measures that can benefit majority of the populace. In the area of transportation, government should put buses on our roads, allow students board the vehicles at subsidized rates if it can’t be free. Also, government should look at the possibility of moving farm produce to cities through subsidized transportation to tackle the price hike for food items. If they insisted on monetary provision to civil servants, what will be the fate of other people whose population form over 80 percent of the masses across the country?

In Oyo State, some of the residents said that though the government has tried to cushion the harsh effects of the subsidy removal, the gesture was minimal. Mrs Sidikatu Sulaiman, a trader at Aleshinloye Market said, “the provision of buses by the state government has reduced the hardship to a certain extent. This has greatly relieved commuters who could have been paying through their noses”.

Another commuter, Mrs Esther Ajayi, a businesswoman, said, “many people who are not government workers now prefer to leave their vehicles at home and make use of the state government buses because they are cheaper. We have felt the government response in the area of transportation, the subsidy removal affects other sectors too. Foodstuffs are very costly for average people.”

At various markets like Sango, Eleyele, Bodija, Inalende, Dugbe, traders complained about low patronage saying hike in foodstuff prices has forced people to stay away from the market.

In Ekiti State, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Biodun Oyebanji, Yinka Oyebode, said the government has been putting mechanisms in place to ensure that palliatives measures capture all residents to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal. He said the governor was not only concerned about civil servants but all residents in the state. Oyebode stated that the palliatives will also capture youths, students, market women, labourers, mass transit workers, local government workers, among others so that they can also benefit from the system.

In Ogun state, a businessman, Mr. Adeniyi Olanrewaju commended Governor Dapo Abiodun, for approving the palliatives for all categories of people, such as civil servants, public servants, pensioners, artisans, farmers market men and women and others.

Also speaking, a community leader, Oladimeji Abayomi, queried how far the N10,000 can go with the present rate of inflation in the nation’s economic. He said, he found it difficult to believe Nigerian politicians whenever they make promises. They are good in making promises, but find it difficult to fulfill the promises made.

The President Generel of Mzough U Tiv, worldwide, Chief Iorbee Ihagh advised the Federal and state governments to pay special attention to rural dwellers in the distribution of palliatives. Chief Ihagh also warned that politicians should not be allowed to hijack the distribution process by allowing political sentiment to gain prominence during the distribution. He advised that people from different political party affiliations should be drafted into the distribution process to ensure that Nigerian were not unjustly excluded from benefitting from the intervention for reasons of their political inclination.

According to him, “I do not agree with the process of giving large chunk of the palliatives to workers because at every month end they get salaries which nonetheless can be augmented. But there are people living in the villages who do not even get up to N5,000 in a year. And they are no longer farming because of the activities of Fulani herdsmen. Hence, the hunger is so much, people go to the farm and get killed. I strongly feel that the palliatives should get to the people living in the rural areas, it should not be restricted to public servants. The actual poor people are in the villages”.

These are people who when they see N10,000 will celebrate to high heavens. They do not have money to buy drugs or even their basic needs. That is why the rural dwellers should be given top priority. The government must take steps to take care of the people in the rural areas because that is where the poverty is biting harder.

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