As Jonathan Plays The Oil Subsidy Game And Imperils The Nation

Chido Onumah

We have watched with incredulity the brazen attempt by President Goodluck Jonathan to take the pauperisation of the Nigerian people to even more unprecedented heights by way of a purported fuel subsidy withdrawal. We, as indeed all honest fellow citizens, believe that there is no subsidy on oil products. If, however, it does exist, then it was fabricated by and for those who allocate or own oil blocs and petroleum import licences. It does not subsidise living for the masses who groan daily from the penal servitude of surviving on less than N150 (or one dollar) a day to which their successive rulers have sentenced them.


Ever since the end of the despotic but arguably patriotic Buhari-Idiagbon regime in 1985, every succeeding head of state has indulged in the governmental pastime of oil subsidy withdrawal. The reason is plain enough. Oil is not merely the “mainstay” of the Nigerian economy but also its strength and sinew. Through the easy petro-dollars that flow into the national treasury, and from there to the state and local government purses, oil has become Nigeria’s raison d’être, perhaps the only reason for her existence. It is thanks to oil that the foundational structure of regionalism that became strong federalism at independence in 1960 was very quickly converted into a unitary system in all but name.

It is thanks to oil that Nigeria abandoned any serious interest in agriculture and self-sufficiency in food, an area so crucial to the identity of the emerging nation that it is symbolised in the national flag by the colour green.  (As for peace, symbolised by the white, Nigeria has not known it — from the Civil War a mere seven years after independence to today’s bomb jihad of Boko Haram.) And it is thanks to oil that Nigeria has had an unending run of greedy, visionless, and remorseless mercenaries parading themselves as leaders, and who, with every change of government, only succeed in casting us further down the rungs of hell. In short, it is why we have no productive economy, since all our “leaders” have to do is bribe, blackmail, kill and maim to get to high office then sit and wait for oil dollars. Yet, when through their ineptitude and indolence the dollar supply dwindles and cannot match their immeasurable greed, they take one resort. We are told then that the government subsidises our consumption of a commodity of which we are the sixth largest producer in the world. And that if this subsidy were removed, there would suddenly be enough money to do all the things it has failed, so abysmally, to do. As proof of its sincerity, a petroleum trust fund would be created — as if by sheer nomenclature, money would evade their grasping hands.

Only that the story is now so old and tiresome a babe-in-arms would laugh were it the sort of thing she should care about. For a start, the vast amounts saved from previous subsidy withdrawals — call them “graduated subsidy reductions” aimed at getting closer to the alleged “appropriate price” of petroleum products — have not led to any such good results. What has the Education Trust Fund, a by-product of the Petroleum Trust Fund, set up under General Babangida, done to avert the total collapse of education from the primary to the tertiary level?

Where has General Obasanjo’s Police Trust Fund left the police? And why have whole roads been washed away and become death trails?

Where are the hospitals and clinics to cure the simplest ailments, some already banished from luckier climes? We know. As intended, the “funds” ended up in the bottomless pockets of those in the corridors of power. The government has even admitted as much. A powerful cartel which profits from fuel importation, we are told, has been sabotaging every effort to repair the existing four refineries or build new ones. And we have heard or read of import licences awarded in the shadiest manner; of oil blocs given without competitive bidding to friends and cronies with little or no connection to oil production. In other words, we have heard or read of the mainstay of the economy shared out as personal gifts.

But the dubiousness of the oil subsidy claim does not end there. There is a subsidy, the government argues, because it pays more per litre to import fuel from abroad than currently charged at the pump. It is a clear case of seeking to profit from its own wrong; of rubbing salt in the wounds of the victim while inflicting fresh gashes. Says the government: “Yes, we failed to repair our refineries or build new ones. As a result, we refine our crude abroad. We also have to transport home the refined products. Consequently, we incur a higher cost than we would if we refined at home. And though we thereby create an import cartel of millionaires and billionaires, the entire burden of this scandal must be borne by the masses. We intend, however, to embark on massive infrastructure projects that will ameliorate their suffering when foodstuff, transport fares, house rent and other related costs of living rise through the roof.”

That Jonathan and his crew of advisers can peddle this story is proof of their astonishing remove from the abject reality of the people. For, we repeat, whatever comes from the withdrawal of any “phantom subsidy” will serve no common purpose. It will end up where our patrimony has always gone: into the insatiable jaws of the plundering cabal with a choke-hold on the country’s jugular. It will become part of the twenty-five percent of the national budget spent on the highest paid legislators in the world. It will vanish the same way N3 trillion ($20 billion) vanishes yearly from the public sector alone, according to the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-governmental Agencies. It will melt in the maws of state bureaucracies, those administrative units of the unitary government of Nigeria which exist solely as distributive centres of the national cake.

We remind Jonathan and his advisers that the minimum wage is N18,000 ($120) -- for a presumed family of six -- and even this, only for those households lucky to have a breadwinner and living in a state that agrees to pay it. We believe that our crisis of socio-economic development is caused, first and foremost, by a grossly distorted political structure that turns the nation into a “no-man’s land” to be plundered at will, which in turn breeds lazy and visionless rulers. And, subsequently, by the enthronement of corruption as a core policy of government.

Thus, while the government claims to have spent about N3.6 trillion ($24 billion) from 2006-2011 on the importation of fuel, the Senate reveals that an equal amount is lost to corruption in a single year.

There is nothing more to say. And it is our view that if Jonathan goes ahead to bring such catastrophic suffering as a purported subsidy withdrawal will cause on the masses in the name of redressing wrongs not done by them, he will only be continuing the shameful tradition of robbing the poor to further enrich the corrupt.  He will prove to be a good student of the King Rehoboam school of government. Remember him, Rehoboam? In 1 Kings 12:10-16, he forsakes the counsel of the elders (read patriots), adopts the wisdom of the misguided youth (read greedy nation-wreckers) and says to the Israelites, “My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.”

We urge President Jonathan not to take for granted the seemingly endless capacity of Nigerians to endure hardship. No evil persists forever, as our past struggles and the Arab spring revolutions currently re-affirm. We urge Jonathan, a good Christian as he avows, to read the sixteenth verse: “So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? ... to your tents, O Israel ... So Israel departed unto their tents.” Need we say, for Israel, read Nigeria?

 By Ogaga Ifowodo, Abdul Mahmud, Nasiru Kura, Omoyele Sowore,  Gbenga Komolafe, Innocent Chukwuma, Kayode Ogundamisi, Ayo Akinfe, Chido Onumah, Lade Adunbi, Ropo Ewenla, Rita Goyit, Abdul Hussein, Chijioke Uwasomba, Benjamin Okonofua, Uche Onyeagucha, Anthony Olusanya, Okey Nwanguma, Francis Abayomi, Seni Ajayi*

*The authors are former student leaders under the auspices of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS).

17 comment(s)
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The Joyous Reveling of Nigerian Leaders!!

CRUSH THEM! CRUSH THEM AGAIN!! They are helpless. Let us thresh the soul out of their wretched good for nothing flesh if they dare stand in our way to revel.If they dare stand in our way to grasp all! YUM YUM YUM!!
We must prevail and they may perish! Never give up, dear brethren in the loot. We care not that this Nations lags behind. Let it even crumble if it chooses to, so long as we are not affected.
let us eat and drink for we shall never die. To hell with history.Posterity is rubbish. The world is ours!!

----a picture of the mind of Nigerian leaders.

The time is ripe for the revolution.

Nice piece. For me though, it's still a little pampering of the president. It's high time all patriots made a strong stand and intention.
No amount of pleas or sermons will turn the wicked heart of Jonathan around. He's hell bent.
Arise bold men, arise men of strength, arise men of progress, arise all men that want freedom from this oppression. Arise from the north to the south. Arise from the east to the west.
Brace up! The revolution is coming! It won't be long. Let the oppression stop! Enough is enough!

They Will not Relent

Our Leaders have never been successfully confronted by the angry masses. They always have their way. But time will tell.
The Jonathan government is on the cusp of producing yet another hungry army of millionaires and billionaires. Look at the way the emergency businessmen flock around him nowadays. These people have given up on Nigeria. So, they want their own share of the National Cake, by every means conceivable.

GEJ and Fuel Subsidy Saga

GEJ is looking for something to hold onto to distract Nigerians from his massive looting until he leaves office. Now he has succeeded and Nigerians instead of talking about the massive loot of our money with his fraudulent ministers? Nigerians are only making noise without actions, we don't act where and when we are supposed to act? Coward dies many time even before their death!!! Why have Nigerians suddenly become noise makers, even when they know public money is being stolen by 'some people'?

Why cant Govt change strategy?

I am not aware of any other county in the world that has oil abundance and yet suffers like Nigeria. Rather than remove a so-called subsidy, a well meaning government would focus on removing unnecessary costs which were added. Have they considered the following:

1. Dedicating a certain amount of oil to be refined for local consumption. This of course will not be charged at international prices.

2. Refining the oil in neibouring countries and not going to far.


I am not aware of any other

I am not aware of any other county in the world that has oil abundance and yet suffers like Nigeria. Rather than remove a so-called subsidy, a well meaning government would focus on removing unnecessary costs which were added. Have they considered the following:

1. Dedicating a certain amount of oil to be refined for local consumption. This of course will not be charged at international prices.

2. Refining the oil in neibouring countries and not going to far.


Word up!

Going through the names of the authors reminds me of the time growing up in SURULERE, LAGOS NIGERIA. That list could as well be a list of my friends. Until we the masses come to realise that the problem with Nigeria has to do with the kind of leaders that impose themselves on us through brute force or "selection" and not because of our differences, be it language, tradition or religion, nothing will change. Yes of course there were wrongs visited in the past and presently at various points in time, on various or particular ethnic groups but the matter of urgency here is, to first kickout, (and punish) the looters that are and have been our nemesis since time immemorial then and only after that, we can sit down, TOGETHER and DECIDE on whatever kind of alliance or alliances we want to go into.@OTILE and @WäHALA what's your catch on this?!

I agree completely with the

I agree completely with the post; unless and until the there is verifiable transparency in the activities of government in the oil sector no one will and should believe any promises of reforms or a better tomorrow.


Sectarian violence almost erupted at Gwarimpa Estate, Abuja on Sunday when one Pastor Ernest Onyems of the Shore House Church narrowly escaped being lynched by Muslim youths who were offended by his comments over the use of a road as praying ground for the Sallah celebration. Before policemen deployed in the area to provide security intervened, the cleric was thoroughly beaten before he managed to jump a fence into a house in the area. Our correspondent, who was at the scene, observed the youths, who were chanting Allahu Akbar (God is great), forced their way into the compound where Onyems took refuge and attempted to drag him out.

Gov. Kashim Shettima of Borno

Gov. Kashim Shettima of Borno in Maiduguri on Monday slaughtered 20 rams for inmates of Maiduguri maximum security prison to mark Eid-el-Kabir.The governor, who was at the prison as part of his Sallah visits, also donated assorted food items to the inmates and N1 million to the prison officials. He advised the inmates to see the condition they found themselves in as an act of God. ``


Nero was diverting himself with poetry as Rome burnt.Nero was eventually and tragically detroned by commoners and he was helped by one of his concubines to commit suicide.Our Jonathan ought to take the pulse of the suffering masses on the streets,he must not depend on the cosmetic support of thieving governors or so-called organised private sector which includes mostly millionaire crooked bankers and other administration's hangers-on.I am not an economist but Iam confident enough to state that no policy will work under the prevailing atmosphere of massive corruption,IT WOULD HAVE BEEN WISER TO WORK ON THE AVAILABILITY OF FUEL AND WAGE A RESOLUTE WAR ON CORRUPTION.

Asso Rock Track-Record. Uncle Joe and Advisers, Hello Sirs!

That's the track record of Asso Rock occupants and their associates and well-wishers for decades. Uncle Joe, Officials and Advisers! are you still there with us?

You promised us a fresh breeze and a difference! Are u still there with us now?

the goliaths are back with the relics of the civil war

THE presidency said on Tuesday that all the 36 state governors and other key stakeholders in the country had agreed with the Federal Government to withdraw oil subsidy. The governors are of six political parties, made up of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Labour Party (LP).They had some months ago declared that they would not implement the new minimum wage of N18,000 unless fuel subsidy was withdrawn.The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Dr Reuben Abati, confirmed to the Nigerian Tribune in Abuja, on Tuesday, that Jonathan was carrying out consultations with a wide spectrum of stakeholders in the country, as part of efforts to ensure the passage of the initiative

green white green-represent peace and agriculture-oil nko?

Those who benefit from the importation of fuel from Ghana are yr brothers-the TAM was awarded to Emeka Offor yr uncle in aba! If you want Nigeria to continue importing fuel from Ghana for another 51 yrs, so be it-cause when Niger Deltans said they wanted to purchase the PHC refinery Nigeria said no-the same way u assisted them to kill our quest for resource control. Because of yr civil war sentiments-Look at the national flag--show us the color of oil on it? The product that has been feeding the nation for 51yrs-was the flag designed before oil was discovered in the Niger Delta--green yes--but were Niger Deltans not feeding the nation state of nigeria with revenue from oil palm?-which is crrently the product that helps to propel the economy of malaysia? u kill oil palm industry-now wants to destroy the crude oil sector for yr masters-less resources control-any oil producing nation that imports fuel is a sick nation-and does not need any foreign help for it to split into pieces!

The oil subsidy game.....

I remember a photograph of government and the opposition spread-out in the front page of The Times of London when Harold Wilson became the prime minister of the UK. The academic credentials attached as footnote to the photo were awesome. That government struggled (I daresay with limited resources) to keep the legacy they inherited beneficial to the whole population.

In as much as we do not consider academic achievements 'sine qua non' to beneficial governance, present-day grapples with statecraft have gone beyond the purview of the 'gifted' amatuer. In Nigeria the apex of governance had up till recently been peopled by amateurs even if gifted. The erstwhile regions being the exceptions.

GEJ/Sambo are the integrated newbreed from whom we expect much. We hope that our aspirations are not misplaced!

 Very timely intervention by

 Very timely intervention by credible patriots. It is my hope that Jona will be compelled to do a re-think. 

Corrupt politicians are numb

Corrupt politicians are numb to this kind of write-up. Dauda Mark, IBB, Buhari, Atiku, Alhaji Dimeji, Iyabo and a whole host of them are busy honing their corrupt massages in readiness to 2015. Of course, for their minions and dumb masses the messages will be music to their ears. One can imagine Alhaji Tundemash and other zealots punching the air when announcing the good news to omo egbe Yoruba odo ipade won in Abeokuta.

Ore mi Tundemash ati omo Odua a gbe yin oo. I am your good neighbor from Biafra. I mean no evil for anybody. Enjoy.

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