Time To End Subsidy On Inefficiency By Chido Onumah

Chido Onumah
Columnist: 
Chido Onumah

President Jonathan’s decision to increase the price of petrol on January 1, 2012, will go down in history as one of the most cynical decisions by a Nigerian president. Even though there is enough mistrust for the current government, very few people actually imagined that the president will decide to inflict so much pain on Nigerians during the season of festivities. Not when the government kept assuring the public that it was negotiating with stakeholders; certainly not when the minister of finance stated publicly that no date had been fixed for the so-called subsidy removal.

The more than 100% increase in the price of petrol, if not reversed, may turn around to haunt President Jonathan for the rest of his life. As I write, there are reports of thousands of Nigerians stranded in different parts of the country because of the astronomical rise in transport fares occasioned by the unconscionable increase in petrol price. Prices of food items have gone up, and soon landlords will be demanding for higher rent. Add to this the mindless slaughter of innocent Nigerians by those who claim they want to propitiate Heaven and you have a recipe for disaster.

I have had reason to argue with my friends who say we should give President Jonathan the benefit of the doubt. My position is that the president can’t be trusted. So, I was not at all surprised by the announcement of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) on January 1. I shall return to this. My position on President Jonathan is based on a simple, but fundamental issue: the president’s asset declaration. Early last year, President Jonathan while campaigning for the April 2011 presidential election serenaded us about how he went to school without shoes. When he was sworn in on May 29, 2011, he promised a “transformation agenda” and to fight corruption.

The minimum standard for any president interested in transforming Nigeria and fighting corruption, one of the greatest problems confronting the country, would be a public declaration of his or her asset. If President Jonathan had done this, it would have enabled us to compare it with what he declared four years ago as vice-president after much public outcry. That would have been reassuring! But he has refused to do so even when civil society groups have gone to court over the issue.

Why should we trust a president who finds it difficult to make public his asset? That is why I support the position of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and I hope it maintains it – that the only condition for discussion is for the government to revert to the status quo ante. The statement by the PPPRA announcing the price increase is quite instructive. The opening lines read:

“Following extensive consultation with stakeholders across the nation, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) wishes to inform all stakeholders of the commencement of formal removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), in accordance with the powers conferred on the agency by the law establishing it, in compliance with Section 7 of PPPRA Act, 2004.”

According to reports, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association has challenged the Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Products Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, Reginald Stanley, to tell Nigerians when the board of the agency met to decide on the adjustment in the pump price of fuel. The president of the union, Babatunde Ogun maintains that the board of the agency is yet to be reconstituted and can therefore not meet on the hike in the price of petrol. Clearly, the government needed the dialogue sessions and town hall meetings with so-called stakeholders to legitimize its position. The regime had made up its mind long ago. I hope our friends who insisted on “dialoguing” with the government have learnt some lessons. What the government did not reckon with, however, is the response of Nigerians from all walks of life. As one commentator put it, “the opposition to fuel increase will ultimately result in resistance to everything the ruling class represents in Nigeria”.

Thanks to the resilience of Nigerians, the government has suddenly realized it has to prune the cost of governance and cut back on the perquisites of government officials. To show that he feels our pain, the president, in his national broadcast on the eve of the planned nation-wide strike, said “the basic salaries of all political office holders in the executive arm of government will be reduced by 25%. He also noted that he had “directed that overseas travels by all political office holders, including the president, should be reduced to the barest minimum. The size of delegations on foreign trips will also be drastically reduced; only trips that are absolutely necessary will be approved”.

Great! But he should go a step further. Let him and key functionaries of his government (the VP, the finance minister, the petroleum minister, the governor of the Central Bank, etc) declare their asset. I agree with the blogger who wrote that “if they have decided to cut 25% of their salaries and reduce their travelling expenses to the barest minimum, if that can pay for the subsidy and repair our refineries, that will be fine, if not they should do more. All we want is for them to go back to N65. The masses have sacrificed a lot in the past. It’s their turn now to sacrifice”.

Where do we even begin to talk about cutting cost? The presidency plans to spend over a N1 billion ($6million) on food in 2012. The vice president will spend N1.7 billion ($11.3million) on trips and N1.3 billion ($8.6million) on office stationeries in 2012. This amount includes N12 million ($80,000) on books, N45 million ($300,000) on newspapers, and N9 million ($60,000) on magazines and periodicals. A break down shows that the VP will spend N723 million ($4.8 million) on local travels and N951 million ($6.3 million) on his international travels. For the president, just double or triple the amount for the VP. Can anyone tell me how many times Mr. Vice-president has travelled outside Nigerian since he was sworn in on May 29, 2011.

The average cost of newspapers in Nigeria is N150 ($1). Let’s for the sake of argument raise it to N200 ($1.3). If the office of the VP buys 20 newspapers a day, it will cost him N4,000 ($26). Let’s assume there are about 10 departments in the office of the VP. If we multiply N4,000 by 10, we’ll get N40,000 ($266). So, on the average, the office will spend N40,000 ($266) everyday for newspapers. Multiplied by 30 days, it comes to N1.2 million ($8,000) a month. In one year, the total amount will be N14.4 million ($96,000). Yet, the VP gets N45 million for newspapers. If we round it up to N15 million ($100,000), the government can save N30 million ($200,000) by cutting back on the cost of providing newspapers for the VP. We can do the same for magazines and periodicals.

There is a government directive that ministers, CEOs, and heads of government departments and agencies can only fly Business Class at government expense. Not a single minister or CEO adheres to this directive. They all fly First Class. Most times, with their family members, girlfriends, and concubines. Depending on the airline, and the destination, the difference between Business Class and First Class could range from 5 to 8 thousand dollars or more. Let the smart people amongst us do the math, taking into consideration the number of ministries, government agencies and departments in Nigeria and how often our public “servants” travel overseas, for official (including medical checkup) and unofficial business.

If President Jonathan is looking for money “to ensure improvement in national infrastructure, power supply, transportation, irrigation and agriculture, education, healthcare, and other social services”, he need not look any further.  While we protest, we may do well to also show the government how it can save cost, apart from raising the price of petrol, since it appears clueless!

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honest letter to bro Jonathan

Tears stream down my eyes everytime I read about Nigerians corrupt empowered government. My people dont know that the mistake of yesterday will be the greatest pain of today. the subsidy will be a good cause if ONLY Nigeria is America or Europe. What works for them will not work for us as our poverty line is so wide. Even if it will work, my own concern is how will an ordinary Nigerian with no government job or no job be able to survive. Time to think deeply bro Jonathan. Stop killing our people. Your first priority should have been the security and corruption fighting. You are less concern about emerging threat of the Hausas Boko Haram and you cant fight corruption because you are part of the problem. The people who support your decision today will be the first to abandon you just tread softly, make the right choices..good name is better than wealth, wealth can be taken away name cannot,you alone can tarnish your name.

Pls remove day subsidy jare

U need to come to abuja to see how govt is
Financing the opulence of a few oil sheiks
Thru subsidy and PEF windfalls.
PLs let's channel our energies on fighting
For a genuine cause. We should shut down de
Streets of Naija to protest corruption in
High places,Asuu strike,bloated contracts.
Govt profligacy,bloated salaries of politicians
And the humongous size of governance. Nlc
Are instead fighting the removal of an
Unsustainable sham called subsidy.

WHO ADVISED THE PRESIDENT TO AVOID DECLARING HIS ASSETS PUBLICLY

As long as the President has refused to publicly declare his assets,he will not get the trust he very much requires to eradicate corruption,Umar Yar'adua(RIP) was honest as a man but the same cannot be said of this President for obvious reasons.He remains deaf to the demands of the people who elected him,DECLARE YOUR ASSETS AND SHAME YOUR CRITICS,YOU CANNOT WISH THIS REQUEST AWAY.CORRUPTION HAS DAMAGED OUR COUNTRY,WE NEED TO MAKE SURE YOU DO WHAT YOU PREACH!!!

go and protect your people

Facts are emerging over how over three Igbo traders resident in Mubi, Adamawa state were killed in cold blood inside their shops unprovoked and defenseless by suspected Boko Haram members on January 6 this year.Witness told the Nigerian Pilot yesterday that following the chilling killing of the three Igbo traders including the younger brother of a catholic priest inside their shops in Mubi the previous night and discussion was in progress by their relatives as to how to convey their corpses home for burial, unidentified gunmen numbering over 30, descended on the mourners, shouting ‘Allah Aku Bah’ ‘Allah is greatest”, shooting at them sporadically.Reports stated that ten victims of the unprovoked attack all hailed from Adazi Ani in Anambra state. Others who escaped the attack but not without serious injuries

achebe yr brothers are dying

Facts are emerging over how over three Igbo traders resident in Mubi, Adamawa state were killed in cold blood inside their shops unprovoked and defenseless by suspected Boko Haram members on January 6 this year.

Witness told the Nigerian Pilot yesterday that following the chilling killing of the three Igbo traders including the younger brother of a catholic priest inside their shops in Mubi the previous night and discussion was in progress by their relatives as to how to convey their corpses home for burial, unidentified gunmen numbering over 30, descended on the mourners, shouting ‘Allah Aku Bah’ ‘Allah is greatest”, shooting at them sporadically.

NIGERIANS rise and unite AGAINST corruption.

1. Nigerians have been SAPped for too long! We have to break the yoke of corruption! Until we tackle corruption, Nigeria is going no where!
2. Whilst Western imperialist interests surge in Nigeria, CORRUPTION is the CRUX of the matter here.
3. IMF and WB destroy countries with identifiable potential to rise up and upset the present world economic order.
4. They work in collusion with planted agents along with UNPATRIOTIC and CORRUPT POLITICIANS.
5. GREEDY politicians look the other way whilst foreign companies plunder our economy and destroy our environment for centuries.
6. They enforce Monetary devaluation and primitive and inhuman policies ON dim politicians.
7. Agents such as Okonjo baboozle simple-minded leaders with meaningless, irrelevant, untested and damaging economic theories.
8. Fifth columists AND GREEDY POLITICIANS in OUR MIDST must be identified.

NIGERIANS rise and unite AGAINST corruption.
Enough is enough!

SENATOR NGIGE.COM BY IDAHOR S.O

We now export crude and buy the refined products. They gave license to people to import fuel and at some point, they complained of the cost of bringing in the product saying if it continues that way, it will affect the pump price of fuel so government now intervened by offsetting the cost of importing fuel,” “Then they complained of distribution of the products into the hinter lands and another provision was made for that which is called bridging, and setting up Petroleum Equalisation Fund. They are tissues of corruption and the unnecessary bottle necks that form part of the introduction of subsidy. So all in all subsidy is more of racketeering. “Some are expected to bring in 10,000 tonnes of fuel only to supply 2,000 and keep 8,000. They are given papers for another importation and all they do is to go back to where the 8,000 is kept and bring in fuel. So they make a lot of money from that and that is why our refineries cannot work.

SENATOR NGIGE.COM BY IDAHOR S.O

We now export crude and buy the refined products. They gave license to people to import fuel and at some point, they complained of the cost of bringing in the product saying if it continues that way, it will affect the pump price of fuel so government now intervened by offsetting the cost of importing fuel,” “Then they complained of distribution of the products into the hinter lands and another provision was made for that which is called bridging, and setting up Petroleum Equalisation Fund. They are tissues of corruption and the unnecessary bottle necks that form part of the introduction of subsidy. So all in all subsidy is more of racketeering. “Some are expected to bring in 10,000 tonnes of fuel only to supply 2,000 and keep 8,000. They are given papers for another importation and all they do is to go back to where the 8,000 is kept and bring in fuel. So they make a lot of money from that and that is why our refineries cannot work.

Unflinching support to the NLC

I am absolutely in support of the NLC and against the fuel subsidy removal.

Salaries, Allowances and Subsidies.

Thank you, Chido.
I will like to add one aspect that you apparently omitted. This is about salaries and allowances of public officers.
There is no justification for ANY public servant, including the president, to earn more than $200,000 a year. The outlandish salaries and allowances earned by senators and representatives especially, should be drastically cut NOW. The savings from this will go a long way.
When we need to do more, we can then take a look at removal of subsidies on petroleum products.

Dapo Odumosu

Seeing how callous the

Seeing how callous the government, emirs, imams, Christian religious leaders, lawmakers and Yorubas are about the plight of Igbo people in Nigeria I will now call on my people not to cooperate with these people in any meaningful way again. From hence forth Igbo should partner with Israel to prevent genocide. Igbo should keep their thoughts to themselves while seeing these non-challant people as potential enemies. Igbo should be prepared to defend themselves and their fellow Igbo in any and every danger. Never give a damn to what the enemy says about us. They want our money not our prosperity. Ward off their aggression at all costs. Our motto should be: Never Again.

protesting to protect tinubu and buhari oil importers club

Elites steal 1.3-Trillion Naira annually from 9ja under a well scripted scam called "subsidy". From this scheme, the FG forks out $8-Billion US Dollars annually from our federal reserve to feed this scheme, and to enrich these Nigerian scammers who probably own all these refineries in the African sub-region where 275,000 barrels of crude oil from the Niger Delta are shipped daily for refining and re-imported into Nigeria. Removing this subsidy program will re-incentivise Nigerians into taking the same $8-Billion US Dollars to refurbish our local refineries, and possibly construct new ones. A $500-Million US Dollar outlay could lead to the construction of a 50,000 barrels per day production refinery. Currently, there aren't many places in the world where there are refineries that produces over 100,000 barrels per day, the United States included. However, Nigeria, a member of the OPEC nation could afford to construct refineries that can meet the challenges of our local markets.

Protesting inefficeincy in government

Your last paragraph hit the nail on the head.

This has always been my problem with NLC. Let us protest effectively by attacking the root cause of our problems---our leaders wasting our resources to keep themselves living in luxury.

If the NLC had shut down the government when the house of representatives/senate increased their salaries or when the president proposes a budget that includes spending billions on entertainment,or say a budget will not pass until at least 50% is spent on capital development, we would not be in this situation. Instead, we keep fighting for crumbs...18,000 minimum wage which inflation will make useless in less than 3 years.

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