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PERCEPTOR 12-2 Questions on … Fuel Price De-regulation (or is it ‘subsidy removal’?)

March 2, 2009
Image removed.2 Questions on … Fuel Price De-regulation (or is it ‘subsidy removal’?)
Perceptor doesn’t usually say “I told you so”, or even expect readers to trawl through past blogs so that they can see for themselves how prescient Perceptor is, but in Perceptor 7, one of the questions asked was: Why Pa Rilwan Lukman?  Again?  (And that was even before allegations about his interests in oil companies surfaced!)  Another question in that blog was whether there was any connection between the hugely obscene sums donated by oil magnates towards the construction of the PDP National Headquarters and the collapse in the supply of public electricity.  Perceptor suggested then that the ‘donations’ were in fact an INVESTMENT.  And in Perceptor 10, Perceptor refused to get excited about the reduction in the pump price of petrol from N70 per litre to N65 per litre, saying:

PERCEPTOR “By doubting we come to question, and by questioning, we perceive the truth.”
(Peter Abelard, 1079-1142)
Although the Federal Government now claims that the reduction has nothing to do with de-regulation, it seems to Perceptor that for a rather cheap price (no price at all in fact, given the collapse of oil prices on the international markets) the Yar’Adua administration has laid the ground for future increases in the pump price.  The price is either stabilised, or it is not.  It’s a shame that the labour unions are not thinking ahead on this one.  Or haven’t they heard the expression ‘réculer pour mieux sauter’?  To draw back (by about N5?) in order to make a longer jump …

So with the government now positioned to make the long jump, Perceptor hopes to be forgiven for crowing a little bit.  But even Perceptor is a taken aback at the sheer effrontery of the Minister for Petroleum, Dr. Rilwan Lukman and Finance Minister, Dr. Mansur Muhtar flatly stating that Nigeria can no longer afford to subsidize the price of petroleum products, and completely baffled by claim that the deregulation is designed to break the activities of a cabal within the oil industry.  As with the global economic crisis, Perceptor isn’t an economist or oil industry expert, just a consumer.  But even a hapless idiot consumer has some questions …

1.    Are Nigeria’s oil refineries (you know, those ones that were built back when Pa Lukman was still in short knickers), are Nigeria’s oil refineries now operating at maximum output to produce petroleum products?
It’s all very well for the government to talk about breaking the monopoly of a cabal, but the thing about cabals (or even cartels), is that they act in concert for the greater good of all of them.  So if they all decide to act together to keep the price of petrol artificially high, how is the Yar’Adua administration going to call their bluff, since – due to non or poorly functioning refineries – we don’t have enough locally refined petrol?

2.    If the refineries were not a popular buy last year, how, except by promising that they can pass on petrol price increases to the cash cow known as the Nigerian consumer, does government expect to tempt buyers in today’s cash-strapped world?
Instead of boasting about the amount it allegedly spent on ‘subsidy’ last year, shouldn’t the government have used the surplus to get the refineries, whose earlier sale by the Obasanjo administration it had reversed, ready for sale?  Apparently not.

3.    The Senators who are now complaining that they weren’t consulted about the removal of the subsidy, didn’t they notice that it wasn’t in the Budget?

That would have been at the time when they were doing the detailed scrutiny that made open examination of or debate on the Budget on the floor of the Senate unnecessary.  They would – in this detailed scrutiny – have noted that no fuel subsidy was provided for in the Budget.  They would have found out why.  They would have known … well, those who were involved in the detailed scrutiny would have.  Wouldn’t they?

4.    Some years ago, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo was threatening to ‘remove the subsidy’ on petroleum products, Nigerians were promised that steps would be taken to ‘cushion’ the effect of the expected resulting price increase.  So … where’s the cushion?
In those days, Perceptor used to wonder which other country would throw its citizens out of the window and only THEN start considering holding discussions about the kind of cushion that might be needed to break their fall.  (Perceptor might add that the discussions appear to have always petered out on seeing that the citizens had already hit the ground, so there’s not much point in wasting any money on a cushion is there?)
    But now, seeing other countries, concerned at their citizens falling from the windows, rush in with cushions to alleviate the effects of the fall, Perceptor is totally confounded that the Federal Government seems determined to drag away from their broken bones the meagre scraps of cushion that its citizens have been able to gather together by themselves.

5.    What happens to President Yar’Adua’s famous N50 per litre kerosene promise now?
Well, it’s just a question.

6.    Is the infamous salary ‘cut’ going to be wheeled out as an example of how our rulers are making sacrifices, so we the subjects should also be prepared to make our own sacrifices?

Perceptor hopes not.  Perceptor REALLY hopes not.

Who is Your Friend, My Friend?
Perceptor is baffled about why so many commentators feel the need to let us know that some or all of the rivals in the Ondo State or the Ekiti State governorship contests are their ‘friends’, or their ‘aburos’.  On Saturday it was Dele Momodu in ThisDay, on Sunday it was Tunde Fagbenle in Sunday Punch.  So everybody is a friend to everybody.  SO WHAT?  Is the friendship, or aburoship (honorary or actual) relevant at all?  Perceptor appreciates that not everybody wants to write under a pen name (such as … er, Perceptor), but if one wants to comment on public affairs, can one kindly leave one’s personal relationships out of it, especially when they are completely irrelevant.
    If the subject of a public commentary thinks that something nasty has been said about them, are they really going to be assuaged because “my friend” is sprinkled all over the offending remarks?
    Perceptor had thought that “My good friend” and “My very good friend” was a mantra that Naija politicians wheel out to drown the noise of the sharpening of knives for the very good friend’s back.  It’s worrying to find it being used by journalists and writers who want public acclaim for their incisive, witty or instructive comments but also want to avoid offence being taken by those in or with the possibility of getting into power.  Newsflash: “My good friend” isn’t going to do it.  After all, did not Judas Iscariot greet Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane with a kiss?

Much Ado About … Court of Appeal Judgments in Election Petitions

Commentators are also falling over themselves to praise the judiciary about the decisions of the Court of Appeal in some election petitions.  The immediate cause of the exhilaration seems to be the Ondo State case, where ex-PDP member Segun Mimiko is said to have won the gubernatorial election, and not Segun Agagu.  In Ekiti State, the Court of Appeal said that Segun Oni didn’t win, but refused to declare Kayode Fayemi the winner.  But is all the “last hope of the common man” talk really justified?  Perceptor thinks not.
    Segun Mimiko in Ondo State and Adams Oshiomhole in Edo State are actually the only people to have gone to court over the elections and emerged as governors.  (Rotimi Amaechi in Rivers State and Peter Obi in Anambra State were courtesy of the Supreme Court.)  All the others have merely had their elections set aside because one or more candidates were left off the ballot paper.  All the re-run elections have been won by the person originally selected by INEC as the winner.  Considering that there were 36 gubernatorial elections, Perceptor doesn’t think that that is much of a record to be proud of.  Certainly it’s nothing to get as excited about as those who are now trying to convince Nigerians that there is no need to riot when fake winners are declared by INEC.  On the contrary, it’s notable that Ondo and Edo States witnessed significant violence when usurpers were declared winners.  To Perceptor, the lesson from that is that a bit of post-election violence concentrates the judicial mind wonderfully.  It’s a lesson that other candidates (or should one say ‘combatants’) are likely to learn very well.

Ugly Brides
In Israel, between Binyamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni, success in forming the next government could depend on Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu Party.  Their platform – unashamedly racist, calls for the ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Israel.  They didn’t win the election, or get the most seats in the Knesset.  But he can make or break the next government of that country.  The parties that did get more votes and want to form the next government, has to hold its nose and see if they can do a deal with Lieberman.  Not exactly Perceptor’s ideal of a ‘Beautiful bride’.
    And here in Nigeria – Ekiti State to be exact – as the re-run of the governorship election in part of the State looms, we have, seeking to be kingmaker between Segun Oni and Kayode Fayemi … former governor Ayo Fayose.   With this crucial difference – in Israel the votes have been counted and the results declared.  The election still lies ahead in Ekiti State.  So why all this genuflecting before Fayose?  Perceptor can only guess that the alternative, which would mean appealing directly to voters and expecting them to make up their own minds, and make Fayose irrelevant, is just too ridiculous to contemplate!


Electoral Reform advocates will be happy to learn that there is now a new Committee (of the Federal Executive Committee), to review the report of the Committee (the White Paper Committee), which reviewed the report of the Electoral Reform Committee.  Perceptor hopes that that is clear?

Seven Point ‘Agenda’ enthusiasts will be glad to see that the Yar’Adua administration is at last taking steps to turn the Seven-Point-List-Of-Areas-Where-My-Administration-Might-Possibly-Get-Round-To-Thinking-About-Doing-Something into an actual Agenda.   According to National Planning Minister Shamsudeen Usman:

“We are trying to translate the seven-point agenda of Mr. President into a national policy. We need to translate them into deliverable things. We will tell Nigerians what we will do, say in a year, and people will be able to monitor it. This will fall under a National Development Plan. … We will be able to speak on a very clear, deliverable and robust framework. We would transform the agenda into medium term planning. What is needed in this country is to go back to planning. The problem we are having is because we have abandoned planning culture …”

(Well, now that he’s the Minister of National Planning, what else is he going to say?)  So let’s see.  That’s a year, a year and a half – no, a YEAR AND THREE QUARTERS after claiming that he had an Seven Point Agenda that would rescue Nigeria – Yar’Adua’s administration is “trying to translate” it into something that can actually be done, can actually be measured.  The vehicle to move us from List to Agenda/Plan/Framework?  A 405-member … Committee.  Perceptor would not advise anybody to hold their breath.

In the Spirit of ‘Aunty’ Dora
Citizens of Ilorin, the Kwara State capital are said to have been enjoying near-uninterrupted power supply for a whole month due to Governor Bukola Saraki’s red-tape cutting in ensuring that his own Independent Power Plant was up and running to do something useful for the citizens he governs.  That’s something for Kwarans to cheer about isn’t it?
    Saraki is said to be a member of Yar’Adua’s kitchen cabinet, and is also now on the Committee whose first gift to the Nigerian people has been the deregulation of petroleum products.  But what Perceptor would like to see is some of the Saraki ‘can do’ spirit in the servant leader …  Perceptor is tired of seeing headlines saying ‘President Yar’Adua orders Ministry to produce Chicken on Sunday’, rather than ‘Nigerians now enjoy Chicken on Sunday’.  Or does the man imagine that his fiat is the same thing as actual performance?

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