A friend of mine had written the article below, I felt it was so spot on. I asked if I could post and he kindly obliged.
Read and be advised. This opportunity must not be allowed to slip by, it may never come again.
The Speed of Trust
I have watched with very keen interest and participated in discussions about the unfolding events in Nigeria following the New Year present from the GEJ administration to the Nigerian people – the removal of fuel subsidy. At a time Nigerians were worrying about Boko Haram initiated bombings and threats ,the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) announced removal of fuel subsidy on their website and the news trickled from one blackberry user to another at new year day celebrations across the country – Happy New Year Nigerians !!!!!!!!! .
The manner of the delivery was either a masterstroke or it was comical – depending on where you sit. Nigerians thought there was ongoing dialogue about the removal of fuel subsidy only to be told that the decision had been made and there was no turning back, furthermore the decision was made to protect Nigeria from the kind of collapse that we see in Greece was one of the arguments put forward. In fact we were told that the ‘cabal’ is the beneficiary of the fuel subsidy hence the removal would kill the current fraudulent system that is well documented and the money realised will be used to improve the lot of Nigerians. Since the announcement, we have witnessed a level of unity of purpose that Nigerians have not witnessed in a long while demanding for a reversal of fuel pump price (or the reinstatement of the ‘fuel subsidy’).
My intention is not to dwell extensively on what has happened so far, this is because there is so much information out there, my concern is based on comments from the meeting between organised labour and the Government yesterday. It seems the opportunity to make a change and demand accountability from our elected representatives may be misconstrued for a desire to just revert to the old pump price or worse still negotiate a slightly increased price and thus move back to status quo. Our children will ask questions of us if we miss yet another opportunity to demand a change from business as usual. In fact, the rest of Africa may be watching us.
So far, some of the arguments made for the removal of subsidy have included:
“We cannot afford to continue to subsidise” – this comment was refuted by the Governor of Central Bank yesterday on Channels TV when he claimed that it is not that Nigeria cannot afford to subsidise for a while longer but as a Nigerian he did not think it was the prudent thing to do. Also speaking as a Nigerian, he alluded to the fact that the option of prosecuting members of the cabal was indeed viable. From a leader who led sweeping changes in the banking sector in Nigeria – I believe he has earned a right to be listened to on the two points he raised.
We have heard the Ministers for Finance, (Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ph.D) and Petroleum Diezani Madueke-Allison, tell us how the money accruing from the removal of fuel subsidy would be used to deliver capital projects that will TRANSFORM our country not just the pockets of a few in Government and the Cabal.
The Presidency has simply said ‘no going back on the subsidy removal’. Eloquent enough I’d say.
So far the problems we face seem to be caused by the following factors (at a high level):
1. The near comatose state of our refineries for many years’ means savings to be made in refining crude oil locally and creating associated industries and employment for Nigerians are being shipped out in large numbers. Yet several governments have awarded turnaround maintenance contracts which have successively not fixed the problem and no person or companies have been prosecuted for the misuse of public funds.
2. Corruption on the high seas – Marketers, known and identified collude with Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Government officials to pay either excessive fees for services delivered or worse still pay excessive fees for services not delivered. The KPMG report is in public domain.
3. Smuggling – I listened to the Minister for Petroleum, Diezani Madueke-Allison, talk about how Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly known as Petrol for Northern Nigeria regularly gets smuggled out through our borders to sell in neighbouring countries at a higher price and how the removal of fuel subsidy will reduce or remove the need for this act. Yet we have a border patrol and customs agency in place that should check this activity, furthermore we have the marketers and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) that should ensure that petrol is sold at these stations at the recommended prices.
4. Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) has not been passed into law – our well paid public servants have appropriated a higher priority to the passing of the bill on same sex marriage. The PIB is supposed to provide the comprehensive and holistic framework to support the deregulation of the sector and perhaps force the removal of subsidy in a holistic manner however has not been passed.
5. We may also add the appropriateness of the size of government and cost of governance that goes unabated in our nation. It is no rocket science that the present expenditure level for our lawmakers, political appointees and jobbers are not sustainable.
Nevertheless the only feasible way our highly paid government suggest for tackling the problem is to attack the bottom of the pyramid by removing ‘fuel subsidy’ and allowing market forces determine the pump price of Petrol with some regulation by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA)…Laughable really, how much longer should the Nigerian people continue to subsidise the Government because that is what is happening here?
Furthermore to test our resolve, the government commissions an oversight panel headed by credible Nigerians led by Christopher Kolade to ensure that projects to be delivered by the accruals realised from subsidy are indeed delivered as promised. We are being asked to trust the GEJ administration to transform Nigeria from the fuel subsidy accruals …I am amazed.
The Government is asking us to trust them that they will deliver on these initiatives. Good. We need to let Government know that TRUST is a currency that needs to be earned.
We ALL know that the lack of infrastructure or commercial development in Nigeria has NEVER been due to lack of funds…we are a BLESSED nation; it has been due consistently to lack of a visionary and competent leadership with the political will to dream of a better Nigeria. We have never lacked Governments that are able to talk about a better Nigeria and this is where we ‘the citizens’ need to wake up and ensure that we elect right and demand the best from our leaders.
The opportunity is here upon us and the time is now to remind our leaders that WE elected them, that WE know the resources available in our country that WE know the extent of waste and corruption and that WE will NO LONGER standby and fold our arms. Our children and successive generations will ask us what WE did with the resources of the nation; they will ask us whether WE were faithful followers – they will ask us many questions hence WE must not compromise foolishly.
Our demands should be simple to the Government.
1. Revert the pump price of PMS to N65. No dialogue should be entertained on this issue. The action was not properly thought through so it should be back to the drawing board on this one.
2. Let us dialogue with Government on price change when
(a)The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) has been passed into law. At this time we will sit with Government to look at what sacrifices the Nigerian people should make based on the promises of the PIB.
(b)The Government has a verifiable timetabled plan for the turnaround of the refineries.
(c)The Government has instituted a credible panel to probe and bring to book the real beneficiaries of the ‘petroleum subsidy fraud’ aka the cabal, which he, the president himself spoke about.
(d)The Government has instituted plans to combat the smuggling of oil meant for local consumption to neighbouring countries.
Nigeria, Enough is Enough. We must not let this protest end with Labour saying that we should go back to work because the pump price has been negotiated down to N90 or N120 as we are hearing (gathered through unverified channels). If we agree to go back to work on that basis, then we have laboured in vain. Fellow Nigerians, we must revert to status quo and ask our government to govern and take the real tough decisions and we will trust them and follow them. No more No less.