Father Timothy Eshi Etsenamhe
The removal of fuel Subsidy and the subsequent price hike of petroleum products in Nigeria has been a contentious issue that has sparked socio-economic unrest. Most Nigerians are groaning from the hardship necessitated by ‘’Tinubunomics.’’ Petrol Stations have been abandoned for the rich; market squares have been deserted owing to highfalutin prices of food commodities; travelling has now become a luxury, Nigeria’s electricity supplythat is largely epileptic, its tariff has geometrically increasedwithout improvement in output; school fees in States and Federal Universities have been over- a- hundred percent increased. Unfortunately, minimum wage is still at an unbelievable thirty – Thousand-Naira rate.
In all of these biting realities, the scores of the activities of bandits and terrorists are gushing -in from Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, Plateau and every nook and cranny of the country. Little wonder then, former Present Olusegun Obasanjo opined recently during a keynote address at the public presentation of a book titled, “Reclaiming the Jewel of Africa,” written by a former Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, who had also served as Minister of Finance, Olusegun Aganga, that ‘’Nigeria is sitting dangerously on a keg of gunpowder’’ because of incongruent economic policies slipping many Nigerians into poverty.
However, the Federal Government has cautioned Nigerians to be patient, that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Aye, this is what every administration tells Nigerians, perhaps this as become an already- made mantra, after a careful study of the nature of Nigerians to be extremely hopeful people, with the mentality of suffering and smiling as lyricized by FelaAnikulapo Kuti. Indeed, our hope will not be extinguished by the labyrinths of ill-thought-out governmental policies that have over the years impoverished the common people whilst enriching the ruling class! The palliatives that the Federal Government has approved as cushioning the adverse effects of the subsidy removal, that implies that over 12 million poor and low – income households in Nigeria will be given N8,000 per month for the next six months is likened to almajirinization of these Nigerians. Let me digress a little to drive home my point.
The word “Almajiri,’’ according to Cheta Nwanze, in his article,‘’History of the Almajiri System in Nigeria,’’ Almajiri is derived from the Arabic “Al muhajirun”, meaning, “an emigrant”. It usually refers to a person who migrates from his home to a popular teacher in the quest for Islamic knowledge’’. In pre-colonial era, this system of education taught their studentsIslamic principles, values, jurisprudence and theology. Many learnt farming, masonry, fishing, et cetera. In fact, the groundnut pyramid is attributed to the hard work and skills of the students who partook in the Almajiri system. Besides, when the colonial masters came, some of these students served has judges, clerks, and teachers who provided the colonial administration with the needed staff. This system was successful because the states, then, provided the funds for their studies.
However, the British stopped and abrogated the state sponsorship and the Almajiri school system on the note that they were religious schools, ‘’karatun Boko’’ and instead establishedand funded western education and schools. This resulted to the Mallams forcing their students to go into towns and cities to beg. When they go begging, they were handed ‘’kobo – kobo’’ that was usually next to nothing in catering for their daily needs. In the midst of this, their teachers imposed ‘’kudi sati’’ on the Almajiris, a kind of weekly payment to be made and indoctrinated them that it is better to beg than to steal. This was the turning point of the Almajiri system that his now synonymous with begging, abject poverty, destitution, radicalization, criminality, constitution of religious and social nuisances and its over dependence on the rich upper political class for their livelihood. The ‘sharing’ of N8000 to poor Nigerians would only turn them into beggars, plunge them into penury and on a long run, become another sets of bandits and terrorists. What can N8000 afford for a poor home in today’s Nigeria? Let us assume they won’t buy fuel because they do not have cars and generators. But they are going to buy garri that was transported to the market; they are going to buy rice, oil, meat, fish, grains; pay house rent, seek medical care, pay school fees, et cetera.
To solve this crisis, rather than take to ‘sharing’ money as if it is an ‘’Owanbe’’ occasion, the Nigerian government must take a multi-faceted approach that addresses both the economic and social impacts of it policies. One approach is to diversify the economy away from oil and reduce the country’s overdependency on petroleum products. This can be done by investing in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, as well as promoting other sectors of the economy such as agriculture and manufacturing. By reducing the country’s dependency on oil, the government can reduce the impact of fluctuations in global oil prices and reduce the need for fuel subsidies.
Another approach is to use the palliative money to refurbish, at least, one of Nigerian’s moribund refineries. It is absurd that the National Economic Council does not consider this as an urgent remedy to nip in the bud the dilapidating economic circumstances that Nigeria is plunged into at the moment. It is crazily bizarre that a country as rich and blessed with petroleum products, amidst other natural resources as Nigeria cannot boast of a functional refinery in this time and age! A functional refinery in Nigeria would bolster Nigerian’s access to forex and also make fuel available and cheap. Imagine marketers buying fuel from our refinery with Naira! Imagine Nigeria exporting crude and refined petroleum products! Nigeria economy will jumpstart, there will be employment opportunities, the price of dollars will fall and prices of goods and services will come down for everyone to afford.
Another approach is to increase transparency and accountability in the management of the country’s oil resources. This includes addressing issues such has corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector, as well as ensuring that revenues from oil exports are used to benefit the country and its citizens. By increasing transparency and accountability, the government can build trust with its citizens and reduce the likelihood of social unrest.
In conclusion, the removal of fuel subsidy and the subsequent price hike of petroleum products in Nigeria is a complex issue that requires a multi-faceted approach. By diversifying the economy away from oil, increasing transparency and accountability in the management of oil resources, andrefurbishing some of Nigeria’s refineries, Nigeria can build a more sustainable and resilient economy for the future. The Nigerian government must be circumspect of any approach it is adopting to bringing succor to its citizens. Targeting social safety net programmes like gifting money to some selected people isn’t of immediate need. The government after leveling up can implement targeted social safety net programmes to mitigate the impacts of the removal of fuel subsidy on thevulnerable populations. This can include programmes such as cash transfers, food subsidies, and job creation initiatives. By providing support to those most affected by the policy, the government can reduce the impact of the price hike on the most vulnerable members of society. To engage in giving meagre sum of money to some Nigerians would only impoverish themmentally, psychologically and this class of Nigerians may likelybecome pawns in the hands of politicians to win future elections. If this policy is implemented, this government would only succeed in spreading the Almajiri predicaments all over Nigeria.