It was inevitable. President Muhammadu Buhari knew it, and anyone who pays more than passing attention to good governance knew it.
To keep the fuel subsidy regime or discard the behemoth weighing down the Nigerian vehicle? Buhari has decided to allow market forces a chance to determine the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), in an announcement made yesterday by his minister of state.
We dare say, Nigeria will be the better for it.
The fuel subsidy has been a drain on our resources for a long time now. It’s a cross that successive governments have carried, until former president Goodluck Jonathan decided to put a stop to it on the first day of January 2012.
Many Nigerian cried foul, young people trooped out to protest the removal, and the Nigerian Labour Congress saw an opportunity to re-assert its relevance by aligning with the people in an uprising tagged Occupy Nigeria. Mr. Jonathan buckled and petrol pump price was eventually pegged at N96 per litre.
Removal of petrol subsidy was right then as it is now. The proprietary of the action was never the challenge; it was the timing, attitude, and character of the government implementing it. The Jonathan government as at late 2011 suffered low level approval rating and an integrity deficit that would put even Donald Trump to shame.
Many Nigerians and other within the international community could not trust that government’s ability to live up to its promise of judiciously utilizing ‘proceeds’ from the subsidy removal on implementing massive infrastructural development, diversifying an economy exclusively dependent on oil, and fast-tracking development on a large scale across sectors.
President Buhari has none of that baggage.
He is currently riding on a goodwill garnered during the elections with approval rating still soaring sky high in many parts of the country. Many believe in his promise to plug all holes with which the economy bleeds through, and the subsidy regime is one of them. He has promised that the removal will guarantee availability of fuel and stop those fuel queues around the country and many are willing to give him a benefit of doubt.
At N145 per litre, the price is rather high for many citizens, most of who earn under $1 per day, but Nigerians are willing to go with any policy with a potential to shorten the length of time it takes to experience the real dividends of change promised us during the 2015 elections.
With this removal, we expect improved supply of petroleum products across the country and competition that will eventually drive down the price of the products as it is with diesel. We hope to see increased activity and investments in refineries and other parts of the downstream sector. Investments in these areas will create employment and exert less pressure on an economy currently in dire straits.
Any deliverable short of this is unacceptable.
We expect Nigerians to assume the crucial Office of the Citizen and hold the government to account to the promises inherent in this decision.
In the interim, we must remind President Buhari that he has no time to waste. That we cannot continue to take excuses about the mistakes of past administrations. That it is time to roll out the government’s social welfare packages in order to alleviate challenges facing the poor in the society. That his government was voted in to take bold decisions in the interest of the nation and not to pander to the wishes of anyone.
We welcome the fuel subsidy removal.
If Nigerians decide (as it seems likely) that they will not take to the streets to protest the oncoming hardship however, the president and his team must not take that goodwill for granted.
If they do, we will react. And the protests against Goodluck Jonathan will be child’s play compared to what will come next.