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(Opinion) Why Fuel ‘Subsidy’ Should Go Now by Aniebo Nwamu

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

I’m happy to hear that N407billion has been released to fuel marketers. Whether the debts owed them are phantoms or not, I hope the money will help to reflate the economy, unless the marketers refuse to spend the money or start buying private jets as they did in 2011. The next huge money to be paid should go to civil servants at the local, state and federal levels. Government should borrow, if need be, to pay everyone up to December 2015. Next should be local contractors. I would like to see the Muhammadu Buhari administration begin on a clean slate in 2016.
All ears are waiting to hear the president’s budget address and how he intends to tackle the “fuel subsidy” scam that has become a cancer threatening to kill Nigeria. Shall we hear of “fuel subsidy” in 2016 even when the price of crude is hurtling towards $30 per barrel and the official pump price remains N87 per litre? We were told that the landing price of a litre of imported petrol was N97 when crude was sold $114 per barrel and N155 exchanged with $1. Common sense should teach us that the landing price now shouldn’t exceed N50 and pump price, N60 per litre. Low oil price has since wiped out any subsidy if it existed.
Along with the then opposition party (APC), many of us saw the hollowness of the Jonathan regime’s argument about fuel subsidy. At least we traced 123 private jets that entered Nigeria in 2011 to the fuel subsidy thieves. What has happened to all those panels that exposed the looting of over N1trillion each year through the scam?
Last week, the World Bank told Nigeria it was time to remove fuel subsidy. But does President Buhari, a former and the current petroleum minister, need any lecture on the oil industry? He too argued there was no subsidy last year. Now he is in the saddle. Is there something in government that prevents one from seeing clearly?
I presume that a majority of Nigerians are tired of hearing about subsidy on petroleum products. They have therefore permitted the president to remove it. Diesel, aviation fuel and more have since been deregulated. Subsidised kerosene is nowhere to be found.
Since local refineries can’t satisfy the nation’s fuel needs yet, let there be licensed fuel importers still. What the supervising authority (DPR, I think) should do is set a maximum price for a litre of fuel. Under the current situation, a litre of petrol can’t exceed N100 at the pump. Even at that price, the importers would be smiling to the bank. It’s better than the current N250 to N 400 per litre that most Nigerians pay for the commodity in times of scarcity. If there must be a subsidy, let it go to agriculture or education or cement.
2016 will determine the success or failure of the Buhari government. It would do well to take all the hard decisions and let Nigeria swim or sink. Fuel is the least of our troubles; there is no reason we won’t survive even N200 per litre.
In this column of March 30, 2014, I exposed what is currently known as Armsgate, while making a case for subsidy removal: “In supporting the removal of “subsidy”, therefore, I am not asking that more pains be inflicted on already traumatised Nigerians. I have only taken notice of the monumental corruption, lack of transparency and inefficiency existing in both the nation’s oil industry and government apparatchiks. When we allow them to remove the phantom subsidy, one pipe through which they siphon trillions each year will be blocked. Then, we shall see reason to block other pipes — such as security and defence expenditures – also deliberately invented for stealing public funds.” My view has not changed.
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Inconclusive Electioneering

Prof. Yakubu, INEC Chairman
Prof. Yakubu, INEC Chairman
We seem to have accepted conducting one election several times as a way of life. Once an election is concluded, the contest moves to the courts and back again to polling stations. Political campaigns no longer end, and nobody cares about the costs. That’s why, for instance, the APC governorship candidate for Akwa Ibom State in this year’s polls, Mr Umana Umana, has asked the appeal court to cancel the elections held on April 11 in all of 31 local government areas of the state. The state elections tribunal had ordered a rerun in 18 LGAs. But both the APC candidate and the PDP candidate (incumbent governor Udom Emmanuel) appealed the verdict.
The public treasury has continued to bleed from several reruns, but no one seems to be counting the cost. The rerun in 91 polling units conducted in Kogi State must have cost the nation at least N100million. I’m sure it costs at least N2billion to conduct an election in one state. Like Rivers, like Akwa Ibom! Now, the courts have ordered reruns in several senatorial districts across the country.
One puzzle is that nobody has been punished for making the nation lose money to inconclusive elections. INEC set a spending limit for campaigns; people spend 100 times more. Where are the thugs caught in 2011 or 2007? INEC promised to prosecute them. Where are all the murderers reported in Bayelsa or Rivers or Kano? Where are the INEC officials caught with their fingers in the pie?
Nigeria has been sentenced to perpetual electioneering: no year passes without a governorship election preceded by campaigns. Of course, we know the cause: inconclusive polls or fraudulent polls. That’s why Bayelsa and Kogi have just voted or are still voting, nine months after their counterparts did. Edo will go to the polls next year, and Ondo will follow. These say nothing of the several reruns ordered by the appeal court. Has electioneering become a human right also? Perhaps that’s why, even in these lean times, nobody considers the cost of organising elections every now and then.
Every election ought to be concluded and the winner declared. What the court did in Taraba is far better than having reruns in Akwa Ibom, Rivers and parts of several other states. Otherwise, anybody whose acts of omission or commission led to an inconclusive poll should pick the bills for conducting another one. We should abhor waste.

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