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.
— By ANIEBO NWAMU