Mixed Reaction Trail FG’s Suspension Of Fuel Subsidy Removal
— It’s Postponement of Evil Day- Economists
— We’ll never Accept Removal of Fuel Subsidy, Common Nigerians
By Ogbonna Emmanuel, PH
Mixed reactions today trailed Federal Government’s resolve to suspend its planned removal of fuel subsidy.
The government, through the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Ms Zainab Ahmed, who held a meeting with lawmakers at the National Assembly at the instance of the Senate President, yesterday said government has resolved to suspend the planned subsidy “until further notice as a result of ongoing consultations” following pressure from the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) which threatens to embark on a nationwide protest from January 27, 2022.
The announcement of the suspension has helped to relax the growing tension of an impending national clash between the people and the government.
In Port Harcourt, the capital of the oil-rich Rivers State, the atmosphere of relief can easily be felt this Monday morning as people discuss the development in groups. NewsOrient reporter, who went round the Port Harcourt city this morning to guage the effect of the suspension, reports that the atmosphere of relief in the streets of Port Harcourt and indeed, Nigeria, notwithstanding, Nigerians seem not to agree on the overall effect of the suspension of fuel subsidy.
While most of the intellectuals and economists insist that the suspension is “a gravious error, a mere postponement of the evil day,” majority of other Nigerians said it does not make sense to contemplate removal of fuel subsidy as the only way of resolving the problem when the right thing to do should be to ensure refining of petroleum products since God in His wisdom blessed Nigerians with this product.
It would be recalled that the government’s plan to remove fuel subsidy is based on the argument that it can no longer afford to pay a whopping N4.6 Trillion per annum on fuel subsidy alone as it has become an unbearable economic burden on the state. However, while the current price of fuel is N165 per litre, the landing cost of the imported version of the same product is N403 per litre. To pay the difference, government has to pay subsidy. So in this year’s budget, the Federal Government planned to pay subsidy up to June 30, 2022. What that meant was that as from July 1, 2022, full fuel subsidy will take effect.
But the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) in its reaction to the cry of common Nigerians, warned that removal of fuel subsidy at a time of high inflation is not only insensitive but must be resisted by the people. It therefore began a massive mobilisation for a planned nationwide protest.
Commenting on Federal Government’s resolve to backpedal on its plan to remove fuel subsidy, Dr Usim Abasi, a petroleum marketer told NewsOrient that “it is a wrong decision taken out of cowardice. Look, since we know we can no longer afford payment of fuel subsidy as a nation, why are we not allowing ourselves to be told the truth? Why do we prefer to be told lies? The truth is that we do not, as at today, have what it takes to refine the petroleum products we need. So we have to import. If we import, the price is not what we are currently paying at the filling stations. To pay the difference, there must be subsidy. But the Nigerian Government cannot continue to bear such burden given its financial realities.”
Mrs Veronica Ukaoma thinks otherwise: “What the Federal Government did is the wise thing to do. Nigerians are suffering. It would be unreasonable to contemplate adding to our sufferings. I think the best thing to do is to retain fuel subsidy for now until government resolves the critical issues like building of refineries or setting up of alternative means of refining of the product.