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Fuel Subsidy Removal and the Concept of Change

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Fuel Subsidy Removal

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

It is common knowledge that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) recently rejected the federal government’s proposed N5,000 for 40 million poor Nigerians when the subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly called petrol, is removed.

While describing it as ‘nonsensical’ the argument that the complete surrender of the price of petrol to market forces would normalize the curve of demand and supply as it is being wrongly attributed to the current market realities with cooking gas, diesel and kerosene are very obtuse, the union, according to media reports, warned that the bait by the government to pay 40 million Nigerians N5,000 as a palliative to cushion the effect of the astronomical increase in the price of petrol, is comical.

Essentially, before going ahead to admit the fact that the NLC captured what has been on the minds of Nigerians, there is a need that I add context to the present discourse.

It is public knowledge that prior to the 2015 general election when the word ‘change’ made its way to the nation’s leadership lexicon via our political leaders, who at that time, in the image of their actions, and in their quest for new but personal fields to increase their wealth and wellbeing, redefine the word and lavishly promised Nigerians same, Nigerians have never paid ‘disciplined attention’ to, or hobnobbed/romanced such a word.

Also lamentable is the awareness that without studying the various propositions presented by the change proponents, and failures by well-informed citizens to inform the masses accordingly, politicians persuaded Nigerians to endorse and applaud the lavishly promised ‘change’ without knowing or recognition that it was harmful to their interest.

With the above highlighted and in order not to allow the true meaning/obligation of change in any given society, state or nation, to go with political winds, this piece will further keep issues where they are.

Globally, the concept of change has been a subject of metaphysical discourse and dispute.

As noted by an author, the notion of change is always related to being, the relationship of being and becoming in infinite beings. Whatever change is and is not, it has a past, a present and a future. Change as it were, is a self-evident fact; we experience change.

Hence we can say for certain that change is the primary datum of experience. Everything given to experience is subject to change. Hence, change is a universal phenomenon. Change involves movement from one pole to another. It is a transition of being from one mode of being to another mode of being. To change implies to be different and yet somehow to remain the same. That is, the past mode and the present mode are somehow different and somehow the same.

Second and very fundamental, like so many unpalatable experiences in the past (electricity tariff among others), this piece holds the opinion that engineering change is not the problem but how the government defines/understands the concept of change. This understanding daily reflects in the federal government choices and slanted decisions that today paints our nation with the politics of fear and bankruptcy of ideology, perpetuates poverty and promotes powerlessness, impedes socio-economic development, leaves our democracy down-graded and troubled; visits Nigerians with tears while eroding opportunities for sound policy formulation.

More importantly, aside from the fact that the planned fuel subsidy removal has recently seen the relationship between the government and the governed transcends to a chaotic coexistence, leaving Nigerians as both victims of blasted hope, there are of course more reasons why Nigerians are not particularly happy with such development and can no longer trust the social contract or the framework of rules that governs the state.

Here is my philosophy; recently, life in the estimation of Nigerians who once lived in comfort and loved to stay alive, has become not only a burden but the shout of the ‘good old days’ now rends the nations’ wavelength with the cost of living comparatively high and national security now a problem, our value system which used to be sound has gradually been eroded and people no longer have value for hard work and honesty.

The country is currently the direct opposite of what it used to be. There is uncertainty and collective fears of the future, stemming from state weakness, clientele and indiscriminate repression which have resulted in the emergence of armed responses by marginalized groups and nationalist, ethnic or other populist ideologies.

The situation says something more. Across the board, there exist political and institutional factors: weak state institutions, elite power struggles and political exclusion, breakdown in social contract and corruption, identity politics. Socioeconomic factors such as inequality, exclusion and marginalization, absence or weakening of social cohesion, poverty among others.

Most importantly, with the promised change by the present administration; Nigerians thought that they (FG) will make conscious efforts to enhance primary health care facilities across the country, reduce costs and unnecessary pressure on secondary/tertiary health care facilities.

Personally, I have personally thought that the promised change in 2015 would increase the number of, and improve the quality of all federal government-owned hospitals to world-class standards within five years.

In the area of education, Nigerians are particularly not happy that the present Federal Government is unable to carry out a thorough review of the education sector and tackle the main causes of the sectors’ decline, implement fully and enforce the provisions of the Universal Basic Education Act with emphasis on gender equity in primary and secondary school enrolment while also improving the quality and substance of the schools.

Without a doubt, Nigerians had earlier believed that the present administration would reinstate the now abandoned Teacher Training College to train teachers, make substantial investments in training programmes at all levels of the educational system, re-introduce technical and vocational education nationwide by giving adequate material support to such institutions. They (Nigerians) expected the APC led administration to spend up to the UNESCO budgetary recommendation on the education sector.

Whatever may be the failures, this piece believes that we must as a nation return to where it started from. This is because, despite the validity of the federal government’s present argument, nobody will believe them particularly as Mr President had during a media broadcast on October 1, 2020, insisted that petroleum prices in Nigeria must be adjusted as it makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia.

Let’s again listen to that remark; we sell now at N161 per litre. A comparison with our neighbours will illustrate the point; Chad which is an oil-producing country charges N362 per litre; Niger, also an oil-producing country sells 1 litre at N346; In Ghana, another oil-producing country, the petroleum pump price is N326 per litre; Further afield, Egypt charges N211 per litre. Saudi Arabia charges N168 per litre. It makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia, Buhari concluded.

No nation, in my view, can become great under a leadership arrangement with such orientation/thinking.

Jerome-Mario Utomi, Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), writes from Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com or 08032725374.

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BEDC Promises to Restore Electricity to Delta Community

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benin electricity distribution company BEDC

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) has promised to restore electricity to the Agbarho community in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State.

This was disclosed by the Head of the Community Relations of BEDC, Mr Simple Ugherakpoteri, at a meeting between the company and leaders of the community.

He explained that the prolonged power outage in the community was caused by a heavy downpour that destroyed electric poles.

He stated that BEDC’s men were already working and power will be restored immediately they are through.

Mr Ugherakpoteri also promised to look into the issue of overbilling and estimated bills complained about by the community.

Responding on behalf of the community, President General of Agbarho Urhobo Improvement Union, Mr Monday Igho-Odiphri, described the meeting as fruitful and expressed hope that power will be restored to the community as soon as possible.

He urged BEDC officials to keep to their own part of the agreement and promised to give all necessary assistance, assuring that the BEDC office will not be relocated from the community.

Recently, members of the Delta community took to the streets to protest against the incessant power outage in the area and outrageous estimated bills being imposed on them by the company.

BEDC is responsible for the retail distribution of electricity in Delta, Edo, Ekiti, and Ondo States with geographical coverage of 55,770 square kilometres.

The company operates from 25 business districts with approximately 350 offices located across the four states with about 13 million people and about 4 million households.

The DisCo is the 4th largest in distribution capacity and 3rd largest in the number of households among the Distribution Companies (Discos) in Nigeria.

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Apprehension Over AMCON MD’s Visit to EFCC

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AMCON Ahmed Kuru

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The visit of the Managing Director of Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), Mr Ahmed Kuru, to the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is already causing apprehension.

Mr Kuru was reportedly grilled by the anti-graft agency on Wednesday after he was invited by the organisation for questioning.

Already, it is being speculated that his ordeal with the EFCC may be connected with the plans by AMCON to name and shame chronic debtors, who took loans from commercial banks but refused to repay as promised.

Yesterday, the AMCON MD was grilled by the agency over allegations bordering on the diversion of assets and the sale of the properties to his associates at ridiculous prices.

According to reports, Mr Kuru allegedly sold properties valued at billions of naira belonging to Atlantic to another despite a court case on the assets.

Atlantic was accused of loan default with Skye Bank and the properties in collateral were seized and allegedly sold below the prevailing market value while the action was instituted in court.

Amid these accusations, the EFCC is yet to comment at the time of filing this report.

AMCON is an agency set up by the federal government to acquire all toxic loans of commercial banks, with the aim of recovering them.

In November 2021, the agency submitted a list containing its top 1,000 obligors owing N4.4 trillion to the National Assembly.

Mr Kuru had said with the support of the parliament and the Judiciary, recovering the total current exposure on all Eligible Bank Asset (EBAs), which stands at N4.4 trillion, may be possible before the sunset period.

He had lamented that more recently, due to the socio-economic downturn, the market values of assets have significantly reduced, lower than the valuation at the point of EBAs purchase, making it extremely difficult to consummate sales transactions.

“To enable AMCON to succeed in its national call to duty, AMCON solicits the continued support of this Distinguished Committee. The Judiciary must be encouraged to respect the provisions of the law that require them to fast-track cases before them, issue certificates of judgement on properties, which the Corporation has no collateral and demand debtors to deposit Judgment sum before proceeding to appeal any judgement,” he had stated.

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NSCDC Denies Operating Illegal Oil Bunkering Site

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Illegal Oil Bunkering Site

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has debunked the rumour that its marine exhibits yard in Ogbogoro jetty, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, was an illegal oil bunkering site.

This was made known by the Rivers State Commandant of NSCDC, Mr Aliyu Bature, who explained that the Ogbogoro jetty has remained its marine exhibits yard for over 10 years.

He added that every marine exhibit like boats, vessels, barges drums, arrested by or handed over to the Corps by sister agencies for oil theft are usually detained at the yard, pending investigation and court prosecution.

This follows claims made by Obio/Akpor LGA Chairman, Mr George Ariolu, that the NSCDC marine exhibits yard in Ogbogoro was being used for illegal bunkering activities.

In the reaction to the allegation, Mr Bature disclosed that the NSCDC Commandant General, Mr Abubakar Audi, in December 2021 visited the said yard, maintaining that it was a known fact that the yard has been the Corps’ marine exhibits yard.

The agency said some of the exhibits, including 220 drums of AGO and eight Cotonou boats in the yard were seized by the Nigerian Navy and handed over to the NSCDC last week, while other vessels were taken by operatives of the Corps.

He disclosed that the agency has got an intelligence report that hoodlums were planning to attack the yard, by setting it ablaze in order to destroy the exhibits, assuring that such plans will be strongly resisted.

“This place is our marine exhibits yard and not an illegal dump. Most of the exhibits here were arrested by the Navy and handed over to us, while some of the arrests too were made by us.

“The commandant general was here in December and he’s aware that this place is our exhibits yard.

“The Commandant General has deployed personnel to ensure the place is secured, Ogbogoro jetty is a no-go area for anybody because destroying this place means destroying the exhibits to prove that these products were all stolen.

“We had it on good authority that hoodlums were planning to attack this place in order to destroy the exhibits and we will not allow that,” the statement said.

The NSCDC also urged members of the public to report any personnel of the organisation who is involved in the business of aiding and abetting oil theft, illegal bunkering and vandalism, warning that the agency will not hesitate to show such person the way out.

“If any of our personnel is caught, please report the person to us and we will discipline the person accordingly.

“The NSCDC leadership does not in any way condone acts of indiscipline. We are charged to protect critical national assets and if any of our personnel is involved, we will not take it likely.

“That is why those who were in charge of the anti-vandal unit have been disbanded, and are being investigated currently by the committee set up by the Commandant General,” the statement said.

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