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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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Verification of Bank of Agriculture Pensioners Begins

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Bank of Agriculture pensioners

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Pensioners of the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) who missed the previous verification exercises under the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) now have the opportunity to be verified.

This is because the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) has fixed Monday, August 22 to Wednesday, August 24, 2022, for their verification.

In a statement signed by the management of the agency, it was stated that the verification exercise is also for pensioners of other organisations who could not appear for the previous ones.

In the statement, PTAD said Bank of Agriculture pensioners and others should appear at the Afficient Event Centre located on No. 74, Sultan Road, Nassarawa G.R.A. Kano State and at the PTAD Marquee, tucked in 22 Katsina-Ala Crescent, Maitama, Abuja between 8 am and 4 pm for the three days.

PTAD emphasised that pensioners with incomplete documents should obtain a Letter of Introduction from the management of their agencies and an affidavit for the loss of documents.

The documents they are expected to present for verification include the original and photocopies of their career documents, stamped and signed BVN with a picture, one month stamped and signed bank statement, NIN or any other valid identification.

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Ikeja Electric Signs Deal for Better Power Supply to Ayobo

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Ayobo Community Ikeja Electric

By Adedapo Adesanya

A tripartite interconnected mini-grid agreement has been signed by Ikeja Electric Plc, Enaro Energy Limited and the Ayobo community for the provision of reliable and uninterrupted electricity supply to Ishokan Phase 1 Estate, Mercy Land Estate, and Mercy Land Phase1 residents in Ayobo, Lagos State.

The initiative is in line with the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission’s (NERC) goal of ensuring there is a reliable and steady power supply across communities in the country through partnerships between distribution companies (DisCos) and independent power generators.

The agreement, which was signed on Wednesday at Ikeja Electric’s corporate headquarters in Alausa, Lagos, will rely on the interconnected mini-grid initiative of the power sector to provide the customers with an uninterrupted power supply.

Speaking on this, Mrs Seqinah Adewunmi, the Chief Finance Officer of Ikeja Electric, who represented the Chief Executive Officer, Mrs Folake Soetan, during the signing of the agreements, stated that the initiative was a landmark in the history of the power sector in the state.

She added that those communities will be the first to experience uninterrupted power supply via a blend of grid and off-grid generation and distribution of power.

According to her, “it will demonstrate the possibility that our customers can enjoy 24 hours power supply which is in line with the core mission of Ikeja Electric to be the provider of choice wherever power is consumed.”

She congratulated everyone that has been part of the process, revealing that the initiative will transform the ways in which electricity is being distributed in Nigeria.

She further stated that this initiative will set the pace for bigger things to happen as the plan is to expand to other communities within the Ikeja Electric Franchise area.

On his part, Mr Oluwaseun Smith, the Managing Director of Enaro Energy, expressed his appreciation that the project was finally coming to fruition, adding that the journey began about two and half years ago and was glad that all the efforts towards ensuring the signing of the contract were worth it.

He stated that Enaro Energy was committed to providing the necessary resources to ensure the success of the project.

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Obasanjo Charges Africa to Decide Its Energy Future

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Olusegun Obasanjo Africa

By Adedapo Adesanya

Former president of Nigeria, Mr Olusegun Obasanjo, has said Africa must take charge of its own energy destiny and use its rich resource assets for the benefit of its own people.

His comments come in support of the Africa Oil Week (AOW), which is necessitated as the world scrambles to find new sources of oil and gas to meet its energy needs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In this context, Mr Obasanjo noted that African countries cannot be beholden to the unrealistic ideals of the Global North for an exclusively renewables-driven economy, saying this is particularly true when the developed world is itself accepting the need for hydrocarbons.

“Like the rest of the world, Africa must follow energy policies that promote socio-economic development and sustainable hydrocarbon use,” he said.

The former Head of State, who ruled Africa’s largest crude oil producer from 1999 to 2007 said, “Africa is the lowest producer of greenhouse-gas emissions and needs to lift nearly half-a-billion citizens out of poverty.

“Responsible management of our hydrocarbons and investment in our economies is necessary to ensure a just energy transition and sustainable growth for our people.”

The European Union (EU) had previously said it intends to cut Russian-supplied oil by up to 90 per cent by the end of 2022, and the announcement has already caused global energy costs to soar.

Africa is one of the potential new sources of energy to replace this supply, with an estimated 61 billion barrels of oil equivalent being discovered in the region over the past 10 years.

Mr Obasanjo’s view aligns with that of the African Petroleum Producers Organization (APPO), which also called on member countries and other global institutions to use petroleum as a catalyst for energy security, sustainable development, and economic diversification in Africa through collaboration and partnerships.

Mr Obasanjo has been a major leader of Africa’s post-colonial period, having overseen Nigeria’s transition to representative democracy. Since his move out of the government sphere, he has been a senior statesman, active in defining geopolitical issues – including energy.

He also helped to shape the modern Nigerian oil industry, inaugurating policy reforms that have seen the country become an energy superpower on the African continent.

“Creating an African oil industry that benefits Africa’s people needs strong policy and regulation.

“During my time in government, we launched oil-and-gas policy reforms that helped to build a modern oil and gas hub. There were many learnings that we can apply across the wider region. I look forward to discussing these opportunities for Africa.”

He then called for accelerated dialogue on the sustainable development of hydrocarbons, and the role of Africa as a supplier of global energy needs.

“There has been much talk at forums such as the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos about a just energy transition. However, we must not allow Africa to be dictated to. The discussions at AOW will be pivotal in charting a new energy course for Africa. We will decide what is best for us,” he said.

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