Since the announcement and implementation of the increase in the pump price of fuel from N86 and N86.50 per litre to a cap limit of N145 per litre respectively under the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, one has read and listened to a lot of commentaries from various quarters either innocently, ignorantly or mischievously trying to equate former President Goodluck Jonathan’s policy of removal of fuel subsidy which resulted in the increase in pump price of petrol from N65 to N141 per litre and President Buhari’s policy of liberalizing the downstream sector which resulted in the increase of pump price of fuel from N86.50 to a cap limit of N145 per litre as one and the same.
Regrettably, some of the opponents of the new fuel price regime, instead of coming up with facts and statistics to buttress their position by educating and convincing the people against the present government policy in this age of intellectual discourse, have resorted to abuses, insults and politically partisan statements which clearly exposes their standpoint which is at variance with that of the majority of the people who have queued up behind the new fuel price regime.
Some of these persons and groups have even resorted to tactics of humiliating and intimidating the Nigerian people into a mindset of regret by their relentless assaults, attacks and abuses that Nigerians are hypocritical for stoutly and massively rejecting Goodluck Jonathan’s policy in 2012, but supporting the fuel policy in 2016.
They have uncharitably called persons and groups with whom they were together in the trenches against former President Goodluck Jonathan’s policy in 2012 but who are not with them now on the opposition to the new policy regime due to the reality of the times or for reasons best known to them, all sorts of names and thereby exhibiting ignorance of the fact that “We can’t all sleep and think in one direction” because variety is the spice of life. Infact, it was the philosopher Heraclitus who postulated that “You could not step twice into the same river”, meaning that no two situations are exactly the same. Even in families, agreements and disagreement occurs on issues, but the truth of the matter is that, ones position must be rational, logical and based on facts rather than on sentiments and emotions which is like a mob action mentality.
A critical tenet of democracy as a system of government which a lot of our people are yet to come to grasp with is that, it recognizes that while the majority will have their way, the minority must have their say. So, if a person believes that he or she is endowed with more wisdom than even king Solomon in the Bible and the mass of the people put together and he assumes that the people have committed an error in taking a decision on an issue, it is the height of immaturity and lack of civility to assault and deride peoples sensibility because of differences on issues which is natural.
However, to put the records straight, the attempt to intimidate and assault the peoples sensibilities by attempting to equate the 2012 fuel subsidy removal and 2016 fuel price regime, is obviously incorrect and far from the truth. Thus, there is the urgent need to place issues in proper perspective for the sake of discerning minds and posterity sake, lest the maxim of the infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels that “Tell a lie, a thousand times and it becomes the truth, holds sway.
For records sake, it is imperative to state clearly just as it has been canvassed from certain quarters in explaining the true situation of things vis a vis the 2012 and 2016 fuel price regimes, that the major difference between the former President Goodluck Jonathan and President Buhari’s administrations was the issue of transparency, accountability, trust and responsibility of leadership.
In explaining our position further, it becomes pertinent to reel out the facts which is incontrovertible about the fuel subsidy regimes from previous governments. Stated below is the amount expended on fuel subsidy viz a viz the national budget by the Federal Government for a ten year period of 2006 – 2016:
Year. National Budget. Subsidy Payments
2006 N1. 9 trillion. N151. 9 billion
2007 N2. 3 trillion. N188 billion
2008 N2. 45 trillion N256.3 billion
2009 N3. 049 trillion N421. 5 billion
2010. N4. 6 trillion. N1. 3 trillion
2011. N4. 9 trillion N2. 19 trillion
2012 N4. 7 trillion N1. 049 trillion
2013 N4. 98 trillion. N971 billion
2014 N4. 69 trillion. N971 billion
2015 N4. 49 trillion N1 trillion +
2016 N6. 06 trillion. ———–
From the above table, one can see clearly that the astronomical increase in subsidy payments from N421. 5 billion in 2009 to N1.3 trillion and 2.2 trillion naira in 2010 and 2011 respectively can be noticed from 2010 when ex President Goodluck Jonathan assumed the reins of leadership of the country as acting President.
We need to remind ourselves that in January 2012 when the federal government implemented the removal of fuel subsidy, we could afford it if was transparently managed because our major foreign earner, the crude oil per barrel was selling at above $110 at the international market, the country’s foreign reserve was about $40 billion and there was low or no pipeline vandalism unlike now that the cost of crude oil per barrel has dipped between $40 and $45 or even lower, there is high scale vandalism of oil pipelines which has depleted our income because of a fall in production of crude oil, the foreign reserves was hugely depleted to the tune of about $27 billion by the previous government which went aborrowing to sustain the running cost of the federal government before exiting office as attested to by the then Minister of finance, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonji-Iweala.
The Federal Government’s credibility crisis with the people began when she announced towards the end of 2011 that she was going to remove the fuel subsidy allocation in the 2012 budget because it was unsustainable which was the truth, but was not prepared to render account of stewardship on the management of the fuel subsidy payments which the people viewed as a fraud because of the astronomical rise of the payments against logic and rationality.
Unfortunately, instead of the government to hearken to the cries of the people for an investigation into what the people believed was a fraudulent subsidy regime, she played deaf and tried to sweep under the carpet the demand for accountability on how the fuel subsidy funds was managed and rather embarked on a vigorous campaign on why the fuel subsidy regime must be eliminated in a display of utter insensitivity.
However, when the fuel subsidy was unilaterally removed on January 1, 2012 by the federal government which resulted in an increase in the price of fuel from N65 to N141 per litre without providing answers to the peoples queries on accountability, the battle line was thus drawn and the mass of the people without prompting came to a logical conclusion that if a government which derives its mandate from the people is running away from the tenets of transparency and accountability, which is an essential ingredient of democracy, then such a government does not deserve to be trusted, which was why the people aligned forces in the occupy Nigeria protests all over the country. It was this deficit in credibility that extended thereafter and culminated in the government being voted out of office at the 2015 general elections.
The position of the people that the government cannot punish them for its incompetence and criminal complicity in the fuel subsidy fraud which she was not prepared to investigate and prosecute, was however reinforced by the outcomes of the House of Representatives investigative committee and the Mr. Aigboje Aig Imoukhuede committee which was set up by the federal government as a consequence of the fuel subsidy protests after the irreparable damage to its reputation for aiding and abetting corruption. The report of both committees indicted some persons and companies of fuel subsidy fraud for which they are still standing trial in courts till date.
To correct the misinformation and blackmail of equating the 2012 fuel subsidy situation with the 2016 fuel price regime, we need to make it abundantly clear that the 2012 Occupy Nigeria Protests which witnessed massive turnout of people on their own volition was not a rejection of the removal of fuel subsidy which the people themselves believed was a fraud perpetrated against our commonwealth, but was a rejection of a government that was hands in glove with corruption in violation of the constitution and our values as a people of honour.
Before assuming office, President Muhammadu Buhari explicitly stated at campaign foras that the fuel subsidy regime is a fraud which was in tandem with the thinking of mass majority of Nigerians and has been validated by the ongoing prosecution of alledged fuel subsidy fraudsters, hence in the submission of the 2016 budget which was his first national budget to the National Assembly, there was no provision for fuel subsidy payments.
Moreover, President Buhari is widely regarded as a man of high moral pedestal not only with the Nigerian people but also in the international community because of his Spartan lifestyle which endeared him to Nigerians who voted him into office and are solidly behind his government on this new fuel policy. It is this credibility of responsible leadership that indisputably separates the present leadership from its predecessor and is the difference between 2012 and 2016 because leadership is about trust.
On a final note, one would like to admonish the opponents of this new fuel policy who have resorted to abuses, insults, attacks and blackmail instead of putting up superior arguments, to realize that in 2016, just like in 2012, there is divergence of opinions on the issues, but it will make sense if they can come up with incontrovertible reasons of why people should see things from their lens as against the reality on the ground, because a society becomes endangered when issues are not dissected dispassionately on its merit but on the basis of who is involved.
The Eagle News