HOW THE SUBSIDY REGIME IS A RIP OFF OF NIGERIANS
The nouveau democratic transfer of political power from a ruling party to the opposition in Nigeria raises issues of the complementary changes expected in the policy direction of the new government. It is certain what relieves Nigerians sighed with the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as ruling party and Muhammadu Buhari as President. Some section of Nigerians saw this emergence as the overthrow of an old order and the entrance of a new one. It is upon this perception that some Nigerians believe that the incumbent government is duty bound to depart from the exploitative policies of past administrations, which enslaved the people to their leaders. The government of President Buhari must not appear to Nigerians as been insincere with their mantra of “Change”. The assurance of “killing corruption before it kills Nigerians” is one campaign promise President Buhari must accomplish if he is not a liar.
Change means a complete or partial departure from a past or an existing situation. In the case of the APC, the “Change” they have continually preached to Nigerians is understood as a complete departure from the past: a reverse of the former ways of governance and the summersault of stale policies. It is therefore upon this platform that the intervention of government by subsidizing petroleum products is currently under examination. The queues we presently observe on our roads at fuel outlets across the country is quite worrisome and a clear indication that there is no clear or apparent departure from what President Buhari inherited from previous governments.
The subsidy regime was introduced as a policy of government to benefit ordinary Nigerians and make petroleum products available, accessible and affordable for the people. However, it is not a hidden fact that since the commencement of the present democratic dispensation and the 16-year abusive rule of the Peoples Democratic Party, Nigerians have had one sour tale or another to tell about this policy of subsidizing petroleum products for the affordability of Nigerians.
There is clearly never a time Nigerian housewives have bought kerosene (DPK) at government regulated price of N50, except during the period when Capital Oil and Gas Limited, owned by a certain PDP apologist called Ifeanyi Uba, used the product to shore up support for the acceptance of the candidature of Goodluck Jonathan by availing the product for dispensing in northern Nigeria during the 2011 Presidential election. Nobody in South South Nigeria enjoyed this privilege except members of a Church in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, called “Omega Power Ministries” (OPM), founded by a certain preacher called Chibuzor Chinyere, when Dr? Uba released so many metric tons of DPK to the Church for distribution to members as “thanksgiving offering” for the “divine cure” he received for his terminal heart disease. Imagine using the product subsidized by our commonwealth for a “thanksgiving” unrelated to Nigerians. What a confused country!
Although only a select but few Nigerians enjoyed this privilege, we all know the price Nigerians paid for such and other misjudgments when subsidy claims at that time led to the decision of government to oust the subsidy regime in order to liberalize the petroleum sector. Of course the January 2012 subsidy riots across the country at the peak of the Arab spring is still very green in our memories. The truth about that riot was not predicated on Nigerians rejecting the removal of the subsidy regime but on how the regime was abused at the expense of Nigerians, causing untold hardship to the people. That riot must therefore not be construed as Nigerians rejecting the removal of the subsidy regime. To hang upon this lie is a deadly ambush against the people.
At the close of the Jonathan’s administration, we experienced the same scarcity we are presently experiencing, and some section of opinions had, at that time, suggested the gradual removal of the subsidy regime and the resuscitation of our comatose refineries. It was therefore a big relief for Nigerians when Emmanuel Ibe Kachiku was appointed Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and he set out to work on the Kaduna, Warri and Port Harcourt refineries. It was a tiding of great joy to Nigerians when Dr Kachuku announced to Nigerians that the Kaduna and Warri refineries have started receiving crude and refining products.
Nevertheless, the recent delays in subsidy remittance and the subsequent scarcity of products leaves the claims of the incumbent Minister (State) for Petroleum questionable. If Kaduna and Warri refineries were functional why are Nigerians presently paying for the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) at an average cost of N170/litre across the country? If the Kaduna and Warri refineries were producing, why are the numerous NNPC mega stations remaining closed for lack of products? The recent claims by oil marketers to subsidy funds also puts a lie to Dr Kachiku well publicised claim of terminating the existing Offshore Processing Agreement (OPA) of the federal government, which accentuates the business method called “crude swap”. What is this crab called “crude swap”?.
The NNPC, in my opinion, is excessively staffed and it has, more than usual, too many subsidiaries, which are also, more than usual, over-staffed to manage and regulate our oil sector activities. Imagining the financial resources spent by Nigerians to maintain and sustain these establishment and staff, one wonders why contractors would be needed to handle “crude swap” for the over-bloated staff and organs of the NNPC. This is happening in the face of the very abnormal incentives enjoyed by workers in this sector, in a Nigeria where the minimum monthly wage of N18,000 caters for only 23% of Nigerians and with over 70% others having no clear means of livelihood. This is criminal of government; and the attitude of looking away from this anti-people conduct is disparaging and suffocating. It is unacceptable and totally repugnant.
The rip off of Nigerians by the government through the NNPC and its subsidiaries is fatally annoying and a grave arm twisting. How would it be explained that the same fuel we now buy for N170 per litre is the same fuel for which Mr President is seeking the consent of the senate to pay? This can only happen in Nigeria where anything goes and leaders behave like miscreants scavenging on and exploiting citizen’s tolerance and their hope for change. Why wouldn’t oil marketers sell petroleum products at the regulated price and pick their subsidy claims and remittances when they are ready? Why would they sale products for which they are expecting subsidy remittances from government at deregulated price? Is there any litre of fuel sold in Nigeria for which government does not subsidize? Why are Nigerians paying more than N87 per litre for PMS? Since Dr Kachiku instructed DPR to sanction fuel dispensaries for selling products above pump price, how many of these outlets have been sanctioned or do not Nigerians deserve to know?
Why wouldn’t the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) approve subsidy payments only for products not dispensed and available at tank farms? Why must NNPC and government continue to remit subsidy payments based on import documents instead of available products? If NNPC and its subsidiaries are incompetent to handle “crude swap”, and the importation of refine products in the face of their incompetence to manage and sustain our refineries, I ask: why is government still tolerating the incompetence of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and spending very exorbitantly to pay staff for their redundancy?
With the NNPC mega fuel dispensing outlets across the nation; with the NNPC numerous subsidiaries; with the services of complementary agencies of government handling regulatory services in the oil sector; and their retinue of over-bloated staff; and the apparent false claims by Dr Kachiku to the functioning of the Kaduna, Warri and Port Harcourt refineries, and the termination of the Offshore Processing Agreements, methinks it is robbery and gross hypocrisy for the “Change” mantled government of President Buhari to continue to remit outrageous subsidy claims to contractors while also expending excess resources from our commonwealth to fund the redundancy in the NNPC and its subsidiaries.
President Buhari surely has alternatives to this double hoisted siphoning and the fleecing of our commonwealth. He either mandates the NNPC, its subsidiaries and their over-bloated staff to sit up to handle the “crude swap” and deliver petroleum products to their numerous mega outlets across the country for sale to ordinary Nigerians using the subsidy funds, and allow independent marketers to pay for the crude they can afford and refine it themselves for sale in Nigeria at any rate they so desire; or they scrap the NNPC and its subsidiaries and mandate oil contractors to pay for crude they can afford and handle their businesses themselves without recourse to any subsidy.
Nigerians have an option in long distant trekking as exemplified by some people after Buhari’s election or in bicycle riding alar Ojo Madueke as in China and Japan. Our forefathers trekked and rode on bicycles. It is clear to Nigerians how the subsidy regime, meant to cushion the suffering of Nigerians, is funding the private pockets of government functionaries, officials of the NNPC and the oil contractors against the benefits of Nigerians. Buhari, please remove oil subsidy NOW and make the NNPC and its subsidiaries to appropriately earn the commonwealth wasted to fund their redundancy, using contractors with no pedigree as cover up. We are stomach-full with this nonsense.