Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, a pro-poor and pro-democracy rights group has condemned the recent call for upward review of the price of premium motor spirit otherwise known as fuel in the Nigerian parlance. This development is not only or ill-advised but equally ill-omened, the Foundation says.
The recent call for upward review of the current price template from ₦162/₦165 to ₦380/₦408.5 as advanced by a committee of Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, at a time when purchasing power had sharply declined in a post-pandemic economy shows how unthinking the subnational governments are especially in an economy with 33% unemployment and rising inflation rate of 18.7%.
If they had the people in mind, the consortium known as NGF would have known that a negotiated subsidy regime which is phased and one which also does not weigh on the starving poor would have been the best for a time like this. It was not surprising, FENRAD says, that the same governors most of whom do not pay pension to old citizens wanted to share in a federal drawing from the national pension fund even when they could not enforce, let alone sustain, the ₦30,000 minimum wage statewide.
It is such a shame that the governors who receive monthly allocation and security votes to boot fart about idly and do nothing with such funds now see no logic in the fact that at ₦380 and upwards per litre price of PMS the average Nigerian worker cannot afford basic or essential services like transportation. FENRAD regrets that this is happening in an economy where small scale businesses and most middle-class and low-income families provide power for themselves relying on power generators that use PMS or automotive gas oil (diesel).
The Nigerian Governors Forum has indeed shown why it stood against the Executive Order Number 10 of President Buhari which called for local government (financial) autonomy. Rather than disburse to the local councils sums standing to their credit in the form of statutory revenue, the governors prefer to keep same in the so-called joint account; prefer also to have appointed stooges rather than elected executive council chairmen at the council level, and have as well fought vehemently against legislative autonomy at state level.
This policy initiative of the NGF which does not align with the reality and living condition of Nigerians tells any rational being how removed, even isolated, the governors are from their citizens.
The better way going forward is to have a gradual process of subsidy removal than weakening purchasing power of the indigent masses thereby plunging economic activities into a recess through any ill-timed removal of subsidy, FENRAD advises. Government must, as a matter of fact, pluck leakages. Billions are wasted yearly by the Petroleum Equalisation Fund Management Board in the name of maintaining a national uniform product price yet in Abia, Gombe, Adamawa and even Plateau and Kaduna States PMS is sold at over ₦165. Again, cost of governance in the form personnel cost is no longer tenable. These and more are areas government can look into to shore up the economy which is facing contraction.
While it is true that subsidy payment is draining the federal government, it is reasonably better to understand that daily Nigerians are facing poverty and are in dire straits. FENRAD calls on the state governors to withdraw forthwith such insensitive policy and to, for once, act in the interest of the starving poor.
Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor
FENRAD Executive Director
Aba.Abia state, Nigeria
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