FUEL SUBSIDY REMOVAL: How Save Is Our Palliative In The Hands Of Governors by Sam Olorunfemi Jr
It is incontrovertible that Nigerians are going through an arduous time currently over the fuel subsidy removal by the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR. It will be recalled that on May 29 at the Eagle Square in Abuja, when President Tinibu in his speech said “Subsidy is gone” marked the beginning of this excruciating pain Nigerians are going through as a result of the removal of fuel subsidies and the unavailability of palliative from the government to ameliorate the aftermath effect of the removal.
Towards the end of the eight years administration of President Mohammed Buhari, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, revealed that government can no longer sustain the payment of fuel subsidy due to the humongous amount of money the government is using capable of rejuvenating critical infrastructure in Nigeria.
In the buildup to the 2023 presidential election, the majority of the candidates vowed to remove fuel subsidy so as curb, and permanently stop the corruption embedded in the fuel subsidy payments and some element of the government which has aggrandized criminality within the system in terms of oil smuggling to neighbouring countries and krhsr heinous acts which make Nigerians yearning for the removal.
Before the stop of fuel subsidy payment, the report has it that; 445 tankers were smuggled out of Nigeria daily with a capacity of between 33,000 to 45,000 litres per tank, N6.6 million to 9 million the average price Nigeria loses on each tanker smuggled outside of Nigeria, N120 billion the amount Nigeria loses monthly to smuggling of subsidised fuel outside Nigeria, N200 the amount in naira that is used to subsidised each litre smuggled out of Nigeria and N294 billion to N4.01 billion the amount Nigeria loses per day to smuggling of subsidised fuel outside Nigeria and this makes Nigerian to say subsidy has to go and President Tinubu did not junk time by saying “subsidy is gone”.
The removal of fuel subsidy was grid with mixed reactions by Nigerians, especially labour unions over the government’s failure to make provisions for palliative to cushion the effect before the removal which made NLC and TUC urgently table before the government demands if include the increment in the minimum wage for workers. In proving a temporary solution, some governors came up with measures to soothe the effect some reduced working days, some introduced affordable transporting systems and some increased minimum wage from 30,000 to 40,000 but the 8,000 monthly proposed payment for 12 million households by the Federal Government for the period of 6 monthly was vehemently rejected by Nigerians as they questioned how the government arrived at the social register to be used and opined that the 8,000 monthly payment will be insignificant to the reality on the ground over food inflation and high cost of the transportation system as a result of the pump price.
On July 18, the government bowed to the pressure of Nigerians over the 8,000 monthly payment and reviewed the process to meet the yearning for a more suitable and effective palliative that will truly ameliorate the pain and not the process that will be subverted by some elements in government.
On July 20, the National Economic Council (NEC) under the chairmanship of the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima met its members (state governors) to review the palliative process for more transparency and effectiveness and after the NEC meeting, Governor Abiodun of Ogun, Governor Soludo of Anambra and Governor Bala Mohamned of Bauchi addressed the state house correspondents and said the federal government palliative would be handed over to state governors.
According to the Governors; Resolutions made today at the National Economic Council:
1. Negotiate a new minimum wage for workers.
2. Each state should plan towards implementing a cash transfer programme based on the social register of the state.
3. Cash Award Policy for public servants for 6 months.
4. State Governments to pay public servants outstanding liabilities.
5. Govt should begin to fund MSMEs with single-digit interest rates.
6. Immediate implementation of the energy transition plan which means transiting from fossil fuels vehicles to CNG.
The number 2 resolution caught the attention of Nigerians, as the state governors will now be in charge of the cash transfer to poor people in their respective states as against the earlier plan to be carried out directly by the federal government.
Governor Solude at the end of the NEC meeting, faulted the social register designed under the Buhari administration, said the register lacked an integrity test as it did not truly capture the poorest of the poor in Nigeria and the present administration can not work with such social register for the cash transfer.
It is not a gain in saying that Nigerians have lost truth in their governors, as a result of governors not prioritising the welfare of their citizens, especially the refusal of the governors to grant the autonomy of the local governments, and financial autonomy of the state houses of assembly which has crippled the legislative activities of the state assembly and administrative activities of the local government.
It would be noted that in May 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari, signed into law an Executive Order to grant financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the country.
The order also mandates the accountant-general of the federation to deduct from the source amount due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state for states that refuse to grant such autonomy.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said these in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Umar Gwandu, which was made available to PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Malami said the Executive Order No. 10 of 2020, made it mandatory that all states of the federation should include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.
According to the AGF, “a Presidential Implementation Committee was constituted to fashion out strategies and modalities for the implementation of financial autonomy for the State Legislature and State Judiciary in compliance with section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended).”
Mr Malami maintained that the implementation of financial autonomy of the state legislature and state judiciary would strengthen the institutions in the states and make them more independent and accountable in line with the tenets of democracy as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
The statement added that “The President signed the Executive Order number 10 into law based on the power vested in him as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under Section 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended), which extends to the execution and maintenance of the Constitution, laws made by the National Assembly (including but not limited to Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended), which guarantee financial autonomy of the State Legislature and State Judiciary.”
Mr Malami said the executive order provides that: “The Accountant-General of the Federation shall by this Order and such any other Orders, Regulations or Guidelines as may be issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, authorise the deduction from source in the course of Federation Accounts Allocation from the money allocated to any State of the Federation that fails to release allocation meant for the State Legislature and State Judiciary in line with the financial autonomy guaranteed by Section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended).”
Today, our governors are fast turning the Senate into a retirement home after third eight years in office, alongside side getting paid allowances outside office although some of the allowances have been aborted in some states.
The question on the lips of Nigerians is how save the federal government fuel subsidy removal palliative in the hands of the state governors and how can Nigerians trust the social register these governors will develop to give the cash transfer to the vulnerable in their states or will it not be from bad to worst as there is a big deficit of trust between the governors and their citizens.
Time will tell how the state governors will go in giving the cash transfer to the vulnerable in their states and the modalities they use to develop a social register that will truly reflect the poorest of the poor.
Sam Olorunfemi Jr