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CHRICED Flays Sneaky Return of Petrol Subsidy Payment

The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) is surprised by recent wide reports across credible news platforms to the effect that the Federal Government has since August 2023, surreptitiously resumed the payment of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS). If these reports, which the government has not denied, are accurate, it is evident that the citizens have again been deceived and duped. The Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) records, according to reports by Daily Trust newspaper, indicate that the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) paid a subsidy of N169.4 billion in August.

Despite professing for several weeks that it made a courageous and bold decision to end the subsidy regime, it is now evident that the government has reinstated the scheme in a manner that is opaque and lacks transparency. Regrettably, the price of PMS will not return to what it was before May 29th even with the reinstatement of subsidy payments. Given that Nigerians have suffered greatly due to the government’s lack of direction and clarity on the issue of subsidy removal, it is difficult to understand why Tinubu’s administration is taking a contradictory stance, and what is motivating the Federal Government’s approach of flip-flopping on the matter.

It is important to recall that on May 29, when the President made his “subsidy is gone” declaration, he claimed he did so, because he was possessed by the spirit of courage. This is even without any clear plans for the aftermath of the subsidy removal. When labour, CSOs, and other close watchers of the process insisted that there had to be a plan for domestic production and to cushion the effects of such a harsh policy, especially by dealing with oil thefts, they were dismissed as elements who wanted the corrupt, wasteful, and fraudulent subsidy to continue. At the time, Nigerians who objected to the harshness of the policy were told to make the required sacrifice to save the nation from further financial hemorrhage.

The government’s spin doctors, campaigners, and hangers-on were everywhere arguing that the removal of the fuel subsidy would eliminate fiscal constraints, curb corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector, and eliminate the unsustainable cost of the subsidy due to rising fuel prices and a growing population. In addition, they argued that the removal will ensure market efficiency, promote economic growth and development, and free allocations that can be channeled to the provision of infrastructure such as roads, education, health service, power, security, job creation, downstream sector development, improve our GDP growth, crack down on product theft, pipeline vandalism, environmental pollution, foreign exchange shortages, and enable the provision of basic benefits for the “poor in the society”.

However, less than 100 days in office, Tinubu’s government reversal, as evident in the covert reintroduction of subsidy payments, prompted close observers to wonder: what happened to the “spirit of courage” that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu claimed he possessed? Is it because the petroleum subsidy is no longer sham? Could it also be stated that the government no longer has to cope with oil thefts and frauds? Or is it possible that Tinubu’s government is currently being held hostage by the subsidy cabal and forced to reverse its position. Whatever the motivation, it is disturbing and unacceptable that the same administration, which previously praised itself for sparing the nation from the needless spending associated with subsidies, is now returning the nation to the same path through the back door. This means that the trillions of Naira that the government claimed to have saved by eliminating subsidies are now systematically being conned under the guise of resumption of subsidy payments. We have always made it clear that the removal of subsidies will be a never-ending process unless Nigeria ends its current absolute reliance on importation of refined petroleum products to satisfy its energy requirements. Instead of taking decisive action to restore the nation’s refineries, successive governments have relied heavily on imports to meet the nation’s fuel needs. Consequently, the government must promptly put on its thinking cap and find a solution to this problem.

CHRICED urges genuine activists, journalists, advocates, and citizens to keep the government on its toes through stringent demands for accountability. CHRICED also call on the government to provide full disclosure of companies that received the recent subsidy payments and the goods or services they provided to qualify for such payments. We must never forget that the corruption that flourished under the previous subsidy regime was the result of dishonest and underhanded dealings by corrupt marketers/companies. All forms of opaqueness and secrecy will always lead to bad outcomes for the country


Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. ZIkirullahi
Executive Director

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