Replacing N1.8trn subsidy with N2.4trn palliative a scam, unwise – Nigerians to FG

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Nigerians have described as fraudulent and an insult to their sensibilities, the proposal by the Federal Government to disburse N5,000 monthly to 40 million poor citizens to assist them cushion the impact of fuel subsidy removal which the government said will take effect in the middle of next year.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed had said that the N5,000 monthly stipend was designed to cushion the negative impact of the removal of the subsidy on the most vulnerable 40% of the population ahead of the target date of mid-2022 for the complete elimination of fuel subsidies.

In their reactions, Nigerians from all walks of life condemned the proposal and questioned the sincerity of the government that wants to remove the annual fuel subsidy of N1.8trn but replace it with N2.4trn which it will dole out to 40 million poor Nigerians every month. They also wondered how N5,000 could help anyone in this harsh economic condition and put government to task on its yardstick in determining poor Nigerians. They argued that rather than embark on a venture that will end up enriching few individuals, the government should use the money to build infrastructure in the country.

Hon. Ken Robinson, National Publicity Secretary, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF dismissed the gesture as fraudulent saying, “It’s a fraudulent and unreasonable plan to further siphon and plunder the resources of the country. The federal government claims it spends N150 billion monthly on fuel subsidy, now they want to stop it and the proposition is to pay N5,000 monthly to 40 million poor Nigerians which amount to N200 billion monthly. Does it make any economic sense? What difference would five thousand naira make in any Nigerian’s life given the high cost of living in the country? Besides, who are the poorest of the poor in Nigeria and what is the yardstick? It’s preposterous! It is anti-citizens! They are simply trying to evolve a scheme to muster money for the next election. It’s sad that citizens are always made to bear the ramifications of the failures of the government.”

Mr. Niyi Rotimi, Head, Human Right Department of the Justice, Development & Peace Movement, Abeokuta, said “what the federal government needs to do before the removal of oil subsidy is to make our refineries functional in order to reduce or cut down the price of petroleum products like kerosene, diesel and cooking gas. Payment of N5,000 to 40 million Nigerians is a misplaced priority. In Nigeria of today, what can N5,000 buy? Again, does the Minister of Finance have data of poor people in Nigeria? How many of such poor people reside in a particular state, local government or community? How many per 774 local government areas? It’s clear that this government does not have definite direction. N5,000 to cushion the hardship intentionally created by the government is the second phase of school feeding that has no effect on the pupils.

School feeding is a failed programme because government was not sincere with the good people of Nigeria, likewise the N5,000 is another way of siphoning our common wealth. Rather than sharing N5,000 to poor Nigerians to cushion the hardship of the proposed removal of oil subsidy, Nigerians need motorable roads, drinkable water, effective and functional health services system, food security, safety of lives and property, functional, effective and independent judicial system to curb corruption at all levels of governance in order for all and sundry to benefit from our common wealth.

According to Dr Akpor Mudiaga-Odje, a Human Rights Activist, “the question is what will a miserable and abysmally infinitesimal N5,000 do for any Nigerian in one month? Anybody this N5,000 can help monthly in anyway must have been hitherto in a state

of serious pandemic poverty that can never be cured. The result to me is that the Federal Government proposal is an insult to the sensibilities of Nigerians. It is too little and too late a proposal, rather Federal Government should tell the actual price it can give us fuel and use the fraudulent subsidy payments to develop us and our battered nation, period.”

In his own reaction, Elder Taiye Ayorinde, Baale Ekotedo asks; “is it just those 40million people that will suffer when subsidy is finally removed? It is just a way of siphoning money. How will they account for the distribution, what documentation do they have to share such fund? Is it the local government that will provide the names of the people to take the money or the state government or the federal? It’s just a way of stealing money. What they are supposed to do is to create more jobs. The amount of money they said they want to spread around among 40million people is enough to create jobs.

On his part, Mr Sola Fayemi, PLIDE, Sec-Gen said, “the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari on the removal of fuel subsidy is an indication that the present administration is taking Nigerians for granted. Before the emergence of this administration, we were told refineries would be repaired and made to function effectively, ensure that we produce PMS for local consumption locally and build more refineries before subsidy could be removed, having agreed that it is not sustainable.

However, to now intend to bribe Nigerians with a token N5000 in order to unleash suffering on them, amount to taking them for granted. Government is trying to shut the masses from talking when it eventually implements the draconian policy. There is too much hunger and suffering in the land for this administration to attempt to remove subsidy when there is no assurance that it will alleviate their suffering. Government should first fulfill its promises of ensuring working refineries, initiate policies to guarantee employment for youths and social security for the elderly before introducing these policies, Nigerians deserve better than what they are getting.

For Iniruo Wills, President, Ijaw Professionals Association (Homeland Chapter), he simply said: “I’m still looking for the sense in it and can’t find any.”

Joseph Ambakederimo, Converner, South South Rewakening Group, said: “How would the 40million poor be selected across the country, who of the poor would be eligible to benefit? Is it going to be per poor household or every individual in a household or for how many in a household? These are many unanswered questions that will certainly plague the scheme. It is not just to announce without well thought out modalities to ensure the scheme does not run aground or become another cesspool of self enrichment. Let us get electricity working at an optimal level and everything else is cured.

“If the government allows those with the financial muscles import petroleum products and allow the market forces take its course it could just be the panacea to all of these recurring issues that have defied solutions. We might just see a situation where the pricing becomes competitive.

According to Amaebi Clarkson, a legal practitioner, “This is another blind move by the Federal Government. Why is this administration so obsessed with cosmetic projects. It should rather use the money to fix our refineries and revamp the power situation in the country. If power is stable, Nigerians are hardworking, they will eke a living for themselves.

A sizeable chunk of the proposed N5000 would go into private pockets and even the left over will only benefit relatives and friends of politicians, it will not trickle down to the intended persons in the rural areas. This administration had floated such programmes before and have they assessed the success of the programmes? While I agree with subsidy removal, the intended N5000 should be used for radical vital infrastructural improvement in the states. In any case, this government has contaminated over 79% of the populace with poverty so what impact would N5000 for 40million Nigerians do in this country?”

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An accountant in Bauchi, Yusuf Abdulrasheed contended that the removal of fuel subsidy will multiply the suffering in the country. He said, “everyday we wake up to new harsh government policies. Even without the removal of fuel subsidy, tell me how N5,000 can help anyone in this country? Besides, how many times will they remove fuel subsidy? They did that many times already and they want to do it again. That money can not even get you a 6kg of cooking gas.

We will just have to keep praying that we survive this policy because things are not looking good at all. If as a professional who earns money but the salary no longer takes care of my needs, think of how useless N5,000 will be for the millions of jobless people and our old and weak parents when the suffering multiplies from the removal of subsidy. It is heart wrenching. Who will save us?”

Another resident, Salman Sadiq said, “things are very bad as it is, yet they are talking of removing subsidy. Go to the market and see for yourself, you won’t be able to purchase anything because the high inflation in the country has made our purchasing power very low. The day we all get tired of this maltreatment, that is the very day government will begin to focus on doing the right thing for the benefit of the common man”.

A former Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mr. Peter Umoh said the Federal government should rather channel such funds into reconstructing one major bad federal road in each of the geo-political zones that would benefit everyone. He said, “What Nigerians need is massive and urgent reconstruction of road infrastructure.

Nigeria roads especially in the South are so terrible. “So the reconstruction of such terrible roads will benefit everybody and reduce the high cost of living. That is why I am appealing to the FG to jettison such idea of paying N5,000 to Nigerians. I am not saying it is not good giving people money, but what do we think the N5,000 can do for a Nigerian today other than one manageable pot of soup. The disbursement of N5,000 will not give the Federal government credit that lasts up to one hour. But the reconstruction of those major federal roads will for instance help traders who travel to Northern Cross River to bring foodstuffs down here. It will reduce the high cost of transportation fare and foodstuff will be cheap, because the bad roads has contributed so much to hike in price of food items in the country in recent times”

Darlington Nwauju, Spokesman, Niger Delta Rights Advocate, said, “Such a policy thrust would come with details such as – students, working class (private/public), unemployed. Since we are a nation that lacks a synchronized population database, I fear for the precision with which they target population of most impacted Nigerians, who should benefit from such a policy. Secondly, having at the back of my mind the spiralling effect of fuel pump prices on the cost of living in Nigeria, I fear that the government just have to do much more to satisfy the expectations of Nigerians in an important election year.

Practically, inflation of costs will diminish current salaries and wages of the workforce, meaning that there will be corresponding demands by the labour center for new wage negotiations. For me, government has to think through such a policy as I see it causing a major drawback on the popularity of the Federal Government.”

Celestine AkpoBari, Human/Environmental Rights Defender, simply wondered if, “This is surely not the right time to add to our suffering. Nigerians have suffered enough, any further action to inflict more pains would and should be resisted.”

According to Wilfred Timothy, “It’s a good initiative if it will reach the right people especially now that people are struggling. We heard different palliative are going on. We are calling on the government to do the right thing. “

Christiana Babayo, said “this is the most absurd thing I have heard in recent time. The subsidy should remain and the FG should go back to the drawing board and find an alternative. What can N5,000 do for me?

Legal practitioner and an activist, Douglas Ogbankwa submitted that, “the so called grant does not have any economic value, you have N5000 in Nigeria is like you have nothing. Disbursing over two trillion naira under the guise that you are paying conditional grant to people is an economic suicide and the process of payment is open to fraud and irregularities; how can you be paying cash in a cashless society?.

The society is gravitating towards a cashless situation so why would you be using cash?. And then if you want to transfer this money, do these poor people you are talking about have electronic transfer facilities, how are you sure the money will have a trace and that there will be no corruption?. There will be big cash on top of the table that will definitely end up in wrong pockets. So, I condemn it in all ramifications, it actually does not make any sense. If government removes the subsidy, they should use the money to build infrastructure that will provide jobs for the people.

However, President of Benin National Congress (BNC), Ayamenkhue Edokpolo said the way the state governments handled palliatives meant for the people during the COVID-19 pandemic showed that the government was not sincere with the people. According to him, “the economic hardship in the land is biting so hard and Nigerians are unable to feed properly and so any action taken that is not consistent with yearnings of the people will absolutely boomerang.

All Progressives Congress,(APC) Stalwart and former Commissioner for Information and Chieftaincy Affairs in Niger State, Mr. Jonathan Vatsa described the move to pay N5,000 to forty million poor Nigerians monthly as deceit of the highest order and total fraud since the money is not budgeted for in next year expenditure. Vatsa who is also an Estate Surveyor and Economist described the move as absolute corruption and another clear deceit calculated to further impoverish the lives of most Nigerians. He said, “where will they get the money from especially that it is not in next year’s budget; Even if the money is budgeted for, it should not be ploughed or diverted as campaign funds.”

In his own reaction, the Convener of Youth Lead Nigeria, Comrade Muhammed Etsu described the step as a scam calculated to enrich just few individuals. If you calculate the money they are even setting aside for the so called relief, it is more than the subsidy they are talking about so how do you justify such spending. To me, I see the action as unprepared for. No proper homework on the plan because there is no sincerity of purpose in the action. Let the Federal government divert such money to rehabilitate all roads and improve our road and rail system across the country. This is the only way most if not all Nigerians can benefit from any step taken to cushion the proposed subsidy removal,”

A female trader, Jummai Muhamned who spoke in Hausa declared,”any policy that does not put sufficient food on our table, that does not improve our standard of living through education, health, good roads, provision of potable water among others is a failure. We have similar promises like this in the past which eventually turned to be a total failure and I don’t see this as a policy that will turn our lives for the better”

Chief Sunny Onuesoke, a former governorship aspirant in Delta State, said: “What will be the end result of this action if not an opportunity for unscrupulous elements in the government to pillage the treasury of our nation. Without proper and adequate consultation with the people, they have decided what they want to do with the subsidy money, because of their ulterior motives. What can N5,000 do for the average Nigerian in this current harsh economic condition?

The Secretary-General, Ogun State Muslim Council, Alhaji Kamaldeen Akintunde, said,

the palliative has no meaning, rather it’s a deceit and sheer waste of resources which could have been safely utilized for provision of infrastructures that will enhance quality living and social wellbeing of Nigerians. Of what economic importance is the package in view of the rising inflation and high cost of food in the country. It’s another ‘National Cake’ that cannot be appreciated, it is safe to call it ‘Subsidy cake’. Some people will live fat on it going by past experiences.

Ushahumba Tagher said, “the idea of giving some Nigerians N5,000 as palliative for the removal of fuel subsidy may be a good idea if it will take care of the transportation need of the beneficiaries. But our fear is that they might end up diverting the money. Our major challenge in this country when it comes to the disbursement of such funds is that some people will take turn to help themselves with the money and at the end of the day, the purpose for which the intervention was initiated will be defeated.

Again, how can we guarantee that the said amount will be enough to cater for the transportation need of the beneficiaries because from all indications that amount is grossly inadequate and so may not serve the desired purpose.

Tina Nyiyongo however wondered why will the money go to selected Nigerians. He said “if they are giving palliative for removing fuel subsidy the money should go round all Nigerians and not a selected few. But I believe the removal of oil subsidy is not a good idea at all because it will end up worsening the deplorable economic condition of the ordinary citizens of this country. Instead of removing the subsidy, which will negatively impact the prices of goods and services because prices of everything will skyrocket, it is better to retain the subsidy. If the government will be spending more than what is spent on subsidy, the question is, why remove it?

Mrs Felicia Ige in Ilorin, Kwara State capital said, “from experience, when there is increase in fuel price,there would be automatic increase in prices of items and that is not what we want. The N5000 the government wants to give is useless, it can not reduce the suffering which the fuel increase would bring. If they give me the money, I will collect it, but it’s very clear that such money won’t reduce the impact in any way.

Govt must ensure it gets to the beneficiaries

Engineer Lawrence Oludoyi, on his part argued that “the federal government should ensure that the N5,000 go to those who really need it and the government should monitor the money to the last receiver. For the vulnerable Nigerians, to a reasonable extent, the money should be able to cushion the effects of subsidy removal. For a market woman who has a business outfit of about N1000 from where she’s making a living, giving such person N5000 would make a lot of difference, that’s why I said that the government must ensure that the money gets to those who really need it.

 

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