Are We Going Left or Right? An Open Letter To Mr. President
‘Every generation must come out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.’
– Frantz Fanon
In January 2012, citizens from all walks of life were part of the #OccupyNigeria movement asking government to cut institutional waste; prosecute those responsible from driving our subsidy payments from N219.72 billion in 2006 to N1.9 trillion in 2011; and not penalize Nigerians for its pervasive inefficiency. Some of these people are now prominent members of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Between 2014 and early 2015, as APC campaigned to ‘change’ government at various levels, different candidates spoke against long fuel lines and lost productivity. Then candidate Muhammadu Buhari said on March 2, 2015 that: ‘The countless man-hours that will be spent at petrol stations today, will reduce our productivity as a nation. This should not be so.’ (March 2, 2015). Since May 29, 2015.
President Buhari’s policies have been difficult to understand. One minute there’s no subsidy; the next minute, subsidy has been removed. Mr. President is disconnected from the daily economic challenges of Nigerians, and his economic policies, which he seems to believe are pro-poor, will probably put more Nigerians in extreme poverty. His lack of interest in engaging and interacting with the people he serves suggest a messianic attitude and not one of a President elected to serve the people. His famed body language only screams, ‘I’ll do what I want, how I want and at the pace I want!’
Last week, a decision was made to increase fuel price from N86.50 per litre to N145 per litre without addressing citizens on the state of the nation, especially since the President is also the Minister of Petroleum Resources. This is a classic example of the President’s disregard for the feelings of Nigerians. According to the National Bureau of Statics (NBS), the average price of fuel in April was N168 with citizens paying between N87 (Borno) and N203 (Imo & Ekiti) while dealing with scarcity and long queues. However, people coped with what seemed like a temporary situation, given the many assurances of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources.
The Federal Government of Nigeria should make no mistake; as tired and frustrated Nigerians are with their quality of life and cost of living, we will not wait for four years to show this administration that we are not impressed. Directly and indirectly – on the streets, on social media, via telephone calls and physical meetings – Nigerians will communicate clearly that this is not how we want to live. These hardships are unnecessary because they were avoidable.
History shows clearly that once fuel price increases, the cost of transportation and the cost of doing business increases because generating power becomes more expensive. The resulting effect on food and other consumer prices will further impoverish an already impoverished people that can lead to civil unrest and increased incidents of robbery. It will be instructive to note that while the President has delayed key decisions on the economy, inflation has taken the initiative, rising to 13.7%.
Stop Subsidizing Selected Individuals
We are not impressed that the Federal Government has been dabbling into the independent monetary roles of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). After the exclusion of certain items from the official exchange rate market and the recent removal of fuel imports, the overriding question is: Why is the Central Bank keeping an ‘official’ exchange rate of N199 for certain privileged persons and businesses, while allowing others to plummet to ruination with the high exchange rates at the parallel “black” market? We demand that the CBN stops being an appendage to the government, takes up the slack and pointedly addresses Nigerians on these issues forthwith.
Fix the Oil & Gas Sector
Under this administration, the NNPC has only announced discoveries of theft but it has not been tangibly restructured from a loss-making organization. We ask:
Why has nobody been prosecuted for the fraud perpetrated during the last administration? Can the cases in court be fast-tracked?
Why does deregulation of the industry have to begin with additional hardship to the average Nigerian, rather than a wholesale restructuring of the entire state-owned oil company through the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill?
Billions of naira have been earmarked for upgrades and maintenance of our refineries, with no impact. Increasing the capacity of our refineries would reduce the amount of fuel that needs to be imported. Given that this administration specifically promised to ensure Nigeria’s refineries are up and running, why are our refineries still operating at 17.5% capacity, with no clear plan or deadlines in sight?
What therefore, is the economic sense and the consequence of continuing to allow the NNPC get 445,000 barrels of crude a day that it can’t refine?
In 2010, it was estimated that the cost of fuel (to power generators) was $13 billion. NERC estimates 32% of generator fuel is petrol. This means Nigerians spend about $4.19 billion or N646 billion on petrol, while the rest goes to diesel. Approximately 82% of Nigerian households do not have access to electricity from the national grid. These shameful indices in a resource-rich country are enabled by the fact that power generation in Nigeria continues to hover around 4,000 MW and has barely improved under this administration. Why is providing power persistently unachieved while the billing and taxation of Nigerians increases?
Reduce the Cost of Governance
We are yet to see the cost of governance reflecting the austere mode and untoward hardship now facing the vast majority of Nigerians. We believe now is the time for the Buhari administration to cease the rigmarole of lip service and make constitutionally-sustained, tangible sacrifices for a better society that will better communicate any shred of resolve this government has to make a break with the status quo. We want to know if this will mean; reducing the National Assembly budget of N115bn and also if the Executive and other ministries, departments and agencies will make the necessary cuts as several of them have overlapping functions. Most telling is that the Budget has not been published and Nigerians cannot ascertain if this document truly reflects the austere mode of operation being mouthed by the government.
Enough is Enough Nigeria encourages all Nigerians who are concerned about the economy to exercise their franchise to free speech through whatever legal channels are accessible to them and remind the Federal Government of Nigeria that this government’s singular duty is to govern transparently, cost-efficiently and humanely, in the best interest of all its citizens, not a select few.