By Adedotun Ajayi
The removal of subsidy on petrol, which was announced by President Bola Tinubu during his inauguration on Monday, May 29, 2023, has led to sharp and multiple increases in fuel pump prices, driven up the prices of goods and services, pushed millions of Nigerians into poverty and worsened the socio-economic situation in the country.
Recently, the Federal Government announced N5b palliatives for each state of the federation and 180 bags of rice as part of the measures to assuage the pains of subsidy removal which had led to multiple hikes in fuel pump prices and driven up the prices of goods and services, worsening the poverty level in the country.
Announcing the release of the palliatives at the end of the 135th National Economic Council meeting presided over by Vice President Kashim Shettima in Abuja, Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, disclosed that the N5bn was to enable the state governments procure 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize and fertilisers to cushion the effect of food shortage across the country.
The Ondo State Government said it was making efforts to ensure that the palliatives got to the vulnerable in the state, adding that the distribution of the Federal Government rice would soon commence.
The Chairman of the Palliatives Committee and Commissioner for Finance, Mr Wale Akinterinwa, disclosed that the Federal Government promised the state 81,000 bags of rice, but Ondo only got 3,000 bags, which he noted were not enough for the state.
Akinterinwa said, “Ondo State has got 3,000 bags of rice, contrary to the 81,000 bags that were promised by the Federal Government but rice is not the only food we consume; we will provide other food items.
“The state will also get additional 3,000 bags of rice to add to the ones given by the Federal Government.”
The acting Governor of the state, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, directed members of the committee to speed up work on the implementation of the measures already put in place by the state government, according to a statement by the acting Governor’s Press Secretary, Mr Kenneth Odusola-Stevenson. The question right now is, how far these palliatives can go in alleviating poverty in the country? Olubunmi Adewa, an economist said 90 percent of Nigerians feel the pain of what is going on in the country, so who do you palliate and who do you leave out?
According to her; “How can N10, 000 or N8, 000 meet the needs of average Nigerians? And certainly, each person can’t get a bag of rice. Those talking about palliatives to cushion effects of what we are facing are just not serious yet. As a lecturer, I live in the outskirts of the city I work and each day I have to be at work, I buy N5,000 fuel which cannot bring me to work, the next day. My salary is less than half a million. If I take taxi, I pay almost N2,000 back and forth. Moreover, at my status I cannot ask students to give me money, yet my needs are mounting. Some junior lecturers earn far less, yet they have families and other needs. Now tell me, how would these palliatives solve any problem? Therefore, the whole thing is just funny,” she said
In the same vein, Adegoke Adebiyi, a business developer said all these palliatives cannot go a long way to address the suffering people go through due to government insincerity, corruption, governments long term of betrayal and lack of data to ensure the most vulnerable persons are captured. I can see insincerity and lack of trust by government to fulfil this promise.”
According to him; “The present state of Nigeria is pathetic and I do not think things will get better with palliatives, given the state of our roads and distribution system, power supply, and other essential infrastructure. Therefore, the government should begin with building infrastructure and providing security for farmers to boost food production, while other sectors are being developed. The palliatives will not be sustainable if standards of living continue to decline. We also have to face the realities.
Workers must get commensurate pay rise to cope with the pains of subsidy removal. Nigerians will not pay the same price for energy like citizens of Saudi Arabia and be on a minimum wage of N40, 000 per month (approximately $50). In essence, palliatives will be meaningless in an economy with exponentially rising inflation, increasing unemployment and high insecurity,” he said
Also speaking, Ayomide Olupona, a political scientist, said the Government should channel the money into productive ventures that would better the lives of all citizens.
“Government should ensure development plans that are sustainable through the provision of rural infrastructure let the money be used to revamp all the refineries in the country, build rural roads and tackle the challenge of rural electrification.
Again, there is a need for the introduction of technical and vocational education, especially in rural communities. The problem in Nigeria is that endemic corruption does not encourage inclusiveness in policy formulation and implementation,” he said.
Khalid Okunade, a Legal practitioner, said that while palliatives like direct cash transfers, food aid, and healthcare can offer immediate relief to those in poverty in Nigeria, they might not lead to lasting changes.
According to him; “Sustainable poverty alleviation requires addressing structural issues such as inadequate education, limited access to quality healthcare, unemployment, and lack of infrastructure.
Investing in education and vocational training can empower individuals to secure better job opportunities and break the cycle of poverty. Creating an environment conducive for business growth can generate employment opportunities and boost economic development. Additionally, improving healthcare systems can enhance overall well-being and productivity, contributing to poverty reduction”
He further said; “To make a significant impact, a comprehensive approach that combines short-term relief with long-term strategies is necessary. This might involve policy reforms, investments in infrastructure, social safety nets, and creating an environment conducive to economic growth,” he concluded.
Fisayo Ehindero, a public servant, said it is a wrong policy; that encourages consumer economy. I do not support the idea of giving money to any group of people because it will create room for laziness.
According to him; “It is time to revive the local refineries, build infrastructure such as road networks and electricity supply well as develop the iron and steel sector which is key to economic growth,” he said.