By Adekola Afolabi,
Samuel Edu &
As the call for the removal of petrol subsidy heightens, stakeholders have warned that Nigeria’s economy could descend into a tailspin, aggravate insecurity if the Federal Government does not come up with better “palliatives” that can cushion the effects of the planned removal.
Nigeria recently received $800m from the World Bank to provide palliatives for 50 million Nigerians ahead of subsidy removal, proposed to take effect in June 2023.
Stakeholders who spoke with The Hope however faulted Federal Government plan to give N5000 to the 50 million Nigerians, saying it is another recipe for corruption.
According to them, the country’s economy is fragile and that petrol prices impact too closely on transportation, food prices and inflation.
They insisted that past palliatives programmes failed and were susceptible to embezzlement because Nigeria lacked reliable database.
Stakeholders who spoke with The Hope include: Former Deputy President, Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Joseph Akinlaja, Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Ondo State, Comrade Victor Amoko.
Others are: Professor Olayemi Simon-Oke from the Department Of Economics, Federal University of Technology Akure, Dr. David Olayungbo from the Department of Economics, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
Akinlaja said payment of N5000 to Nigerians is worthless and that government should use the $800 million to build critical infrastructure, come up with better incentives for private sector to build refineries, better subsidy programmes for farmers, industrialists that could facilitate massive employment generation instead of giving out pittance which cannot be sustained.
His words: “This is not the first time they will talk about palliatives but it has never worked as planned. It is just an avenue for some people to fill their pockets with public funds. The type of palliative we need is to make sure that power, agric, transportation and oil sectors are functional.
“If they can make sure that power supply is regular in Nigeria, there is no palliative that is more than that. There will be a lot of informal employment opportunities that will boost the country’s economy. That will be better than giving palliatives that may end up in the pockets of some individuals.”
Akinlaja advised that the deregulation of the petroleum sector should be allowed so that the payment of subsidies to people who make huge fortunes from it illegally can be finally laid to rest.
“That has been the position of labour for some time but the government never accepted the demands. We built four refineries between 1956 and 1981 but from 1981 till date, no additional refineries have been built.
“With importation, we have no control over crude or refined products. Labour must make demands.
Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, Ondo State, Comrade Victor Amoko, pointed out that the federal government must set up a committee comprising all stakeholders including labour leaders, place all the cards on the table and work things out for effective utilisation of the funds.
“There is need for us to have priority and we shall go with priority and settle things amicably.
The State Labour Chairman also decried what he called bad management of the country’s oil sector, saying that as the 7th largest producer of oil in the world, it is sad that Nigeria is still without functional refinery and experiencing fuel scarcity.
He said the country must go back to the drawing table, reorganise itself to come out of the woods.
Professor Olayemi Simon-Oke was of the opinion that the major problem in Nigeria is poor management and corruption.
“If the government properly utilise the money as disbursed by the World Bank, then it has to emplace proper and competent persons, not people with track records in corrupt practices.
“The ideal thing for the government to do is to use substantial part of the money in putting our various refineries in shape.
“I would not suggest that the money be used for social programmes because I personally do not have any trust in this regard. Though social programmes will have impact on the people, but I am afraid it will create a big avenue for embezzlement by corrupt elements in government.
“I strongly believe in the argument of the Labour regarding the establishment of functional refineries, good roads and other infrastructures before subsidy is being removed, as this will go a long way in mitigating the impacts on the masses.”
In the view of Dr. David Olayungbo “the reason why Nigeria is ranked as the 7th largest oil producer in the world and the only rich nation without functional refinery boils down to corruption.
“This is a cankerworm that has eaten deep into our fabrics.
“No doubt, the hardship will be great on the masses if the government refuses to do the needful, especially in the areas of infrastructural development such as functional refineries, good roads, etc before subsidy removal.
“The fund recently released by the World Bank could be judiciously used in this regards as this will go along a way in reducing the impact on the masses.”
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