Fuel Price Hike: In Defence of Buhari


Mallam Mohammed Lawal

The last government clearly failed to listen to itself. It ignored timely warnings from its own top officials. It chose to snub its policy makers and regulators.
In its characteristic, that administration totally disregarded valuable and quality advices. It carelessly swept them under its stinking carpet and threw some to the dustbin of history.

That is its own undoing. It led to its self-distrust. At least, three of its principal officers and participants did cry out. They said it loud and clear.
They did consistently warn of the looming economic impediments. All caused by government actions and inactions. All along, the government was timid and naïve.

Sadly enough, former president Goodluck Jonathan opted to look the other way. He feigned ignorance of the calamities that lied ahead. He pretended as if nothing graphic or serious was at stake. It was business as usual.
These were their testimonies, which they declared publicly. Let’s start with Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Very down-to-earth:

“I told them to save ahead of eventualities, but Jonathan had no political will to do so, and this is the reason we are in crisis, because we squandered our boom.”
You cannot fault her so easily. She parades incredible and intimidating credentials. Okonjo-Iweala was former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s Minister of Finance. She also served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the same government.

Jonathan later went back to her. She was his Minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy. That earned the sobriquet of de facto Prime Minister in a presidential system of government. She was Managing Director, The World Bank Group, before she ventured into government.

Then, entered deposed emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi of Kano. He was as forthright as ever. He would not mince or mix words. Listen to him:
“Over $20 billion unremitted to the federation account, and if nothing is done by 2015 upward, Nigeria will know what economic crisis is.” That is classic and vintage Sanusi.

He was Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), for the better part of Jonathan’s administration. He became the 14th Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II from the Fulani Sullubawa clan. He ascended the throne on June 8, 2014. He was dethroned on March 9, 2020, by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.
Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo was the third testifier. He rounded it off. And he asserted thus: “Whoever wins in 2015 will never find it easy to govern.” Why? His prompt response: “Over N30 trillion is mismanaged, unaccounted for or missing under Jonathan.”

He was governor, CBN, just like Sanusi who took over from him but not under Jonathan. That was between May 29, 2004 and May 29, 2009. Though, he was a fellow party man like Jonathan. He served under Obasanjo and former president Umar Yar’Adua. He was, however, never a minister like Okonjo-Iweala.

If the leeway sincerely and graciuosly offered by these eggheads were critically considered. If these words of wisdom were heeded in good time; then, there would have been no cause for alarm and panic now. The dreaded situation would have been effectively checked and put under permanent control.

But that was not to be. And that is the tragic case at hand presently. Sad! Buhari was made to compulsorily inherit these avoidable liabilities among many others. It is the reeking and malodorous can of worms he carries today.

It isn’t easy. True, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. He needs to be pitied and appreciated. He ought not to be vilified, no, far from it. That is not what he would cherish at these trying times. The hike in the fuel price and electricity tariff couldn’t have been evil-intended. No reasonable government would dare do that. More so, a widely accepted government like Buhari’s.

Government is convinced and firm on the removal of subsidy on power and oil. That is the best way to go even now. There is no viable alternative available presently.
We are stuck. We have wasted some precious opportunities in the past. We are paying dearly for those errors now, and they are extremely costly.

It is fervently believed in economic circles that this is the best of time for the new price regime. Perhaps, the very reason the organised private sector accorded it its quality support. That is rare to secure.
Government is adamant and emphatic that there is no looking or going back. We would rather swim than sink with it. That is the way to prepare our minds.

We are all together in this onerous task. It is a struggle of our life. We must not fail. Where there is life, there is certainly hope. We are not given up, that would be disastrous. It is not on our radar. We refuse to think along that defeatist line.

Rather, we would elect to identify with the government. That is the ultimate sacrifice needed from all of us at the moment. It has already vowed to roll out concrete palliatives to cushion the negative effects.
Buhari has again given us his words. He sent Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to tell us in clear and unambiguous terms:

“This government is not insensitive to the condition of our people and the very difficult economic situation and we will not inflict hardship on our people.” He then displays greater concern for our plight more than ever before:

“Ministers and senior officials must accordingly ensure the vigorous and prompt implementation of the ESP programmes to give succour to Nigerians at this difficult time.
“In this regard, the CBN has created credit facilities of up to N100billion for the healthcare and N1trillion for manufacturing sectors.” Bold steps indeed. That is taken the bull by the horns. He forged ahead:

“From January 2020 to date, over N191.87billion had already been released for 76 real estate sector projects under the N1 trillion Real Sector Scheme; while 34 healthcare projects have been funded to the tune of N37.159 billion under the Healthcare Sector Intervention Facility.”

He equally strived to explain how the policy was fashioned out in the first instance: “It is important to stress that it is a mere coincidence in the sense that the deregulation of PMS prices happened quite some time ago.
“It was announced in on March 18, 2020, and the price moderation that took place at the beginning of this month was just part of the on-going monthly adjustments to global crude oil prices. Similarly, the review of service-based electricity tariffs was scheduled to start at the beginning of July but was put on hold to enable further studies and proper arrangements to be made.”

We would certainly hold him accountable to these his pronouncements. He sincerely needs to guide his loins. There would saboteurs. They are in their legion and desperate.
They won’t stop at nothing to derail and make maximum mess of this policy. They are the profiteers, the oil marketers. They are in the waiting to unleash their terror on the unsuspecting masses.

Government must prevent them from making their devilish plot a reality. The regulatory bodies and other relevant institutions should be strongly strengthened.

Time-tested measures should be put in place to checkmate these men and women of the underworld. They are certainly from the pit of hell. They should not be given the slightest opportunity to operate.
We are convinced and persuaded, Nigeria can be great. We can make it to the top. Yes. We can.
–––Mallam Mohammed Lawal is a Board member of NNPC, Abuja