How Not to Justify Subsidy Removal


There is a shared conviction amongst a majority of the right-thinking Nigerians that the subsidy regime is no longer sustainable and as such, must be ended for two critical reasons. One, to stop the drain it has created on the nation’s resources and two, obliterate the scam it has enabled as a result.

Thus, top government functionaries especially those whose sectors of the economy are directly related to the ‘hard choice’ of removing subsidy on petrol have since taken to town to speak to the decision, albeit with familiar narratives that address common sense and patriotism.

But President Muhammadu Buhari literally made a mess of these efforts, when in his 60thindependence anniversary speech he committed a needless and avoidable gaffe. In trying to cap the justification for subsidy removal, the president, who compared prices of petrol in some of the oil producing countries concluded by saying, “It makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Saudi Arabia than in Nigeria.”

The statement not only belies logic, it is also innate and not smart. There’s no basis for comparison between the two countries. From their minimum wages to purchasing powers and other economic indices, it is simply comparing apples and oranges. Sticking to a simple narrative or argument that is commonplace would have saved everyone the Independence Day embarrassment.