PERSPECTIVE – Palliatives of zero effect

PERSPECTIVE – Palliatives of zero effect

Mr. Adekunle Adekoya.

By Adekunle Adekoya

THIS column had gone to bed last Thursday before the National Economic Council, NEC, a statutory organ of the Federal Government, released palliatives to cushion the effects of subsidy removal. When I saw the measures, which by now, all fellow Nigerians must have heard, a hundred and one emotions coursed through me all at once, but the ones that seemed most dominant were despair, disappointment, and despondence.

First, let it be reiterated that the dire economic situation in which the ordinary Nigerian finds himself now was foisted on him by people he trusted to manage his affairs in a way that he would benefit, not suffer. That means that the hapless Nigerian trusted that those that will be in charge of affairs of the commonwealth would put in sufficient rigour to achieve the best results. Alas, it is now turning out that these were high hopes, as it seemed that very little or no rigour went into deciding the removal of subsidy.

I still stand on the premise that an Economic Impact Assessment, EIA, of subsidy removal should have been done, and countervailing measures fashioned out before removal. That would have indicated not just rigour, but seriousness, and a demonstration of love and empathy for those of us that will bear the brunt. Well, that was not done, and now, with the deleterious effects of subsidy removal choking all of us, government is now trying to shut the barn doors after the horses have escaped. To what effect?

The palliatives, include a N5 billion grant to each state of the federation, five trucks of rice also for each state, and 40,000 bags of maize also for all the 36 states evoked in me the act of giving something to a wretch, just to stop him/her from wailing continuously, after whipping him/her mercilessly. More than that, it is a demonstration of the contempt in which the rulers hold the rest of us. It is a situation of “Abeg give them something make we rest. The noise too much.” It also showed a complete lack of rigour and waste of scarce resources in an economy that is at the doldrums.

First, the Federal Government has clarified that the N5 billion grant to each state is a loan, and states are free to take or reject it. Then each state gets five trucks of rice. At approximately 120 bags per truck, that means a state gets 600 bags. For how many people? In Lagos State, 600 bags of rice will vanish among the unidentified “vulnerable” in just Okokomaiko alone, or Alimosho, or Ijora Badiya, or Somolu-Bariga. When the palliative rice are shared, I can bet that a household may not get more than two of the measure we call “De Rica”. That is both miserable and insulting and does not in any way mitigate the larger issues of subsidy removal in any way.

The Federal Government may as well not have bothered because Nigerians have become victims of undeclared aggression by the ruling class on the ruled class. We have become economically displaced people in our own country. What will 40,000 bags of maize do? Members of the National Economic Council might as well  boil water in huge cauldrons and make pap from the corn, and then line us all up to take the little cup of pap that will be the portion of each of the country’s more than 200 million people. Who thought these up? Worse, who approved them? There must be better ways of insulting the collective intelligence of people than the palliatives offered by the Federal Government.

I concede that government has found itself between the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea with the subsidy issue. But that is not the fault of the people. Government has a lot of work to do in making MDAs deliver on their mandates. Too many people in government service just leave their homes every morning, drive to their offices, scratch files and attend meetings for nine hours and go back home at 5pm, without having done any work to add value to the lives of their fellow country men and women. Many institutions have simply failed in the delivery of their core mandates. That is why Col. Ahmadu Ali, former Comptroller-General of Customs, could be advocating subsidy removal to discourage smuggling of petrol. What did he do to checkmate smugglers?

Further on this, what drove subsidy up to the point that its removal became inevitable for this government is the excessive racketeering that pushed up subsidy costs. The procedures of importing petrol must be cleaned up and policed in such a way that the rackets and the executors are taken out of the picture, If this can be done, it is quite possible that the realistic price per litre of petrol in Nigeria should not be more than N350. What must be done is to identify the fat cats that feed on the rackets. I cannot undertand that government seems reluctant to go after the subsidy racketeers as a first step towards a sanitation exercise.

I’m afraid this Federal Government will be compelled to take another hard, long look at the removal of subsidy and see where it faltered. Government must realise that people must remain alive to be able to work and build an economy. Without a people, will there be a country? If there is no country, what would the political class preside over? Government must go back to the drawing board, as its palliatives will have no effect on the poverty that is threatening to choke all of us.

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