Fuel Subsidy Removal in Nigeria and the 2012 Activists

By Smart Emuoborsan
buhari_jonathanIn 2012, when former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan proposed the removal of the fuel subsidy in the country, all hell broke loose, Nigeria was shut down for weeks by a group led by Pastor Tunde Bakare known as Occupy Nigeria. Ojota in Lagos turned into the grounds for a music festival where musicians like Idris Abdukareem, Ruggedman, Femi Kuti, Banky W and a lot of others performed for free while taking jabs at the then Government over the proposal.

The Nigerian Embassy in the UK, USA and prominent institutions like the IMF were occupied by Nigerians in the diaspora in protest against the seemingly obnoxious plan. There were many write-ups castigating and condemning the Government for being insensitive to the plight of the people. Some of the people who penned down their grievances were Tolu Ogulesi who is now the Special Adviser to Buhari on Social Media, he described Jonathan as “the son of a canoe carver who wants to take Nigerians back to the difficulties he had during his upbringing” he added that Jonathan “must be rebuked!” Femi Adesina, also Special Advisor on Media to Buhari was not left out as he gave a thousand reasons, at the time, of why the Government must not remove the fuel subsidy, what has changed?

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Now the current Government of President Buhari has removed the subsidy from fuel without palliative measures in place, shooting the price of fuel to N145 per liter from 86.50. A country where the minimum wage is N18,000 monthly, a country where civil servants who are paid paltry amounts are still being owed six to seven months salary arrears, a country where in the midst of abundance, the majority cannot afford to feed themselves twice a day.

Many civil servants’ income will not be able to foot their fare, removing the subsidy at this time will further breed corruption especially in the civil service, no matter what you tell a hungry man, all he wants is food on his table, he will go the extra mile even if it is a corrupted road to fulfill that, when he has the opportunity.

Also bear in mind that many private companies, who are largely the employers of labor in the country mostly survive on fuel and diesel, this will not only increase the price of their products/services, it will further cause job loss. Thousands of people have lost their jobs in Nigeria in 2016 alone and companies are still downsizing due to lack of policy direction and the increase in cost of doing business in Nigeria. Most airlines have left Nigeria to neighboring Ghana and many are still following suit.

The popular saying that “an idle hand is the devil’s workshop” may be constantly replayed soon, I am not a prophet of doom, but if nothing is done to address the hardship in the land that is being aggravated by these unfriendly policies of the current Government, the Government should be ready to expand its prisons because criminality will increase.

Two days post removal of subsidy announcement where are the activists who grounded Nigeria in 2012? Where are the intellectuals- Professor Wole Soyinka, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, Obi Ezekwesili, Femi Falana, Joe Igbokwe, Dino Melaye, and Tam David West among others? While the Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Thursday announced that over 40 million Nigerian students would re-enact the Occupy Nigeria protests, where are the prominent intellectual heads and political influencers who stood toe to toe with them just four years ago?