Following the federal government removal of fuel subsidy in President Bola Ahmed Tinubu inaugural address on May 29th 2023 at Eagle Square Abuja and the attendant mixed reaction which trailed it over the timing, though there was unanimity in agreement among Nigerians that the fuel subsidy regime had to go in order to stop the hemorrhaging of the commonwealth and free resources for the delivery of democratic dividends to the people by the three tiers of government. However, with the recent announcement of a request for a proposed N8000 distribution to 12 million households for 6 months, the public space has become heated once again and one is forced to ask, why the fuss?
A critical topic that dominated the public space in the aftermath of the courageous removal of fuel subsidy which received popular accolades, though we recognize the hypocrisy, mischief and politicization of the issue from expected quarters, was the issue of palliatives to cushion the economic dislocation and inconveniences occasioned by it on the populace. The discussion now shifted to, when will the palliatives to cushion the effect of the removal of fuel subsidy on the masses, be unveiled?
In line with his mantra of, “Allow the masses to breathe” President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (GCFR) and top functionaries of his administration, kept assuring the Nigerian people that the palliatives will be unveiled soon and true to its word, the administration has kept its promise with the request to the national assembly for approval to disburse N500 billion naira as fuel subsidy palliatives to 12 million poor households for 6 months.
We recollect that the process of putting in place palliatives to cushion the effect of the removal of fuel subsidy was kick started by former President Muhammadu Buhari administration which was processing a $800 million dollars fuel subsidy palliatives from the World Bank bearing in mind that the provision for fuel subsidy payments in the 2023 national budget was to terminate in June 2023. Sadly, this noble initiative of former President Muhammadu Buhari administration which had received the World Bank blessings became politicized and shamefully, even some honourable members of the national assembly joined in the fray in grandstanding and playing to the gallery on the matter with their mischievous and unpatriotic mob to demarket the policy.
Thus, because of the misgivings which trailed the policy under his about to exit administration based on politics as against logic and facts, the Buhari administration had to leave the implementation of the policy to the incoming administration since like we all know, government is a continuum.
Former president Muhammadu Buhari administration was undoubtedly a pacesetter with its unprecedented first time in Nigeria budgetary history establishment of a National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) whose implementation started in 2016 and included among others, the Home Grown School Feeding Programme, provision of affordable very low cost loans to market women and artisans, Npower scheme and the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) of N5, 000 monthly to 1 million extremely poor Nigerians.
By the time President Muhammadu administration exited office on May 29th 2023, 12 million poor and vulnerable households (49.8 million persons were registered on the social register as beneficiaries. And it is this register that the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration is leveraging on for its policy implementation.
While some Nigerians for whom the new policy is not intended for have continued to cry more than the bereaved in saying that the policy should not be implemented in the way it is designed and for which a World Bank loan was accessed, that rather the N500 billion naira ought to be used to build schools or hospitals or health centers or mass transit buses, etc. Some have even gone further to alledge without any iota of empirical evidence that the scheme under the past administration of President Buhari was fraught with corruption. We need to remind such pessimist and false alarmist that in the 8th Senate under former senate president Bukola Saraki which was always at loggerheads with the executive, that the then senate carried out a forensic audit of the CCT programme with the intention to embarrass the government, but to their dismay, they met a functional and well implemented programme.
Let it also be on record that despite the paucity of funds occasioned by fluctuating global price of crude oil that it met at $28 dollars per barrel, economic sabotage of oil production and theft which reduced Nigeria’s production quota from 2.3 million barrels per day to mere 500, 000 BPD, global economic meltdown as a result of covid-19 and other factors, the president Muhammadu Buhari administration wrote its name in gold in 8 turbulent years with its unprecedented infrastructural legacy in addition to executing a social intervention programme that benefitted millions of Nigerians.
For the education and information of our people, lest they be led astray by arm chair critics, social intervention programmes through cash transfer is a global economic policy adopted by countries to lift the extremely poor out of poverty and does not in any way distract from government primary responsibility of making life bearable and meaningful to its people through the delivery of democratic dividends and in sync with President Tinubu mantra, “Allow the poor to breathe”, why the fuss?