Editorial

Nigerians battle economic strangulation

Nigeria is obviously in a fix at the moment. When everyone had thought respite was gradually coming to all from the dreaded coronavirus, the Federal Government, as usual, decided to spin its regular surprise.

 

Apparently, the government is on the verge of deliberately shutting down the economy, an action that should not even be imagined. Even with the palliatives, grants, loans and moratoriums in place, what has taken place in the last two or three weeks is enough to take beneficiaries and struggling Nigerians to ground zero.

 

Without waiting for the citizens to savour the shaky relief from the coronavirus lockdown and attendant losses, the government caved in to capitalist manipulation by allowing sudden increase in the pump price of petrol in the name of subsidy removal as well as a hike in electricity tariff by as much as 100 per cent.

 

This action was heaped on a people that have so far been lucky enough to raise their heads above the trepidation posed by COVID- 19, whose exit is still in the realm of conjecture. Everywhere in the world, governments are granting various types of palliative, but ours is interested in piling more miseries on its citizens.

 

There is every reason to resist this latest move to impoverish the mass of the working people. As expected, the action is already knocking heads as labour, led by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress as well as affiliate bodies, is calling for an immediate reversal with a nationwide strike that is commencing today if entreaties fail.

 

Expected to be another ‘Mother of all strikes,’ bodies after bodies are already mobilising in reaction to Federal Government’s distasteful decision. Surprisingly, the government took its decision when the palliatives it purportedly made available to the citizens failed to reach bulk of Nigerians.

 

Whereas, in neighbouring Ghana, it was learnt that the government there made electricity available to the people free of charge for three months at the peak of COVID- 19. The most appalling thing about the antipeople actions is the way the Federal Government chooses to handle issues without bothering about reactions.

 

That within a space of 60 days or less it could take such an insensitive decision to hike petroleum price twice amid spiraling inflation confirms how much the current administration takes the people for granted.

 

Everyone thought it was a joke in August when an increase came from the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) moving the retail pump price for petrol to N138.62 for August.

 

Not done, Nigerians woke to more miseries in September as the ex-depot price was again increased to N151.56 per litre, which pushed the fuel price to between N158 and N162 per litre up from N148, being the third increase in three months as well as the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) made good its promise to hike electricity tariff. NERC’s 100 per cent tariff increase when electricity remains elusive amid estimated billings is to say the least inhumane.

 

For the tariff to have increased from N30.23 for one kwh (kilowatt unit of energy per hour) to as much as N62.33 per kwh is merely a subtle action that is well thought out to further assist the electricity distribution companies milk Nigerians before they eventually supply pre-paid metres to customers.

 

Coming under the guise of ‘Service Reflective Tariff’ to take its decision is most untenable as much as it is unreasonable. Electricity investors have been known to dish out bills that are not reflective of their output.

 

Additionally, the fact that the Dis- Cos were directed to commence implementation immediately speaks volume of government’s insensitivity considering the fact that certain businesses have just been allowed to operate in some locations. Even though the categorization is arranged in such a way that the hike wont impact much on the poor, the fact remains that Nigeria is a country where service providers have taken advantage of the poor more than the rich.

 

Except pre-paid meters are urgently made available, the ordinary Nigerian would be highly victimised within this period for as long as estimated billing continues no matter the rules on ground.

 

With the way things are going, the price band for petrol is likely to hit N200 per litre before the end of the year, especially now that everyone appears charmed and caged, only to grumble while the government takes its actions without bothering who gets hurt.

 

For over 10 years, the issue of subsidy had remained the excuse on the lips of Nigerian leaders as reason for deficit in infrastructure. Insincerity on the part of government has for long relegated the subsidy mantra into irrelevance.

 

This is evident in the fact that increasing pump price of petroleum in the past under the guise of removing subsidy did not add much value to infrastructure development. While we believe in every government’s programme to develop the country, we, however, take exception to deliberate decision to further impoverish the ordinary Nigerian that has continued to bear the brunt of leadership failure.

 

Moreover, we believe this is not the time for the government to risk shutting down the economy that had been battered by poor policy implementation and, lately, the coronavirus pandemic.

 

We call on the Federal Government and organised labour to agree on the way forward. We can’t afford a situation where the nation’s fragile economy is being shut down again.

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