According to reports, the federal government would remove fuel subsidy this year and Nigerians have been divided over the issue. CHIOMA IRUKE sought the opinion of some citizens on this controversial topic.
Recently, fuel subsidy has generated controversy in the country. The demand that it should be removed has been greeted with mixed reactions from Nigerians, as some believe that it would have a devastating effect on middle and low income earners. Though this fact might not be disputed, but others believe that it would enable the government invest the money spent on subsidy into more meaningful projects.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, but still imports refined petroleum products. The country produces about 2.4 million barrels of crude oil daily, which is exported to be refined abroad; this is due to years of corruption and neglect resulting in domestic refineries being non-functional. As a consequence, Nigeria imports 70 percent of its gasoline (about 250,000bpd of petroleum products are imported into the country for sale to its citizens)
On January 1, 2012, the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, announced that fuel subsidy had been removed. This announcement was received with protest and strike by Nigerians led by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC. The protest was characterised by civil disobedience, civil resistance, strike, demonstrations and online activism. As a result, the president revoked his decision.
Currently, President Muhammadu Buhari has also been requested to remove fuel subsidy by a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and now the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, and other concerned Nigerians.
According to the emir, the practice is unsustainable because there is a high level of corruption in the subsidy regime, the inefficiency of subsidising consumption instead of production, leading to slower economic growth and the fact that the government borrows money to finance it which means taxing future generations so that Nigerians can consume more fuel.
Sanusi and other economists also believe that subsidy is heavily biased in favour of the middle and upper class who use most of the fuel. Additionally, some people purchase the subsidised gas in Nigeria to resell in other West African countries.
With the reactions of Nigerians on the attempt by the previous administration to remove subsidy, one would wonder how Nigerians see this same suggestion by the emir.
Among those who have reacted to the seeming controversy surrounding the subsidy regime is a journalist at the African Broadcasting Network, ABN, Mr. Temi Akuirene, who agrees with the former central bank governor. Akuirene said: “Yes I believe that subsidy should be removed because it costs the government too much and the citizens do not benefit from it due to the cabal. Government continues paying for subsidy which leaves the country in great debts. If it is removed we would buy at the same cost of production.”
But Mr. Nikki Adima has a contrary opinion, he said: “First of all we should ask ourselves, is there still subsidy? If indeed there is subsidy then I don’t think it should be removed because it would put a lot of pressure on the poor and middle class. At least now that the economy is challenging I don’t think it should be removed.”
A business man in Delta State, Mr. Magnus Iruke, said subsidy should be removed: “The money spent can help to build more infrastructure in the country. If it is removed Nigerians would still survive. During former president Jonathan’s tenure, for example, fuel price rose to over N100 and Nigerians kept buying, if it is removed we would eventually adapt though it might be difficult at the beginning. Fuel subsidy has been an avenue for corruption and so the money should be invested in building more refineries to enable less importation and more production in the country at a cheaper rate.
“Dangote has even offered to build a refinery that would produce up to 150,000 barrels of fuel a day. Just like what happened with telecommunications, after a period of time it would become normal and affordable. Even the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation board has suggested that subsidy should be removed because no one knows the exact amount that is being spent and were the money is going. At the end of the day, the cabals in the institution get richer leaving the poor in a despicable state,” he added.
Mr. Ajike Ukonu said we should look at the situation from two sides: “For the economy, it is a good initiative because the money spent on subsidy would be invested into other sectors. But it is also necessary to consider the poor because they are the ones who would bear the burden. I think the president should take his time to think about the issue before making any rash decision.”
Mr. Adebola Emmanuel agrees with the suggestion of the emir of Kano, stressing that the subsidy policy is not sustainable.
“Yes subsidy should be removed because it is draining our national income, the money can aid our society and develop the people. Besides it is not sustainable. It is empowering the rich instead of the poor that it was originally meant for. The money that actually goes into subsidy on a daily basis is appalling, if it is invested properly, it would ensure adequate development in the country,” Mr. Adebola said.

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