By Fredrick Nwabufo
There is a clear direction. The trajectory is certain – steady and forward. There have been bumps on the way, but not too great to cause a derailment from measured course. Nigeria is in motion. It is plodding through thistles and thorns yet rising. It is in cultivated hands.
In the past 100 days, the government has taken some tough but necessary decisions – removing petrol subsidy and unifying exchange-rate windows. Critics are agreed that petrol subsidy had to go, yet some dispute the timing of the abrogation. But when will there ever be an auspicious time?
Favourable and intended time and conditions for any given purpose are contrived; they are created by actions not accidents or force of inertia.
There will never be a perfect time or salubrious season for the implementation of any policy. The reason why some important policies stalled in the past and ultimately ended up in abeyance was because of indecision and ambivalence in the reading of the perception metre. Fuel subsidy was to be axed by the Obasanjo administration, but the plan was opposed by some agents railing against the foregone conclusion today.
The policy volte-face resulted in a cascading of burden and corruption from one administration to another. The subsidy regime became a sinkhole and a Venus flytrap eviscerating the treasury. It became grotesquely unsustainable. It was either petrol subsidy conks or government revenue atrophies eternally.
The Buhari administration signed the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021 which made the subsidy regime inoperative. But it delayed the effective abolishment of the scheme until the end of June 2023. It took a step forward regardless.
President Bola Tinubu had been forthright and genuine about his intentions on petrol subsidy and the shadowy exchange-rate system. He said during the campaigns that he would not maintain the parlous order, and that he would stop the hemorrhage. So, there was a clear plan. There was purposive direction. There was a willful design.
True to his pledge, the president acted with dispatch in initiating the policies. Some critics say the removal of petrol subsidy should have been delayed or phased. But this is a deadpan argument, considering the imminent danger the subsidy regime represented. It was a case of sink or float. The same arguments had been advanced in the past, but here we are. There was simply no room for niceties and dilly-dallying. Decisiveness, conscientiousness, and courage were required in this instance. And the president rose to the occasion.
The administration did not spend the past 100 days floundering through trial and error. It has been resolute. It has been calculated. It has been steady. There is movement, and there is motion.
Recognising the concomitants of petrol subsidy removal, the Tinubu administration launched sweeping interventions to alleviate the hardship many citizens are facing.
On July 13, the federal government enunciated its plan to effectively address the creeping rise in food prices effectuated by the snowballing of petrol prices. The government declared a state of emergency on food security. It said all matters pertaining to food and water availability and affordability, as essential livelihood items, were now within the purview of the National Security Council. The government also said it would deploy some savings from the removal of petrol subsidy into agriculture, focusing on revamping the sector.
The President directed the release of 200,000 metric tonnes of grains from strategic reserves to households across the 36 states and the FCT to moderate prices, as well as the provision of 225,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer, seedlings, and other inputs to farmers.
The administration, interfacing with state governments, unveiled a catalogue of economic anodynes, targeting vulnerable Nigerians. N5 billion was proposed for each state – and with N2 billion each already disbursed.
The president approved the CNG initiative to create a sustainable alternative, stimulate investment, and drive down the costs of energy. The initiative targets over 11,500 new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)-enabled vehicles and 55,000 CNG conversion kits for existing Premium Motor Spirit (PMS)-dependent vehicles.
The president signed four Executive Orders to check unsavoury fiscal policies and multiple taxes that are asphyxiating businesses. The administration also pledged to energise micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises and the informal sector with N125 billion.
Other interventions are said to be in progress.
While we cannot all sing kumbaya yet – as there are pressing concerns and challenges
The leadership must maintain its sense of urgency to national matters; it must remain mindful and never succumb to the seven cardinal weaknesses of power – complacency, obstinacy, indolence, impunity, illusion of invincibility, brute arrogance, nepotism, and ruthlessness. It must remain decisive, resolute, but amenable where necessary. And it must maintain a high sense of integrity, transparency, and accountability to sustain goodwill.
It has started well; now it must keep going forward.
Fredrick Nwabufo, <email@example.com>