C. E. Oyibo
In an essay and a follow-up article on the Nigerian fuel subsidy debate, I recommended a set of steps the Jonathan administration should take in regards its goal of fuel subsidy removal:
Alas! on January 1, 2012, in a manner evocative of underhandedness, stealth, and bad faith, the Jonathan administration announced, by way of a press release published by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (an agency of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources), that it has removed the subsidy on fuel, with immediate effect. In other words, the Jonathan administration skipped steps 1, 2, 3, and 4 of our recommendations, and jumped to step 5 on 1/1/12. No talk of bringing the refineries to capacity; no talk of a comprehensive plan to invest fuel subsidy funds in development programs; no talk of a plan to address smuggling and rent-seeking… The Jonathan administration thought it best to simply place the cart before the horse, in spite of the predictions of dire risks to the political economy—risks that are starting to be realized:
The Jonathan administration has failed on this issue. It failed to communicate a cogent and compelling rationale for its desire to remove the fuel subsidy with such rapidity. Further, it failed to articulate—qualitatively or quantitatively—why it makes sense to not repair the refineries or address the scourge of corruption and smuggling prior to instigating a doubling in the price of fuel. This author is unaware of a white paper or other policy document that outlines a sound argument for the government’s policy of immediate subsidy removal. The government failed on the policy front, and it failed on the communication and engagement front.
It is also important to see the government’s action as a frontal assault on the Nigerian populace. Unfortunately, the government is fighting the wrong battle because it should really be directing its onslaught at the cabal of oil smugglers and ‘bunkerers’ as well as the saboteurs of the country’s refineries. Those people are the real enemies. If the Jonathan administration had its priorities in order and consisted of right-thinking individuals, it would be more discriminating in its choice of whom to antagonize—and it would be categorical in its choice of the cabal of succubae as its target.