As the National Conference draws to a close, the important thing is for it to proffer meaningful solutions to the various problems that were identified. But while it is doing that, it must also consider as important, the National Interest.
Every Nigerian has keen interest in one area or the other, of the myriad of issues raised and addressed at the on-going Conference. There may be many ‘wise men, but Nigerians are hopeful of the results that the ‘few selected’ delegates would come out with.
While the clamour is on to know the end results that would make it to the policy table in these different areas; ethnic nationality interests, state creation, resource control, security concern and others, everyone wants to know what will befall their fate with respect to petroleum products and the hues and cries over subsidy.
We can afford to print it boldly that the various Committees would have no doubt raised and addressed very important issues, but a weighty issue as the subsidy on petroleum products, would interest the generality of Nigerians because it rubs off on every other area of life.
When the Committee on Public Finance and Revenue came up with the issue of retaining or removing the subsidy, the Conference members expressed mixed reactions with reasons. It may not be a battle line, but Nigerians have the right to know whose interest is most protected.
While some of them supported the removal of the subsidy on petroleum products, others were against it, leaving members to take sides of the debate.
According to the Committee, headed by Senator Adamu Aliero, it was needless for the Federal Government to continue to subsidise petroleum products, arguing that it was a huge financial burden that should have been done with.
However, since the January 2012 fuel price increase that met with massive general protests, especially in Lagos and several other major cities in Nigeria, the move about subsidy removal had been treated with extra care.
The Committee’s stance however, that with the over N1.2 trillion average amounts paid as subsidy in 2013, corruption and smuggling would be encouraged, takes Nigerians down memory lane of the petroleum products subsidy probe when a number of those indicted could not make meaningful defense of the charges brought against them.
As it is with many other public issues, the dust was raised, the heat was high, but eventually, not much can be said to have been done to right the wrongs.
The Committee presented its argument that the removal of petroleum products subsidy would ensure availability of the product. Like it said, the system would stop to enrich the few people who have been enjoying the subsidy without importing the products as claimed.
It stood on its argument that such huge amount of money could have otherwise been plowed into meaningful projects to develop the nation.
Following its position in this regard, where there is no subsidy, marketers would concern themselves with ensuring availability of petroleum products and how to make the quickest returns on investments.
Looking inward, others argued that the call for the removal of the subsidy should not be done hurriedly. They advised that before the subsidy is removed, the refineries should be overhauled and ensure full capacity production.
Agreeably, Nigerians have faced several protests which have hurt the economy and the people alike. It is taking so long for people to understand how it will benefit them when the subsidy is removed. This is largely due to the fact that there may not be guidelines for operations to benefit the masses.
With informed opinion, it will actually be beneficial to the general public for the subsidy to be removed, but government should endeavour to be systematic and transparent about it.
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