"I have read with acatalectic disgust, government's asinine and puerile ratiocinations attempting to justiceate the proposed removal of subsidies from petroleum products. It has asseverated that its intentions are guided by the need to checkmate the odoriferous excesses of a machiavellian and mephistophelean cabal and I have said to myself, what a shame. What a self indicting admittal of the failure of governance? What an hocus-pocus? What an anathematous disdain for its citizenry? Must the people now bear the brunt for governments ineptitude, inefficiency and pusillanimity in squaring up with these economic philistines and fat cows"? Hon Patrick Obahiagbon
Considering that for many years, some of us have canvassed the removal of fuel subsidy because it mostly benefits few business men, politicians and friends rather than the public whom it is meant to ease off poverty, President Jonathan's recent decision to finally remove the subsidy makes it safe to assume that he has grown balls.
Looking closely at the decision, he has indeed grown big balls, albeit the wrong bad ones.
While the subsidy removal may be a good decision for many reasons, the approach by which it is being pursued is erroneous, miscalculated and the decision once again raises many questions about the man called Jonathan and the much vaunted "Madam World Bank" who must have no doubt orchestrated the sharp plan.
The problem with World Bank and IMF technocrats like Madam Iweala whose exposure is admirable is that they are always too obsessed with the pace of their ÔÇśgood agenda' than the sustenance and the overarching negative implications of such agenda on the masses.
To be fair, we must acknowledge that the subsidy removal would save the government a fortune every year (1.2 trillion naira) which in effect would help in carrying out important projects to the benefit of the masses.
Where lies the problem is the harmful implication of the removal to millions of struggling Nigerians, the very bad timing of the removal and the haste with which it is being carried out. The logic behind the removal is also flawed.
As a result of the proposed removal, there is every tendency that there would be rise in poverty since per litre price of petrol would rise over 100% (N65 to N142 -N150). This would increase the cost of transportation, the cost of food and other consumer products in every corner of the country.
More so, as a result of possible inflation, the government will hardly save half of its targeted 1.2 trillion per year because the cost of everything (raw materials, food and everything) would have risen. Hence, it would require 2 trillion in 2012 to buy what can be bought for 1.2 trillion today, so where is the saving?
To counter this problem, the FG proposes that the naira would be devalued to offset possible inflationary effects on the currency, hence it is argued that 1.2 trillion would still be worth its value after subsidy removal in 2012.
The FG also proposes that it would deregulate the oil market for more downstream opportunity for businesses while most of Nigeria's oil would be refined locally. Hence, the FG would be in control and more competition would emerge.
Except for the inflation argument, in theory, this plan might have been well thought out.
The problem in practice is that as a major importing nation, everything except oil will become very expensive because of a weaker currency which would require people to spend more to get the same product as before.
In historic cases, high import costs have been found to pull inflation, therefore FG's logic behind the subsidy removal is flawed. When high inflation sits around for too long as the new government policy would breed, the naira will possibly further depreciate.
When a devalued currency further depreciates, the end result would be chaotic and unmanageable and would have many unintended consequences. We can always expect more poverty, insecurity and more social unrests.
In addition to FG's flawed logic, the proposed removal is wrongly timed because of the ongoing events in the micro and macro environment. In recent times, the naira has been at the consistent mercy of the US dollar and other major currencies making consumer products more expensive, this can be confirmed by any local Nigeria who buys food and transacts on a daily basis.
A subsidy removal at this time will therefore do no good than contribute to the problem by making the cost of everything more outrageous and unacceptable.
The looming double deep recession in the global economy also makes the timing of the removal very bad - because no one can yet ascertain whether there will be a recession or not.
The fact that there is possibility of one should make President Jonathan and his teams be on their toes to cushion possible effects of the recession on Nigeria. Part of the solution indeed should be the subsidization of whatever can be subsidized to reduce dire effects of the downturn on ordinary people.
Furthermore, as signatory to the UN Millennium development goal which seeks to eradicate extreme poverty by 2015, the subsidy removal is a slap on the MDG's and a reaffirmation of the total loss of balance, foresight and strategy in Aso Rock's decision making.
In light of the factors above, it is incomprehensible why the decision have been taken at this crucial moment in time. One plausible explanation could be that by saving a lot of money there can be more to spend on building better refineries and on important infrastructural projects which is what Nigerians have been yearning for.
Justifying the subsidy removal with this argument as is advanced by the FG is very troubling because there are many other existing areas where cuts can be made and trillions of naira can be saved without wrecking any havoc on suffering citizens.
In the 2011 budget for example, a whopping 29 billion was allocated to the presidency and the house of assembly over 283 billion - more than what was allocated to the ministry of health which is more important.
Presidential intervention projects took over 100 billion, office of the national security adviser got nearly 88 billion naira while untold billions are allocated for entertainment provisions, foreign trips, sundry and security votes.
These ridiculous budgetary allocations if trimmed significantly will not trigger poverty and will only affect less than 1% of our ÔÇśfatcows'. Therefore, if the government is looking to earn more money to spend on capital and poverty alleviation projects, ÔÇścharity must begin at home'.
The allowances, salaries and other ludicrous benefits given to ministers, advisers and unnecessary personal should be cut.
Inspite of the large scale of poverty which the subsidy removal will trigger, President Jonathan can still be forgiven if he shows strong commitment and his teams are serious about their commitment towards reducing poverty and helping citizens by means of alternative policy measures which would counter inflation, poverty, and possible economic adversities which may arise from the subsidy removal.
The question is whether the President will ever be able to see through any successful alternative policy measure which would take the place of subsidy removal in other positive ways.
Judging from the President's steps, any alternative policy intervention coming from him aimed at poverty intervention would likely fail on a woeful scale.
It is simple logic, if the government cannot plug the holes and ensure smooth administration of the current fuel subsidy while bringing to book the few corrupt cabals, how can the same government administer any bigger project which would be at the benefit of the masses.
The safest decision that should be taken right now regarding the subsidy removal is to simply put an immidiate stop to it while pushing for better transparency and greater accountability in its administration until any positive measure towards poverty alleviation can be achieved.
Another moderately harmless measure could be to carry out the removal in phases, for example by removing the subsidy in percentage terms over a certain period (for example 25% over four years, year on year). This would have a less abrupt effect on the citizenry than the FG's proposed approach.
If none of the above subtle measures are taken and the removal goes on as planned for 2012, one thing is very certain and it is that Nigeria's turn of the arab Spring is nigh.
Many people across blogs and forums have been praying for a Nigerian version of the Arab Spring, but we don't need that right now.
What we need is the ability to confront our leaders, question their decisions, reject their verdicts - rub it on their faces, offer our advice and give them direction because they often don't know.
Whoever thinks the simple strategy won't work should look at President Jonathan's transformation from a mere heartless guy to one who has grown balls.
President Jonathan and his teams should stop the subsidy removal with immediate effect and whoever knows him should tell him to grow bigger balls. We need an assertive President who can take better decisions.