Former Lagos State Governor and national leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has joined the call for the removal of fuel subsidy, lamenting that the policy was bogged by “too many demons”.
With price of crude oil in the international market hitting its lowest in seven years coupled with fuel scarcity across the country, which has seen the product sell far above the official pump price of N87/litre, some prominent Nigerians and the World Bank have advised that now is the best time to remove fuel subsidy.
Speaking at the 10th memorial anniversary of late Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman, an activist and historian of repute, which held at the Arewa House, Kaduna on Friday, Tinubu said that his call for fuel subsidy removal was more than mere talk, “it is a call to action”.
The APC chieftain, who hailed President Muhammadu Buhari as an earnest leader, who seeks to give Nigerians the lives they deserve by giving them a vibrant economy and security, said his faith in the president’s commitment to help people is “deep and abiding” adding “I believe he is on the right path and will continue to follow it”.
“The task before us is grave and daunting. With oil prices having declined so steeply, the question becomes how must the federal government shape fiscal policy so that we achieve optimal economic production and employment under the given circumstance?
“The voices of old conservative mainstream economists will try to convince us that there is but one way to go: austerity now, austerity forever. They will state that the people must tighten their belts then lift themselves by their own bootstraps.
“However, they do not realise that the people will choke should they tighten that belt any tighter and that most of them cannot pull themselves up alone because they could never afford to buy any boots to strap.
“This austerity advice might be right for another time and place. However, it is the wrong medicine for Nigeria here and now”, Tinubu said.
The former Lagos governor explained that the reason he is opposed to austerity is because it would compound, not alleviate, the economic weakness.
“Indeed, as best exemplified in the Euro zone since the 2009 global financial crisis, austerity has not solved the dire economic weakness of the nations that employed this sickening remedy at a time when economic demand has already slackened.
“Austerity weakens aggregate demand, deflating an economy already fatigued and against the ropes… Jobs and commerce disappear. Debt climbs. Deflation turns a noble but poor household and neighborhood into a committee of beggars and street urchins….
“Austerity undermines our economic pillars and breaks the spirit of the people… If you desire a nation of thralls, by all means continue this bleak path. If we want a nation of prosperity and economic justice, a different course is our due”.
Tinubu, who insisted that there are too many demons in the fuel subsidy regime for hell to be turned into heaven, said “It is better that we remove it”, adding if Bala Usman were to be alive, he would have called for its removal too.
“In a perfect world, I wish we could sanitise the subsidy regime and thus continue with it.
“However, I have reached the conclusion that there are too many demons in the system for that hell to be turned into heaven.
“It is better that we remove it, not for the austere purpose of saving money but to use the money more wisely that we might better save the people. Let us begin a process of a thoughtful, but decisive subsidy phase-out.
“While this is occurring, we should simultaneously phase in social programmes benefiting the poorest, most vulnerable among us. Programmes such as transportation subsidies, school feeding, improved basic medical care and coverage for the poor, and potable water projects are some of the things that can be done with the same funds.
“This way we can undertake this massive expenditure, confident that the fruits will go to the hungry, not the already too well fed.
“End the fuel subsidy. Subsidize the people instead – Subsidize the people instead!” Tinubu declared.