Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States of America once said ‘you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time’
The Nigeria minister of finance, budget and national planning,
Mrs Zainab Ahmed announced earlier in the year that there is no going back on removal of petrol subsidy by this administration. She also announced that the country will receive a grant of 800 million dollars (N600billion) from the world bank to cushion the effects of the subsidy removal.
The money was supposed to be distributed to 10 million households in Nigeria at N5000 monthly over six months. In her assertion, this will help to reinflate the economy and lift the poor out of their poverty. As dumb as this idea sounds to many Nigerians, it happened that it is not the worst to be heard of the expiring administration on this issue.
Following the announcement of the planned fuel subsidy removal, there was an unequivocal threat from the labour union for a guaranteed industrial showdown.
With its tail between its legs, the federal government ditched the idea of subsidy removal and passed the buck over to the next administration. However, they still want to administer the medicine that was meant to cure the illness that would have resulted from subsidy removal. I will explain.
Earlier this week, I listened with a sense of bewilderment to the president of the Nigerian senate when he read out a letter from Mr president requesting for senate approval of 800Million dollars loan, not grant, from the world bank to distribute to 10million Nigerian households over a period of six months. Many things are not adding up with this loan request.
Firstly, we were initially told it was a grant, but now we are seeing a loan request that will add on to our already swollen loan record of this administration.
Secondly, the initial reason touted for the funds is to create a safety net to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal on the poor. Now that subsidy removal has been shelved, what are they palliating urgently?
For an administration that has barely three weeks to expire to be requesting for a N600billion loan for reasons that are neither urgent nor germane at this moment, your guess is as good as mine. The boys want to have the last bite of the pie before they leave!
If the antecedents of the current senate president is anything to go by, he will try to steer the senate to approve this offensive loan request. The nineth senate has one last chance to save their decrepit image by withholding their approval of this loan.
Nigerians from now and going forward must begin to show keen interest in what is going on in the legislative arm of government because the executive cannot destroy the country except with active cooperation and collaboration with the legislature.
Dr Otabor is a surgeon writing from Abuja.
May 12th 2023.