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Editorial

Subsidy Removal Without Domestic Refining?

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In the 2023 fiscal document presented before the joint sitting of the two chambers of Nigeria’s National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari proposed that the subsidy regime would end with his administration on May 29, 2023. However, not a few lawmakers vowed to extend the terminal date for the subsidy removal to the end of 2023.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, disclosed that the Federal Government paid N18.397 billion in subsidies per day. The minister also stated that N6.210 trillion had been disbursed as a fuel subsidy to independent oil marketers from 2013 to 2021. This declaration has elicited reactions from some quarters who feel the subsidy figures are falsified, while others say the subsidy regime is unsustainable as it is hurting the country’s economy.
Recently, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) insisted it was opposed to the removal of subsidy on petrol, if the country failed to refine the product. According to the association, with the government importing premium motor spirit (petrol) consumed in the country, removing the over N3.5 trillion subsidy would expose Nigerians to arbitrary pricing.
The Tide remains steadfast in this long-canvassed position that while the subsidy in its present form is destructive and unsustainable, domestic self-sufficiency in refining is the only lasting solution to product availability, price stability and maximisation of the benefits of crude. It defies logic that Nigeria, a leading producer of crude oil, bankrupts itself by importing and subsidising refined petroleum products.
It needs not be said that if the subsidy on PMS is withdrawn, it will plunge several Nigerians into extreme poverty. Recall that Nigeria has maintained the infamous title of ‘World Poverty Capital’ according to the World Bank since 2016. The World Bank data had shown that four in every 10 Nigerians lived below the poverty line of $1.9 per day. Sadly, efforts by the present government to address the rising challenges of poverty through the National Social Investment Programme meant to improve the standard of living of the average Nigerian has yielded no positive result for a project that gulps N500 billion annually.
Next, the current inflation rate of 21.82 per cent is believed will certainly drive more Nigerians below the poverty line by the end of 2023. Globally, economies are devising measures and approaches to cushion the devastating effect of rising prices on the disposable income of their citizens. However, the present federal administration has failed to assist impoverished and vulnerable Nigerians.
Germany, Austria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, Ghana, and a few other economies are giving out financial incentives to households, cost-of-living allowances, unemployment benefits, an adjustment in wages and salaries, and the roll-out of public transport measures to reduce the impact of inflation. But the Nigerian government has been insensitive to the plight of the citizens, with much attention channelled towards the just-concluded 2023 general election.
Unemployment in the country increases by geometric proportion. The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) has projected the unemployment rate in Africa’s most populous nation to rise to 37 per cent in 2023. This means that the projected unemployment rate is about four percentage points higher than the National Bureau of Statistics data of 33.3 per cent as of 2020. Additionally, many state governors cannot pay the current minimum wage of N30,000 following financial constraints.
Marketers and other groups in the downstream sector of the Nigerian petroleum industry have said that fuel prices may hit N750 per litre should the petroleum subsidy be removed. Being an OPEC member country, it is a shame for Nigeria to remain the only member that imports over 90 per cent of its refined petroleum needs. The country has no reason not to return its domestic refining. The precipitous removal of the fuel subsidy without making strategic plans or giving particular attention to domestic refining is tantamount to strangulating hand-to-mouth Nigerians.
Nigeria’s energy crisis is self-inflicted. At home, the subsidy thrives on opacity, corruption, abandonment of domestic refining, and a shutting out of the private sector in the downstream oil and gas sector. On the international front, Russia’s war on Ukraine has triggered a jump in prices. Rather than reap a windfall, however, Nigeria’s indefensible reliance on importation is damaging its brittle economy.
Before the fuel subsidy is removed, it will be appropriate for the country to go all out to resuscitate its four comatose refineries and embark on building new ones to mitigate the consequences of the withdrawal. The poser here is: Why are Nigeria’s four ailing refineries yet to be resuscitated? Over the years, previous administrations and the present one have made many attempts to restore those moribund refineries. Unfortunately, they were all in vain, since some avaricious Nigerians sabotaged that much-needed valiant effort.
Certainly, domestic refining will firm up the naira; the total removal of the petrol subsidy will precipitate an economic recession. They should only withdraw it in phases accompanied by a vigorous programme to promote private refineries with incentives, privatisation, and the creation of an investment-friendly environment. The establishment of modular refineries should be approved. These refineries have capacities ranging from 1,000 to 30,000 barrels per day.
Our leaders may just be banking on the coming on stream of Dangote’s 650,000 barrels per day refinery now undergoing finishing touches in Lagos and BUA group’s oil refineries. Dangote industry said in January that the refinery would come on stream before the end of Buhari’s administration. Perhaps this is one of the ways Nigeria would escape the worst case scenario painted by industry watchers. The truth is, there is no alternative to domestic self-sufficiency in refining; that should be the urgent national priority.

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Editorial

CBN And Nigeria’s Cash Crunch

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Nigerians have, again, been thrust into desperation as they grapple with cash shortage that has cast a dark shadow over their daily lives. Months after the Supreme Court’s ruling permitting the coexistence of the old and new naira notes, the crisis persists, leaving countless individuals struggling to secure basic necessities.
The scarcity of naira notes has partially crippled commerce throughout the country, especially in the informal sector. Businesses are incapacitated, unable to complete transactions efficiently, resulting in a slowdown of economic activities. Some people are left in dire straits, desperate for cash to meet essential expenses such as food, transportation, and healthcare, among others.
The cash crisis has created a fertile ground for unscrupulous elements and businesses to engage in predatory tactics. Retailers are exploiting the despair of consumers by overcharging for goods, while others hoard cash to sell at inflated prices. This rampant profiteering has further burdened the already strained financial resources of many Nigerians.
It is deeply concerning that while the citizens are still contending with the fallout of a failed disastrous currency redesign policy last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has initiated another misguided scheme that has exacerbated the scarcity of the legal tender. This ill-conceived move is implemented at a time when Nigerians are already struggling with inflation, rising unemployment, and declining living standards. The CBN’s actions have only served to compound their plight.
The timing of the plan is particularly cruel and demonstrates a fundamental lack of consideration for the well-being of ordinary Nigerians. The Central Bank has failed to adequately assess the severe consequences of its policies on the lives of citizens, who are now compelled to endure an atmosphere of uncertainty and hardship.
Despite the apex bank’s assurances of sufficient naira notes in circulation, the cash dilemma continues to torment Nigerians. The situation has worsened following introduction of withdrawal limits by the nation’s financial authorities, leading to an increased reliance on Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals. However, this dependence has come at a steep cost.
POS service providers have taken undue advantage of the shortage by imposing exorbitant charges, further burdening consumers. The surge in charges has negated the convenience of POS transactions, driving up the overall cost of obtaining cash. The CBN’s claims of adequate cash supply ring hollow in light of the predatory practices of POS operators.
Currently, naira scarcity has gripped major cities across the country, with Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) running dry and commercial banks introducing withdrawal limits. Consequently, POS operators have compassed the moment to exploit the situation. Investigations have revealed that some bank officials who own POS businesses, channel cash meant for the public to these outfits. This is economic sabotage. These unpatriotic Nigerians must be identified and punished appropriately.
The Acting Director of Corporate Communications at the CBN, Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, has acknowledged that there has been a rise in the amount of money in circulation. However, she claims that the scarcity of cash is due to individuals hoarding it. This explanation contradicts the actual situation on the ground, as numerous banks have been unable to fulfil the daily requests for cash withdrawals.
This is why it is required for the Federal Government to promptly intervene and resolve the difference between what the Central Bank asserts and the actual availability of cash. They should contemplate raising the limits for cash withdrawals, improving access to banking services in areas that lack sufficient coverage, and partnering with mobile money platforms to offer alternative payment options.
To restore confidence in the banking system and help Nigerians affected by the current liquidity crisis, it is necessary to make coordinated attempts to increase the amount of cash in circulation. This can be achieved by taking strict actions against unfair point of sale charges and implementing measures to safeguard consumers from excessive profit-making. The Central Bank can address the liquidity crisis by implementing these steps, and provide relief to the suffering population.
While we promote alternative modes of payment, including electronic channels, to reduce pressure on cash, the authorities must recognise that resolving the cash crunch is not merely an economic issue. It is a matter of social justice. Every Nigerian deserves easy access to their hard-earned money without being subjected to inordinate drudgery. The government has a moral responsibility to address this crisis swiftly and effectively to restore financial stability and ensure the well-being of all its citizens.

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Editorial

Lessons From UK Polls

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The United Kingdom’s general election of July 4 marks a turning point in the nation’s political land-
scape. It highlights the resilience of its democratic traditions. The peaceful transition of power from Rishi Sunak to Keir Starmer reflects the strength of Britain’s political institutions and the electorate’s ability to effect change.
Moreover, the landslide victory of the Labour Party signifies a potential shift in the country’s ideological trajectory, prompting a reevaluation of its political, economic, and social future. As the nation navigates this pivotal moment, the smoothness of this transition serves as a testament to the stability and adaptability of Britain’s democratic infrastructure.
One of the most striking aspects of the new cabinet is the representation of women, with 11 out of 19 cabinet members being female. This stands in contrast to the situation in Nigeria, where women are severely underrepresented in government, particularly in the Northern states where female participation in politics is almost non-existent. The success of these women in the British political arena serves as a quintessential example for Nigeria, where patriarchy still holds sway and gender equality in politics remains a distant dream.
Eight Nigerian-Britons emerged victorious in the parliamentary elections, garnering adulation from Nigerians both at home and abroad. Their success highlights the importance of merit-based selection in politics, as each Member of Parliament (MP) won their seat on the basis of their personal qualifications and achievements. Unlike in Nigeria, where political appointments are often influenced by money, party leaders, and other extraneous factors, the British system values the power of the voter and respects the rights of every citizen to participate in the democratic process.
The diverse backgrounds and professional expertise of the Nigerian-British MPs further underscore the importance of competence and performance in politics. These individuals, ranging from engineers to lawyers, have earned their seats through hard work and dedication, rather than through political connections or nepotism. Their success should serve as a wake-up call to the Nigerian political system, where the average age of politicians is over 60 and where professional qualifications are often overshadowed by tribal and religious affiliations.
A veteran politician and one of the leading Nigerian-British MPs, Kemi Badenoch, exemplifies the success that can be achieved through hard work and dedication. Despite the challenges faced by her party in the recent election, Badenoch was re-elected on the basis of her qualifications and track record in office. Her appointment as Secretary of State for the Department for Business and Trade is a testament to her capabilities and leadership skills.
The current political climate in Nigeria stands in sharp contrast to the achievements of Nigerian-British professionals in the political sphere. Through their perseverance, commitment, and professional knowledge, Taiwo Owatemi, Chi Onwurah, Kate Osamor, Bayo Alaba, Josh Babarinde, Florence Eshalomi, Helen Grant, and Kemi Badenoch have all been elected to the legislature. This is in contradistinction to the state of affairs in Nigeria, where many politicians are viewed as “professional politicians” who lack distinguishable credentials or sources of income.
Nigeria’s electoral system is radically different from that of Britain, where candidates accept the results of the poll without filing lawsuits. Britain’s electoral procedure is also transparent and effective. But in Nigeria, courts are routinely called upon to resolve electoral disputes since elections are frequently tainted by violence, corruption, and legal problems. Nigeria’s electoral process is not credible due to the absence of intra-party democracy and the involvement of cronies and godfathers.
While the political achievements of the elected Nigerians are commendable, they also serve as a sobering reminder of the weaknesses in our democratic system. After all, competence and performance ought to be the main determinants of electoral success, not religious and tribal affinities as they frequently are in Nigeria. The achievements of these Nigerian-Britons should compel a reassessment of Nigeria’s political environment, highlighting the necessity of a more efficient and responsible democratic system.
Unfortunately, the high rate of litigation in Nigeria’s elections threatens the country’s democratic process, creating tension and uncertainty from pre-election disputes to post-election challenges. This undermines voter choices and trust in the electoral system, raising concerns about the judiciary’s independence. Electoral reforms promoting transparency, accountability, and timely dispute resolution outside the courts are needed to strengthen democracy in Nigeria.
Our nation’s democracy is at a critical point and must evolve to survive. We need to shift away from costly campaigns and prioritise electoral integrity by safeguarding voter rights and promoting transparency. By addressing key national issues, Nigerian politics can become more sustainable and effective. These reforms are essential for our nation to progress towards a more inclusive and representative government.
Nigeria and other countries grappling with democratic government ought to take note of the Nigerian-British MPs’ accomplishments. Political leaders must be held responsible for their acts, and citizenship entails both rights and obligations. To be a really democratic society, where the power of the vote is honoured and protected, a society should be based on competence, performance, and transparency. Then and only then, regardless of origin or background, can we aspire to create a brighter future for every citizen.

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Editorial

CBN And Nigeria’s Cash Crunch

Published

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Nigerians have, again, been thrust into desperation as they grapple with cash shortage that has cast a dark shadow over their daily lives. Months after the Supreme Court’s ruling permitting the coexistence of the old and new naira notes, the crisis persists, leaving countless individuals struggling to secure basic necessities.
The scarcity of naira notes has partially crippled commerce throughout the country, especially in the informal sector. Businesses are incapacitated, unable to complete transactions efficiently, resulting in a slowdown of economic activities. Some people are left in dire straits, desperate for cash to meet essential expenses such as food, transportation, and healthcare, among others.
The cash crisis has created a fertile ground for unscrupulous elements and businesses to engage in predatory tactics. Retailers are exploiting the despair of consumers by overcharging for goods, while others hoard cash to sell at inflated prices. This rampant profiteering has further burdened the already strained financial resources of many Nigerians.
It is deeply concerning that while the citizens are still contending with the fallout of a failed disastrous currency redesign policy last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has initiated another misguided scheme that has exacerbated the scarcity of the legal tender. This ill-conceived move is implemented at a time when Nigerians are already struggling with inflation, rising unemployment, and declining living standards. The CBN’s actions have only served to compound their plight.
The timing of the plan is particularly cruel and demonstrates a fundamental lack of consideration for the well-being of ordinary Nigerians. The Central Bank has failed to adequately assess the severe consequences of its policies on the lives of citizens, who are now compelled to endure an atmosphere of uncertainty and hardship.
Despite the apex bank’s assurances of sufficient naira notes in circulation, the cash dilemma continues to torment Nigerians. The situation has worsened following introduction of withdrawal limits by the nation’s financial authorities, leading to an increased reliance on Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals. However, this dependence has come at a steep cost.
POS service providers have taken undue advantage of the shortage by imposing exorbitant charges, further burdening consumers. The surge in charges has negated the convenience of POS transactions, driving up the overall cost of obtaining cash. The CBN’s claims of adequate cash supply ring hollow in light of the predatory practices of POS operators.
Currently, naira scarcity has gripped major cities across the country, with Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) running dry and commercial banks introducing withdrawal limits. Consequently, POS operators have compassed the moment to exploit the situation. Investigations have revealed that some bank officials who own POS businesses, channel cash meant for the public to these outfits. This is economic sabotage. These unpatriotic Nigerians must be identified and punished appropriately.
The Acting Director of Corporate Communications at the CBN, Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, has acknowledged that there has been a rise in the amount of money in circulation. However, she claims that the scarcity of cash is due to individuals hoarding it. This explanation contradicts the actual situation on the ground, as numerous banks have been unable to fulfil the daily requests for cash withdrawals.
This is why it is required for the Federal Government to promptly intervene and resolve the difference between what the Central Bank asserts and the actual availability of cash. They should contemplate raising the limits for cash withdrawals, improving access to banking services in areas that lack sufficient coverage, and partnering with mobile money platforms to offer alternative payment options.
To restore confidence in the banking system and help Nigerians affected by the current liquidity crisis, it is necessary to make coordinated attempts to increase the amount of cash in circulation. This can be achieved by taking strict actions against unfair point of sale charges and implementing measures to safeguard consumers from excessive profit-making. The Central Bank can address the liquidity crisis by implementing these steps, and provide relief to the suffering population.
While we promote alternative modes of payment, including electronic channels, to reduce pressure on cash, the authorities must recognise that resolving the cash crunch is not merely an economic issue. It is a matter of social justice. Every Nigerian deserves easy access to their hard-earned money without being subjected to inordinate drudgery. The government has a moral responsibility to address this crisis swiftly and effectively to restore financial stability and ensure the well-being of all its citizens.

Continue Reading

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