From Ejike Chinedu, Lagos
As I write this, there is a dispute between importers of petrol and the federal government. While government says the marketers are being owed N131bn, the marketers are insisting that government has an outstanding N200bn to pay to them. This was after the marketer were paid N154bn the week before last.
Current realities therefore bring to the fore the need, more than ever before, to deregulate the downstream sector of the oil sector. But if President Jonathan attempts to do it or the incoming President Buhari refuses to continue the payment of subsidy, these categories of people will surely mount a resistance for different reasons.
1. Petrol importers: These are the people that had benefitted from the decay in the country’s oil sector. Within the period Nigeria depended largely on importing refined petrol for local consumption, a larger percentage of those big players in the sector emerged. In about 7 years, this group handled about N4.9tr in the name of importing refined petrol whereas the country produced and expored the crude. Their business have been hinged on importing petrol and being paid an agreed “extra cost” by government. Some of them still divert the product to the country’s neighbours where profit margin multiplies. Many of them will crumble as soon as government withdraws that subsidy.
2. Government contractors fronting as importers: After the 2012 subsidy protest, one big revelation was the fraud carried out by some of the acclaimed importers who never bring in a liter of petrol nor own a tank farm anywhere. All they have is a relationship with a top member of the ruling political party, PDP, and a brief case containing operational certificate issued by the NNPC and invoices from non-existing foreign partners. Ending the subsidy regime is tantamount to serious “bad market”.
3. The third group are the ignorant Labour Union leaders in search of public acceptance which derives its breath from greed and personal interest. There is no doubt that ending subsidy will trigger off a season of hardship. There is equally no doubt that such suffering will be very temporary. Because most Nigerians hate sacrifice, always preferring the easy way, there is likely to be public resentment once the removal of subsidy becomes a serious issue for consideration.
In reality, with the current situation where petrol stations are regularly dry while the black market is thriving, Nigerians are already making those sacrifices without seeing it as such. These Labour Union leaders and their allies in the civil society will put in everything in them to convince the people that government is insensitive. Their motivation is their stomach. It is believed to be the practice that those who “champion” resistance in such manner are usually the ones who negotiate “settlement” hence the usual attraction to “speak for the people”.
4. The forth group is the opposition: Those who are determined to give no consideration whatsoever to the real worth of government decision; it must be pulled down. With the outcome of the March 28 Presidential election, this group is now populated majorly by those who lack the basic skill to carry out the task. What they have in abundance however, is so much energy to make a statement. Perhaps, they have their first task cut out against the future of the country.
5. Failed politicians are not necessarily the opposition. They are those who will be saying, “If we could not succeed in doing it in our own time, we won’t allow you to succeed now”. This group can be desperate sometimes but the question is; for how long can they sustain the agitation?