Nigerians may not have seen the worst of economic policy of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration as experts have predicted a more gloomy future for the 3rd quarter of the current fiscal year.
The fear being expressed is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. Owing to the ravaging effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually all economies of the world have had to grapple with one challenge or the other.
But for Nigerians, there has been no reprieve since the pandemic started, as most of the policy measures adopted by the Federal Government increasingly take a negative toll on their overall wellbeing. The latest being the recent hike in pump price of petroleum product as well as tariff for electricity. With the regime of new price, a litre of petrol, which hitherto sold for N148 now goes for N162, while electricity tariff has gone up from N22 per Kwh to N63.
According to the authorities, the increase in the price of petrol was in furtherance of the deregulation policy of the Federal Government. The tariff adjustment, on the other hand, was also occasioned by the desire of the government to divest itself of the bur- den of financial subsidy to the crisis-ridden power sector, which had gulped as much as over N1 trillion.
Experts are, however, quick to warn that the pressure arising from deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry could hinder recovery plan for the 3rd quarter due to the rising inflationary trend and its impact on the disposable income of the people.
This is coupled with the threat by the organized labour to lead a protest against the arbitrary hike in tariff for electricity at a time when other nations of the world are working out palliatives for their citizens to cushion the effects of the pandemic.
Some stakeholders, who spoke with Sunday Sun, blamed the increasing economic hardship imposed on the people on the lackluster attitude of the opposition parties in holding the government accountable for its action or inaction.
A former adviser to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr Gbenga Osinowo, noted that the Buhari administration was drifting towards dictatorship, warning that the hardship being currently experienced by the people could lead to instability in the polity.
His words: “I don’t know why the government is doing all this. But what I know is that the net effect of it is hardship on the people. And it is capable of causing instability in the polity. Already, there is so much poverty in the land. Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world. So, anything that will make the people slid into further penury is not good for us as a nation. The two items affected by the price increase have a multiplier effect on the inflationary trend.
“When you add all these to the dislocation caused to the farmers by the Fulani herdsmen, you will find out that food security is threatened. What it shows is incompetence of government and mismanagement of the economy. And the government is becoming increasingly intolerant, becoming more dictatorial, clamping down on the people generally.”
He attributed the low voice of the opposition to the repressive attitude of the government. “Lack of organised opposition may just be a reflection of the intolerance of government,” he said.
A notable leader of thought in the North, Dr Junaid Muhammed, also expressed the same view, saying “anytime opposition party raises a legitimate issue, which ought to be looked into, they unleash their dog in the presidency to shut them up.”
He dismissed the administration for its nepotism, ineptitude and lack of economic direction. He said: “You judge a government by what it fails to do when it comes to power. And you have to blame Nigerians for accepting what they told them in the first instance. As far as I am concerned, referring to the Buhari administration in terms of economic policy is an oxymoron. It doesn’t say anything, it doesn’t explain anything. There was never any economic policy direction.
“When a government lies consistently, you will be deceiving yourself, if you think you can be judged by what it says. In fact, one will be naive to accept whatever they say. When you pick your relations, your nephew, your cousins and put them in very strategic positions, that is a classical definition of nepotism. So, you shouldn’t expect anything. If Nigerians decide to keep quiet, then they shouldn’t complain.
“Neither the APC nor PDP has a minimal respect for the wish of the people and the rule of law. There is no difference between the two of them. They are both in politics only for what they will get from the government and are always ready to use that power to make money. That is why they keep on moving from one party to another whenever there is a change of government at any level. It is up to Nigerians to decide what they want to do with themselves, their country and their destiny. I don’t know anybody who can tell me what APC or PDP stands for.”
According to Buba Galadima, a people deserve the government they get. Asked to comment on the role of the opposition in holding government accountable, he quipped: “Beyond the talking, you want me to lead a protest. We told the masses that if they vote for this man, they would cry with tears and they elected to vote for him. So, why don’t you allow them to bear the brunt? They have been told times without number the evils of these people and that they should never trust them with anything. Now, they have seen with their own eyes and they can feel it in their bodies. We in the opposition have never failed in our responsibility to tell Nigerians of the evils of these people. “Let me tell you, Nigerians have not yet seen anything. These people have no sympathy or empathy. They have no regard for human feeling. There is more hardship coming on their way. Be- fore now, I used to pay N80,000 monthly as electricity bill. Now, I will have to make provision for N250,000 in a two-bedroom house because of the new tariff. With this trend, small-scale business owners will be out of job. The man has devalued naira through the backdoor.
“I don’t want to be quoted as a PDP, but as a private citizen. PDP doesn’t know anything about opposition. It has never been in the opposition. So, they don’t know how to fight opposition. They have always been in power. I don’t think they know how to play opposition politics because they never lived in denial. They have never been in opposition, so, they don’t know how to do opposition.”
But the Lagos State Spokesperson for the APC, Seye Oladejo, in a quick response, said: “The stunted opposition ought to bury its head in shame for the mess it created that continues to pose enormous challenge to our government. Nigerians cannot easily forget the unfortunate years of the locust.”
Absolving the Buhari administration of allegations of insensitivity, he added: “The APC-led Federal Government cannot possibly take the people for granted. Over time, the issue of subsidy has become a thorn in the flesh of successive governments in Nigeria. It has become a conduit pipe for corruption to enrich a few Nigerians to the disadvantage of our teeming populace.
“We should commend the Buhari administration for having the political will to block this drain on our collective patrimony. The present global economic challenge as occasioned by the pandemic couldn’t have been anticipated. As much as the present administration remains compassionate, the present economic reality is that it is unsustainable to maintain the subsidy regime.
“The government is not unmindful of the challenge the removal will pose to the masses, hence measures are being put in place to ameliorate this. The directive for the release of the N2.3 trillion stimulus funds that will create millions of jobs is a measure in the right direction.
“It’s also reassuring that the resources saved from the subsidy removal will be deployed to the provision of infrastructural development across the country. The integrity and transparency of PMB certainly give some comfort. As the government continues to work hard to provide succour, the present pain can only be temporary.”
Meanwhile, Comrade Mark Adebayo, one of the co-spokesperson of the Conference of Political Parties (CUPP lamented that the civil society had lost its relevance. “It is very unfortunate that the civil society is losing the vibrancy of the Gani Fawehinmi era, it is losing the vibrancy of Beko/ Kuti era, losing the vibrancy of Aka Bashorun era, losing the vibrancy of Tai Solarin era. We have to concede the fact that a lot still needs to be done.
Civil society is dying down and we cannot al- low that. We have allowed this government to get away with so many things. And we need to provide leadership for the Nigerian people. But to call a protest now, you need to do your home- work very well because you don’t want to go to the street and find yourself alone.”