The reaction and response was very strong. Within the music community, celebrities like Banky W joined protesters in protesting against the removal while Don Jazzy took to twitter to express strong resentments against President Goodluck Jonathan’s move. Within the film industry, while many had a lot to say about the issue, the voice the media paid attention to was that of Nollywood Actress Genevieve Nnaji. In Nnaji’s case, she tweeted her support of the removal of fuel subsidy but argued the timing is wrong. Other respected leaders like Fela Durotoye also opposed the fuel subsidy arguing the government ought to take care of core issues and cut wasteful spending before attempting to remove fuel subsidy. In the meantime, Nigerians and friends of Nigeria in the UK and USA (DC, New York) prepare for a peaceful protest opposing the removal of fuel subsidy.
Of course relevant in the debate of the removal of fuel subsidies include government officials such as Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who was absent during one of the key Federal Executive Council meetings on this issue. In her absence, rumors flew that she had resigned from her position. I received the release below from Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s PR team denying any resignation and further clarifying/announcing her position on the issue. In addition, I read an article a couple of days ago where Sahara Reporters accused Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of trying to avoid debating the issue of the removal of fuel subsidy.
I am an individual who likes to be informed on issues. Upon fully grasping the issues, then I take my stance. One main reason is that my DNA is an all or nothing kind of DNA. So, I cannot blindly (even if the masses do it) support a cause I do not believe. Part of such DNA means I am used to and I am comfortable with living with the consequences that comes from deviating from the norm, irrespective of how hard things might get.
Having said that, what is my stance on the fuel subsidy issue? I’d have to agree with Genevieve Nnaji that the move by the administration appears, on its face, to be the kind of move any average citizen should expect from their government, BUT at issue is the timing. This is a necessary evil that must occur to free Nigerians. However, for Nigerians, especially poor Nigerians, to wake up and overnight go from paying 65Naira per litre of fuel to paying 141Naira is simply harsh, insensitive and cruel.It affects every single aspect of the lives of Nigerians, especially the poor.
One of the arguments that has been made is that deregulation of the oil sector and a removal of subsidies makes sense and the effect would resemble that seen in the banking and communications sector. I believe, at this time, that is like comparing apples to oranges. The average Nigerian lacks a bank account. Banking is not a necessity. Deregulation of the banking sector while arguably beneficial to all Nigerians in the long run, absent corruption and bribery, is not addressing issues of necessity and survival. Similarly, deregulation of the communications sector is not addressing a basic necessity. It is not a necessity to buy credit to use a mobile phone. It is a necessity to buy fuel to use for cooking food. It is necessity to have fuel for emergency transportation to the hospital, it is a necessity for the poor to afford the danfos, molues and public transportation that take them to work and assures they remain gainfully employed. It is a necessity for Nigeria’s market sellers to afford fuel to transport food products to our local markets and so many other things that fuel is needed for. Deregulation while I believe should happen, the tightening of the belt needs to begin in other areas, first. I believe the statement by Dr. Okonjo-Iweala below sort of sweeps over the critical day to day issue of how majority of the country is expected to survive with such overnight deregulation and removal of fuel subsidy.
Also at issue and not addressed is the confidence of the Nigerian people in their government. Unlike the communication and Banking sector, the oil industry has been for a large part the trading currency for Nigeria. It has also been a sector that has brought shame and strife to Nigeria and its people due to the corruption of its leaders. We can’t talk about deregulating the oil sector without addressing the root cause of the problem here, complete loss of faith by Nigerians in the Nigerian government and its ability to effectively enforce laws to the benefit of all Nigerians.
A few resources I want to leave you all with that better delineates some of the legal and policy issues that the masses are protesting and fighting for:
1. Watch the debate on Nigeria’s legislative floors over removal of fuel subsidy. The video is 4hours long so you would need to clear out time in the evening to watch it. It is embedded in this article at the end.
2. Read the frequently asked question that provides bullet points on this issue although I think it is skewed towards saying deregulation at this time is okay.
3. Finally, read the Finance Minister’s position below and also watch Sahara Reporter’s video and a couple of other video clips on the protests. Feel free to share your input. Starting Monday, there will be even more indepth coverage of these issues on LadybrilleNigeria.
For Nigerians and friends of Nigeria in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area, details of a peaceful rally follows below:
Nigerians in the diaspora and supporters will be protesting on Monday, January 9th. Below are the details:
Who: The 99%
What: Protest in Solidarity with Occupy Nigeria outside World Bank headquarters
When: January 9, 2012, 11am-1 p.m.
Where: 11am – March begins at McPherson Sq. DC to World Bank HQ (Morrow Park, 1818 H Street, NW, Washington, DC); 12 – 1pm : Demonstrations at WB HQ
Why: To show solidarity with our Nigerian friends who are risking their lives in taking on Big Oil and the 1%
If any of you have images, videos, music etc. you would like to share with me and the AML audience regarding all of the ongoing protests, please email me at (email@example.com).
FEDERAL MINISTRY OF FINANCE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ABUJA, NIGERIA January 5, 2012
OKONJO-IWEALA DID NOT THREATEN TO RESIGN
…FUEL SUBSIDY IS A GOVERNMENT, NOT A PERSONAL DECISION
It has come to our notice that a well coordinated campaign of calumny against the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, founded on outright lies and despicable distortions is being executed by cowardly persons hiding behind the ongoing controversy over the government’s decision to deregulate the petroleum sector.
For obvious reasons, the faceless campaigners have elected to tell their lies online because the normal journalistic principles of facts and balanced reporting are generally absent there.
For instance, we have received numerous enquiries regarding an alleged threat by the Coordinating Minister to resign if the government goes back on its decision to end the fuel subsidies. The threat was supposedly made during the emergency Federal Executive Council meeting which held yesterday.
This speculation, like numerous others is absolutely false. DR OKONJO-IWEALA WAS NOT AT THE MEETING BECA– USE SHE WAS OUT OF THE COUNTRY WHEN IT WAS GOING ON. In other words, they are saying that she made a threat at a meeting that she did not attend. She made no such threat physically or through any other means. She had no reason to.
The agenda behind the alleged threat and similar stories is obvious: to inspire public hatred and odium against her person by manipulating public opinion so that she is seen as the sole person pushing for the removal of subsidies.
Their calculation is that Nigerians are so angry and so gullible that they will believe anything if the lies are supported with manufactured “facts”. But we believe that fair minded Nigerians are not fools.
It is clear that governments and certainly the Jonathan administration do not work in the manner that the peddlers of falsehood are saying. It is not only naive but also highly disrespectful to the President and the government as a whole to suggest that the entire decision making machinery of government is the sole preserve of any official.
We urge the media and the Nigerian public to ignore the antics of people who obviously believe that Nigerians are fools.
For the avoidance of doubt, Dr Okonjo-Iweala supports the decision on fuel subsidy removal because she believes that ending the subsidies will drastically reduce corruption in the downstream sector.
Deregulation will also help to end the waivers enjoyed by powerful cabals at the expense of the Nigerian people. In addition, the vast majority of Nigerians will also gain as the proceeds will be redirected into safety nets, other identifiable social interventions as well as provision of sorely needed infrastructure projects nationwide.
Paul C Nwabuikwu
Senior Special Assistant to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy/Minister of Finance
Nigeria Subsidy Protests in Nigeria
Oil Subsidy Debate – 4hours long
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