Tame Fuel Subsidy or it Will Tame Nigeria

If the whole idea of fuel subsidy is to pass on benefits to the poor, then we must all agree that it is not working. The benefits are going to importers of fuel, oil majors and upper and middle class Nigerians who can afford to live in the most urbanised areas of Nigeria which are the only places where fuel is still sold at the official rate.

Our people in the North-east and the Niger Delta have been buying petrol at black market prices for decades. Of what use is fuel subsidy to them? Is this not part of the reason why they sometimes feel alienated from Nigeria?

In the most recent data released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Democratic Republic of Congo is rated the poorest nation in the world with a per capita income of less than $400. But the truth is that if you isolate the North-east of Nigeria from the rest of Nigeria and you compare their per capita income to that of the Congo DRC, it will be clear that the North-east of Nigeria is the poorest part of planet earth.

Yet, this poorest part of Nigeria is not really benefitting from what is meant to benefit them. And they are not alone. In the Niger Delta where I am from, particularly in Bayelsa which is my state, I have never bought fuel at the official rate. Fuel in the North-east and the Niger Delta goes for N300 per litre while fuel in Ikoyi in Lagos sells for N87!

Now tell me, who are we subsidising? The rich or the poor? You campaign in poetry but govern in prose. The time for poetry is gone. Now is a time for prose and the federal government must be creative enough to come up with ideas for passing on the benefits that the fuel subsidy is supposed to pass on to the poor but is not.

The federal government must also search out ideas on how Nigeria can generate more non oil income. As a patriotic duty, I will offer a few ideas on how I think Nigeria can make the best use of her resources instead of spending it on an inefficient and corrupt subsidy that does not get to its intended recipients. In my opinion, the federal government should stop subsidising fuel and instead subsidise public transportation.

Now, how would this work?
The federal government must gather all the providers of mass transport, be it the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) or any of its affiliates and register all of them in a central database. Next, the federal government must find out what the unit cost of transporting an individual passenger costs.

Then the federal government should sign an agreement that it would pay the increased cost of a unit of transport that would ensue when fuel subsidy is abolished and the oil market is deregulated.

To ensure fidelity and prevent fraud, each individual provider (be it a bus, a boat or any other transport type that uses premium motor spirit) must covenant to buy their fuel exclusively from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) petrol stations (or a petrol station chain that can be monitored by the federal government) and also agree to have a fuel monitor installed into their vehicles.
The monitor will report the amount of petrol consumed by each unit of transportation and at the end of the month, the federal government, through the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) would reimburse the provider the excess money paid for fuel as a result of the deregulation and the lifting of the subsidy on premium motor spirit.

In this manner, the federal government will be able to deregulate the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry while at the same time providing relief for the poorest Nigerians from the effect of an increase in the price of fuel.

Moreover, the federal government can spend a fraction of the trillions of naira we are currently spending on fuel subsidy annually on social services that will have a direct impact on the well being of the poorest of the poor and boost out Human Development Index.
For instance, Nigeria can reduce infant and maternal mortality rates, by initiating a Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Intervention Programme in all the states of the federation.

The programme could be an initiative of the federal government through the Ministry of Health and would involve giving free pre and ante natal supplements to pregnant and nursing mothers and one infant per family up to the age of five. In addition to receiving these vitamin supplements, each recipient should be given a crate of eggs each week and at least one tin of evaporated milk per day on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis.

Doing so would have a direct impact on the health of the most vulnerable subsection of our population, women, infants and children up to the age of five. Desperate times call for desperate remedies and in case we have not noticed, these are desperate times. Oil is fast losing its value. A world without oil is a reality. Nigeria must start thinking of other ways of growing her economy that does not depend on oil.

If we really want to build our economy, we may want to take a cue from what India and China did. The economies of both countries have been built up to be amongst the world’s leading economies largely through the efforts of their Diaspora citizens who returned home after having established themselves in Europe and the Americas.

In the 80s, Nigeria suffered from a massive brain drain when our most educated intellectuals left the country for greener pastures after conditions in the nation’s Ivory Towers proved too oppressive for them. We can use a fraction of what we are spending on the fuel subsidy to facilitate a brain gain.

All over the world, Nigerians in the Diaspora are having children who are enrolled in some of the best schools world wide. Many of these universities have internship programmes that allow students intern anywhere in the world. I propose that the federal government should seize the initiative and initiate a bring back the brain scheme whereby the Federal Government of Nigeria through her MDAs (perhaps the Ministry of Education, the National Universities Commission, NUC, or the Industrial Training Fund, ITF) actively solicits for children of Nigerians in the Diaspora to return to Nigeria to do their internship.

This initiative may be promoted by roadshows in the major cities of the world, via Nigerian tribal or ethnic organisations in the Diaspora. Our embassies could be mandated to dedicate some staff to tour universities in their host countries in order to sell this idea to the students directly. The federal government may encourage those wishing to participate by offering to pay their return tickets and instruct that all MDAs that participate in the scheme should pay the accommodation costs of these students during their internship. The expected result of this scheme is a net inflow of skilled labour into Nigeria to drive our developmental effort.

Many of these highly educated and skilled expatriate children will opt to remain behind and establish businesses or use their education and experience abroad to improve businesses already in existence. This is what happened in the Asian Tigers. We should not re-invent the wheel. Let us simply do in Nigeria what others have done with great success.

Also, the federal government has to find a way to encourage Nigerians to return to agriculture either as a business or by way of subsistence farming as a way of reducing our dependence on imported food on which we spend over a trillion naira annually.

The other day, I was shocked by the data from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) stating that we spend N813 billion annually on staples like sugar, wheat and other food items that we have the capacity of producing ourselves in Nigeria. N813 billion importing sugar and wheat? Really? Nigerians will not die if we do not import sugar and fish. So why must we import them? We must learn to drink plain tea until we can make our own sugar.

And then it turns out that we spent another N100 billion annually importing toothpicks and furniture? Really? We need foreigners to help us pick our teeth? According to the report, the amount spent on importing rice, sugar, wheat, fish, furniture, milk and textiles in 2013 is equal to one-fifth of the country’s total budget of about N4 trillion. With the deal Iran is entering into with America, the oil price is likely to reduce again. Can Nigeria continue spending N1 trillion on food imports?

What a waste. The federal government must cut this waste. We cannot afford to be gradual with this. We will not die if we do not eat sugar, wheat and these other items. Necessity is the mother of invention. If we must have them then we should produce them! This is by no means the limit of the ideas that can help grow Nigeria’s economy and help us apply our finances to areas of growth rather than areas of waste, but it is a beginning.

In the 1980s, the Directorate of Mass Mobilisation for Self Reliance, Social Justice, and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) had a TV advertisement that went thus ‘oil go finish one day o, no let water pass garri ooo!’ That day has come. Has water passed garri? That is the million dollar question no one has an answer to. Nigeria has a lot of work to do. Two thousand years ago Rome knew how many people it had. Mary and Joseph were counted in Bethlehem. In 2015, does Nigeria know how many people she has? If we do not know how many people we have, how can we make effective planning decisions on which to base our economic strategies on?
This is a question for another day. I just want to make common sense!

•Senator Murray Bruce is the senator representing Bayelsa East in the National Assembly and is Chairman of the Silverbird Group.

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48 replies

  1. # l believe in your struggle.

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  2. I agree with most of your ideas but we still have to deal with the northaners.

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  3. Sincerely sir I rilli appreciate all this you are doing. You speak the heart of the poor Nigerians. I wish every leader has the same heart of progress for every citizen nd progress of this country as you. I sincerely pray that Almighty God help you accomplish the goals you have for this great country. And I really thank God that you got the Senate position this time I have been following up ur common sense talk right for the time u run for election 2010 when u we’re nulified cause of their so called “mago mago” but I am rilli happy u won this post. I hope u are going to run for presidential election the next one. Cause I believe the Nigerian youths needs a true leader like you. God bless u

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  4. Since u came up with this common sense ve never stop listin to it everyday . It made me feel lky we still ve person in NG dat care about poor.

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  5. U really make common sense sir,i really agree wif u.but the question is”can the government make dis work” cause Nigeria politics is a belly(stomach)politics almost 90% of politicians go into politics to make money for dem selves or steal a huge sum of money,no politician is out to make a great name for their good deeds.

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  6. it’s easier said than done

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  7. we love u senator bruce, u speak for us (the poor), u should go for presidency.

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  8. I totaly agree with u sir. May God contineu to increas ur wisdom sir

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  9. may GOD bless u ben u re doin a good work

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  10. That is right we hear of fuel subsidy everyday the money of nigerians were are they spent on, in their private pockets or for their children to be born

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  11. Sir, I will like you sponsor bills on all the common senses you are making. By doing so, it will go a long way in making Nigeria better place.

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  12. You’re sent by God because your words touch my heart that makes me tink did Bruce really a livingthing, you are special

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  13. Your comments are right but the bad eggs in the governments will not let it happen.

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  14. Ben Murray Bruce, you are a blessing to this country and the entire black race. I wish to be receiving your inspirational speaches via my mail. Remain blessed.

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  15. Ben Murray Bruce, you are a blessing to this country and the entire black race. I wish to be receiving your inspirational speaches via my mail. Remain blessed. Kudos to you sir.

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  16. Nigeria is blessed having you sir. Speak on.

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  17. I believed u

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  18. Sir, i know you to have the rational solutions to the problems of this country more than a whole government of this same county can.
    To be precise here sir, you are “Better In Brain” than a whole government.

    Notwithstanding, i will never cease to pray for you until you assume the No 1 position of this country where you will have the opportunity of unleashing and practicalising your God given wisdom at its fullest to the growth and development of this nation. More grease to your elbow.

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  19. You are indeed a vocal point of our generation. My God grant you more wisedom

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  20. His Excellence you’re the one to help youths for now,,,, FG promise a in creating jobs for the young youths and now many company were closing and dropping their staffs….. All the rice company is about going down…. Please do same thing,,,,, because i know you can…. Thanks and be bless

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  21. Good day sir, i am just about 15 years old.I really appreciate what you are doing,i my self also have this same feelings you have for this great nation.i belive i am also a saint to this nation just as u are,pls make sure u come out for the next presidential election.i am also coming for dat same sit in my time.blessings to u from d creator Maharajji,i am also a bayelsian just like u.

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  22. God bless u keep up doing ur good work thank u sir i am bulus david from airport road aleyita abuja

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  23. Dear Sir Bruce you are not just making common sense, you are making one of the best senses I have ever seen in My country Nigeria, keep up the good work, God bless and be with you….I love you Sir, am sure the youths of the country are proud of you and am sure you will prevail

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  24. You are a mentor to many people that follow your common sense . I love your ideas to the good People of these great nation which are ideas that when follow this nation will be great. keep it up, Time shall tell.

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  25. Sir you are the Mr right of this country. I wish you the number one citizen of these great country in few years to come.

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  26. You talked about agriculture this morning on the radio. Most of us are are already into it but lacking finance to boost it to a good night where it can affect the economy of the country (larger scale). How can you help us?

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  27. This is obama in the senate. therefore, his presidencial bid should be supported by all nigerians becsof his vision

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  28. my senator im so happy dat a man of ur type are still in our niger delta region pls keep up ur good work of enlithinment crusade. God bless u and ur family

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    • my senator on ur last view which i heard live from u. dat enough is enough dat is vry correct of u, pls talk to ur fellow senators to see reason to all dis how can a sitting presidnt be putting his own country in danger by calling us thiefs abroad pls enough is enough tanks ur broder from anoder mum eric.

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  29. how about those filling station that adjust their meters and pump in air into people’s car? especially nnpc

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  30. well I have carefully listened to most of your views sir.I confess they are in order and as such represent the interest of the common man if followed. but sir You promised Nigerians u will make PUBLIC THE SENATE SALARIES ,Nigerians are yet to benefit from that promise i stand corrected.

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  31. senator
    I wonder if your colleagues do listen to you or is it only on social media you do make sense.?

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  32. This is mind blowing

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    • Sir, where have you been? This country have bn looking out for such common sense as yours, I just watched you idea concerning the appreciating of our naira, I am so inspired by you ideas, your points are so relevant, may our Lord Jesus continue to increase your wisdom and grant you the gateway to prevail…I appreciate you Sir…success will be ur result…I am sure we the youths are supporting you…

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  33. Has oil been a curse or blessing ?no. the management of it is our bane. until sentiments like tribe,race or religion is removed, Nigeria May never get it right.well done senator.

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  34. well said sir but my major issue with the so called federal government is this! is Nigeria all about fuel is there no other natural resource they can diversify attention on instead of this issue of fuel here and there. now if i may ask and this has been on my mind for as long as i can remember if Nigeria is not among oil producing country, wot would have been the fate of Nigerians? we have the oil yet we buy one liter of petrol @ 200 this is bullshit. is unfortunate that we are where we are today.

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  35. I Agreed but there are many yong and vibrant youth Nigeria who just need little support to make big busineses so why the so much talk of the diasporals? Just provide the enabling environment for young Entrepreneurs and things will go fine

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  36. Thank you Sir for a well expressed view.
    Deregulation! Yes. It is critical to do it now.
    Everybody will suffer, particularly the masses. But since this product was being sold between 250 and 400 in most parts of the country, the masses didn’t die. Hence, lets put the whole subsidy funds on the construction of Lagos – Calabar rail road passing through all the major towns in the coastal areas and other social infrastructure.
    Remember deregulation, after we must have suffered for some time, will eventually force down the price of fuel.If this country must move forward, this is the only choice we have now.

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  37. Thank you Sir for a well expressed view.
    Deregulation! Yes. It is critical to do it now.
    Everybody will suffer, particularly the masses. But since this product was being sold between 250 and 400 in most parts of the country, the masses didn’t die. Hence, lets put the whole subsidy funds on the construction of Lagos – Calabar rail road passing through all the major towns in the coastal areas and other social infrastructure.
    Remember deregulation, after we must have suffered for some time, will eventually force down the price of fuel.If this country must move forward, this is the only choice we have now. A. J. Koledoye

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  38. your making commonsense Sir.

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  39. My honorable senator,you are not just making a common sense,but the real sense.You have said it all.But my worry is that the bus driver,the market woman and the man on the street cannot understand.They all think change will come without a price to pay,without changing the way things are being done.They all think that the price of petrol will have to be reduced without wanting to know the “how”.About your suggestion on Nigerians in the diaspora returning for internship,this might not really workout for now until we put our infrastructures,like good road,electricity, for at least an average comfort they enjoy abroad.I also wish the FGN,which you are a part of,can really stop the importation of fuel completely by at most the next eighteen(18) months,so the modular refineries could start producing locally.

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    • Sir, ur comments are great if all our Senators can be together in the Senate forget about partisan carcus, sincerely sir Nigeria problem is our senators.

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  40. I’m really speechless… All I can say right now is dat u are good Sir…I wish u all d best…

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    • Sir you say the truth, you pay the price, you contribute your resources just to help Nigeria to be redeemed and you do all of this because of LOVE. Who ever walks with Love will surely prevail. Ask God to Help You and am sure u’ll prevail….I pray for you depend on God and who ever come upon You with wickedness will fail…..Thank you so much Sir for your care for Nigeria

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  41. Am must interested in your up, it portrait the truth and if the government buy into it Nigeria will change.

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