Fuel Subsidy Removal: Carefully Removed In Ghana, Carelessly Removed In Nigeria

Feature Article Fuel Subsidy Removal: Carefully Removed In Ghana, Carelessly Removed In Nigeria
FEB 17, 2024 LISTEN

It is not an exaggeration to say that as Nigerians continue to literarily lick the wounds been inflicted on them by fuel subsidy removal that not a few of them are of the notion that the government is anti-people, and that the government did not put the collective wellbeing of the people into consideration before embarking on the removal.

Analyzed from the above-mentioned perspective, it is expedient to recall that not a few economic experts and observers blamed the government for not putting palliatives on ground to cushion the effect of the removal of the fuel subsidy on the people, and by that asserted that the government is anti-people, unlike Ghana that was unarguably careful and pro-people in removing her own fuel subsidy years back. To buttress the foregoing view, it is germane to recall that Ghana in 2004 was compelled to adjust her fuel price despite widespread disapproval then.

At this juncture, it is expedient to ask, “Did Ghana in the true sense of the word removed subsidy? No doubt, the response to the foregoing interrogation will be ambivalent in this context as she carefully shelved the plans for subsidy cuts for a full year before finally deregulating fuel prices.

In fact, it will not be out of place to opine that Ghana was careful of not pushing the people into hardships, and in doing that a Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA) was carried out. The essence of carrying out the PSIA exercise was to ascertain how much benefit was being cornered by political leaders and government officials.

To the understanding of this writer, and given the way and manner the removal of the subsidy was announced by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on May 29, 2023, which was incidentally on the day of his inauguration as Nigeria’s president, one may not be wrong to conclude that the subsidy was carelessly removed in Nigeria without taking cognizance of the attendant sufferings the removal would bring to the people. The reason for the foregoing view cannot be farfetched as the president publicly announced that “Subsidy Is Gone” even if the phrase was not included by his Speech Writers in his prepared speech for the August occasion. Frankly put, up to this moment, economic analysts and observers still maintain that the parlous economy which Nigerians are today grappling with started right from Eagle Square in Abuja, the federal capital territory, where the president was made his inaugural speech. Given the foregoing, one may not be wrong to conclude that the fuel subsidy was carelessly removed in Nigeria by Mr. President, and that since then Nigerians are paying dearly for the damaging faux pas.

Still buttressing the fact that the subsidy was carefully removed in Ghana, it is expedient to recall that after carrying out the PSIA exercise that the government of Ghana carried out an effective communications campaign, making the results of the PSIA public and engaging in public consultation. As widely known, such step was obviously not taken in Nigeria, given the fact that not a few analysts argued that the president did not engage in wide consultations with the people, particularly as his ministers were not even appointed at the time he made the faux pas of publicly announcing that “Fuel Subsidy Is Gone”.

Having come to the understanding that the consents of the people have satisfactorily being sought, the government of Ghana at the time implemented the administration of the price adjustment, and transferred it to the newly established National Petroleum Agency (NPA). This was done to isolate the decision to adjust prices from political intervention. Not only that prices were adjusted twice by an average of 50% and the government of Ghana remained committed to making regular adjustments for several years.

Without doubt, the implementation of the removal of the fuel subsidy that is today killing poor Nigerians was not discretionally done as concrete palliatives were not integrated into its implementation, hence the general notion that it was thoughtlessly and carelessly implemented, and even anti-people.

Unlike how carelessly the removal of fuel subsidy was implemented in Nigeria, without thinking of how to mitigate the harsh effects on the people, it was carefully implemented in Ghana as a series of programmes aimed at alleviating the hardships brought about on the people were introduced.

You may have asked, “What palliatives did the Ghanaian government put in place at that time to shield the people from hardships? The answer to the foregoing question cannot be farfetched as fees for State-run schools were abolished, more public transport buses were put on various roads, while price ceiling on public transport fares was introduced, healthcare, rural electrification, and increase in minimum wage were simultaneously introduced to cushion the effect of the policy.

Given the foregoing facts, it is not out of place to conclude that Ghana carefully implemented the removal of her fuel subsidy, which Nigeria carelessly removed as the president on the day of his inauguration declared that “Subsidy Is Gone”.

The foregoing views can further be buttressed in this context by saying that all the steps taken by Ghana were carefully planned, even as all the strategies were deliberately executed with strong political will. More laudable is that the government of Ghana had the crucial credibility to win the confidence of Ghanaians, unlike that of Nigeria, and this allowed her to remove the fuel subsidy.

Conclusively, it is expedient to recall the saying of a professional colleague that “Two patients who were separately injected by two different nurses do not experience the same degree of pains as some nurses are better in administering injection to patients than others. In the same way, not all countries know how to remove fuel subsidy without inflicting pains on the citizens.