ActionAid Nigeria congratulates the President on his assumption of office and a peaceful transition. As a human rights non-governmental organisation working to promote social justice and equality in Nigeria for the past 20 years, we have carefully reviewed the Presidential inauguration speech delivered by the sworn-in President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the inauguration ceremony held at the Eagle Square, Abuja on Monday, 29th May 2023.
Typical of a presidential speech in a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria, the speech was reeled with messages of hope and aspirations for the future of the most populous black nation on earth.
We commend the President for his nation building and re-unification agenda – calling on all parties to galvanize their resources and work together as one united people of Nigeria. However, the President did not acknowledge the inadequacies of the electoral umpire and the marred February 25th General Elections that brought him to power as the fifth democratically elected president of Nigeria. Instead, the president hailed the election as the best election since the Fourth Republic. This is unacceptable and we condemn it!
He also erroneously opined that the outcome of the election reflected the will of the people and copiously ignored the many violence that characterized the election which took the lives of many and disenfranchised thousands of eligible voters. During the elections, recall that there was a palpable fear in the atmosphere among some ethnic nationalities because of the ill-managed ethnic narratives peddled by a section of the country. Consequently, disenfranchising Nigerians based on their ethnic affinity. This is equally unacceptable!
In his speech, the President also made a far-reaching statement - “subsidy is gone”-concerning the subsidy regime of the country which immediately plunged the already impoverished Nigerians into untold hardship. This statement was welcomed with reckless reactions from oil marketers – hoarding petrol products and in many cases, selling petroleum products at unregulated prices. Less than 48hours after the inauguration speech, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation Ltd jumped on the President’s announcement and released a national price list for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) – capping the new price between 488-550 naira per liter.
The removal of petrol subsidy undoubtedly has significant adverse effect on Nigerians and this ranges from increased transportation cost, higher cost of living, inflation, reduced purchasing power, social unrest, as well as heightened level of crime and criminality. Also, a critical underlining negative impact of the removal of petrol subsidy is that it is certainly going to widen poverty bracket in Nigeria, particularly amongst the poor masses and the excluded citizens with the ravaging unemployed youth.
We acknowledge the failure of President Mohammadu Buhari administration to resuscitate the four abandoned refineries with all the funding voted to it. We think the focus is to think of bringing that investment back to life. The question is, how can a nation so endowed by such natural resources, not refine its products and now asking citizens to pay the price? Now the new President comes and says, no discussion as if we have committed a crime against our leaders.
As advocates of human rights, ActionAid Nigeria makes its recommendations to the Federal Government as follows:
- Resuscitate the four refineries to create more jobs to engage the volume of young people of Nigeria!
- We need to first establish and review and investigate what makes up this subsidy, with citizens, organized labor involved, CSOs and stakeholders in a transparent investigative process, as government inefficiencies should not be passed to the citizens as subsidy.
- Review the Social Protection programme for the most vulnerable which was started by the past administration. Remember that the survey on multi-dimensional survey by the National Bureau of Statistics stated that more than 133m Nigerians live below the poverty line. This was before the flooding last year that affected more than 31 states.
- Promote alternative energy sources like Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to reduce the reliance on petrol by all.
- immediately provide affordable and safe public transportation system across the country.
In conclusion, the removal of fuel subsidy in Nigeria presents a huge challenge and the untold hardship has been reported from different parts of the country. ActionAid Nigeria stands firm in our commitment to advocate for the protection of the most vulnerable and marginalized during this transition. We call on the government to prioritize social protection measures, invest in critical sectors, and ensure transparency in the utilization of saved resources.
Together, let us work towards a Nigeria where the well-being and dignity of every citizen is upheld.