Both the traditional and social media has been awash with verbal attacks and blows on the newly inaugurated President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, over his immediate scraping of petroleum subsidy which has inflicted more hardship on the already poor Nigerians.
The largely flawed action which came as part of President Tinubu’s inaugural speech to Nigerians and the world reportedly caused panic among Nigerians who trooped in mass to besiege fuel stations for purchases of petrol; causing anxiety among petroleum dealers who for fear the unknown increased their product prices arbitrarily.
As we are aware, the sudden price hike on petroleum products following the impromptu announcement which worse still cane on his first day in office increased the frustration of the masses who were rather wearing high hopes of redemption from the Buhari’s eight years of battered living.
As it is usual, the hiked price of fuel affected the price of transportation to almost double of its original price. And subsequently, the bandwagon effect spread to food stuff and gradually spreading to all other sectors of the economy in the country.
Recall that President Tinubu, during his inaugural speech at the Eagle Square on Monday May 29, had announced that the petrol subsidy regime was overl stressing that his government will not provide funds to subsidise the product.
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, had alreject rejected the removal of fuel subsidy as announced by President Bola Tinubu during his swearing-in ceremony on Monday.
He said, “On fuel subsidy, unfortunately, the budget before I assumed office is that no provision is there for fuel subsidy. So fuel subsidy is gone.”
According to Tinubu, the subsidy can no longer justify its ever-increasing costs in the wake of drying resources.
“We shall instead re-channel the funds into better investment in public infrastructure, education, health care and jobs that will materially improve the lives of millions.”
However, some analyst though it might appear too early to criticise him but Tinubu should be reminded that the occasion of his inaugural speech was not the best opportunity to announce the suspension of such a macroeconomic policy.
They insisted that Nigerians would need a shock absorber in form of an alternative measures to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal before any action could be taken in that direction. And worst still, it shouldn’t have been what Nigerians would get from the much touted renewed hope.
Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) kicked against the announcement by Tinubu that petrol subsidy was gone, describing it as unconstitutional and authoritarian.
In a statement, National Coordinator of HURIWA, Emmanuel Onwubiko, described as inconsiderate, insensitive, irrational and reckless the directive that fuel subsidy was gone.
The rights group urged the civil rights community and the labour unions to mobilise Nigerian workers and all proletarian people of Nigeria to embark on indefinite strike and civil disobedience actions should Tinubu not reverse his proposition to end the subsidy regime, “when inflation and poverty are tearing millions of Nigerians apart and sending many to their early graves due to intractable economic adversities.”
HURIWA wondered how the new president wanted to commence his government by imposition of extremely economic measure such as the draconian removal of fuel subsidy, “which will lead to the skyrocketing of purchasing prices of goods and services in Nigeria.”
HURIWA expressed shock that, “when 100 million households are absolutely poor, President Tinubu rather than ameliorate the problems has added fuel to the fire.”
HURIWA warned that the removal of fuel subsidy could snowball into popular uprising if not reversed immediately.
It queried Tinubu for allowing the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Usman Baba Alkali, to attend the sacred oath-taking ceremony in Abuja, arguing that it was a desecration of the constitution, “and that it is a very bad sign of how President Bola Ahmed Tinubu may disrespect the rulings of courts of competent authority as recognised by Section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
It recalled that Justice Riman had in the suit marked FHC/AWK/CS/58/2023, made an order restraining Alkali from further parading himself as the Inspector General of Police or exercising any form of command or control over the Nigeria Police Force.
Consequently, HURIWA asked the organised civil rights community and the Labour unions to mobilise Nigerian workers and all proletarian people of Nigeria to embark on indefinite strike and civil disobedience actions should President Bola Ahmed Tinubu not reverse his decision to end the subsidy regime when inflation and poverty are tearing millions of Nigerians apart and sending many to their early graves due to intractable economic adversities.
However, the Organised Labour has pushed back, saying making the nation’s refineries work before subsidy removal stands. This is just as the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) also urged Tinubu to ensure that, at least, two refineries start producing in his first 100 days in office.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), in their reactions, said until he engages the labour movement, their position on subsidy remained unchanged.
The National Deputy President of the TUC, Dr. Tommy Okon, said: “It is a statement he made. Until he engages us we will know what to say. He cannot unilaterally remove subsidy without engaging with stakeholders, including labour.
“Labour is a partner in progress, he must involve us and consider our decision. Our position on subsidy removal has not changed. We expect a lot of reforms and incentives and not one-sided.” On the promise to create one million jobs through the digital economy, Okon said the youths are already thriving and making waves in the digital sector. He said what is needed from the government is to create a conducive environment for the informal economy to thrive.
“Let the bill come up first. We are not against any policy that will create a job but not convince people who may not have a deep understanding of what the digital economy is. One million jobs will be created, how?
“The civil service has not recruited for many years now, why doesn’t he say he wants to create some number of jobs in the public sector to energise the sector and create a conducive environment for the informal economy to thrive and boom, where a lot of people will have the opportunity to engage themselves, that will reduce crime and criminality,” he said while speaking on the proposed Omnibus Jobs and Prosperity Bill.
A civil rights advocacy Group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), yesterday, also kicked against what it called the dictatorial, authoritarian and unconstitutional announcement by the new President.
The group in a statement by its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, described the decision as inconsiderate, insensitive, irrational and reckless.