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At the mercy of vested interests

Notwithstanding whether the dramatic improvement of electricity and fuel supply as well as the few encouraging indications of change in some other areas of Nigeria’s…

Notwithstanding whether the dramatic improvement of electricity and fuel supply as well as the few encouraging indications of change in some other areas of Nigeria’s economy witnessed during the first few months following President Buhari’s assumption of the presidency were indeed due to his body language, as his enthusiasts insist, or they were simply the outcome of the previous government’s reform policies materializing coincidentally, as former President Jonathan’s political allies contend, President Buhari and former President Jonathan share the blame for the subsequent relapse, which has ever since then persisted  and indeed deteriorated further.
Also, regardless of who between them actually deserved the credit for that short-lived improvement and the equally short-lived relief it had brought, it now doesn’t matter since the improvement couldn’t be sustained, let alone be further improved.
While this confirms former President Jonathan’s responsibility for the failure to tackle or at least significantly contain the recurrent crisis in fuel and electricity supply in particular and other critical utilities and public services in general, it equally confirms that, after his election victory and throughout the transition period before his inauguration, the then President-elect, Buhari did not prepare any substantive blueprint that could be instantly implemented after his assumption of the presidency to eliminate the fraudulent practices that created, sustain and continue to exacerbate fuel and electricity crisis in the country.
This explains his apparent dilemma over the controversial issue of removing or keeping the fuel subsidy, even though he is likely to eventually remove it anyway. Incidentally, keeping the subsidy per se is not what actually matters under these circumstances; after all, people hardly get it at the subsidized price. What instead actually matters is government’s commitment to enforce and maintain transparency in the sector, which will guarantee adequate and uninterrupted supply of fuel at deregulated prices. Because, provided there is transparency in the process, its market-determined prices would not amount to the prices people actually pay to get it now under this supposed subsidy regime. Equally important also, is government’s commitment to prudently invest the funds it will consequently save in the process to provide and improve infrastructure in the country.
Besides, in today’s largely capitalist-oriented hence increasingly competitive business environment where profit-driven firms compete with governments and in fact outperform them in the provision of critical public infrastructure and services, Nigerian government simply can’t dispense with the private sector investing in the provision of infrastructure and public services in the country. In fact, it needs to do more in its efforts to attract as much local and foreign investments as possible in order to improve the country’s poor public service delivery and its other inadequate and indeed largely dilapidated infrastructure. This arrangement works perfectly in countries where transparency and rule of law prevail.
For instance, even in the world’s most industrialized capitalist countries e.g. the United States where many corporations are individually richer than many countries around the world and are collectively richer than even the United States government itself, which is the wealthiest government on earth, and which also survives and thrives on the taxes it derives from such corporations, and also despite the enormous influence of these corporations, which they actually wield to influence government policies, yet they adhere to government rules and regulations that regulate their businesses and operations, and they can’t break the law and get away with it.
Whereas in Nigeria where government is basically the source of wealth, the sheer fraud that characterizes the supposedly similar arrangement has resulted in the emergence of some powerful and corrupt vested interests with huge interests in critical industries especially oil and gas, communications, electricity, banking and finance, etc, and who, in collaboration with their accomplices among some top civil servants and political office holders, won disproportionate and unnecessary concessions from the successive governments that enable them to systematically steal public funds, subject Nigerians to perpetual stress and distress as a result of their frustratingly poor and inadequate services. They also blackmail government into acquiescing to their ever growing self-centered demands, hold the country to ransom and simply get away with it due to the pervasive impunity in the country.
These explain why banks and other financial institutions, electricity distribution companies, communications firms and oil marketers take Nigerians for granted knowing that no matter how much they shortchange Nigerians with their poor services, exploitative policies and practices, their influence and network of accomplices in the corridors of power would always shield them from any serious investigation into their criminal activities, and of course protect them from any serious prosecution.
Therefore, as long as this situation persists, the recurring fuel scarcity in the country and the never-ending poor electricity supply, among many other poor public services can’t be solved.  By the way, though the recent imposition of a hefty fine on MTN by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is a welcome development, Nigerians look forwarding to seeing when the NCC will actually ensure that they do indeed get appropriate value for the money they spend in order to access and enjoy the utilities provided all providers of public services in the country.
Certainly, for the federal government to be able tackle the recurrent crises in the provision and delivery of utilities and other public services in the country, it must not only subject such firms and their operations to strict anti-corruption measures, but it must also review the terms of engagement between its various regulatory agencies and the firms with a view to addressing any irregularity and/or any inconsistency that constitutes a loophole for them to shortchange Nigerians and get away with it.

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