They claim to know the cost of everything but know the value of nothing – Oscar Wilde
The first quarter of the fiscal year of 2022 has been full of terrible news for Nigerians. There is oil scarcity and new stories of oil thievery. The persistent terrorist attacks around the country remain a challenge for the government. The country also experienced a double electricity grid collapse in less than 48 hours. These three issues have added to the existing hardship in the country, regardless of one’s ethnicity, age, social status, or religion.
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The highlights of this government are full of examples of policies producing dramatic unintended consequences. The problem is that they do not want to take a step back to understand why things are happening badly. From insecurity to transportation to the economy, they have failed to foresee the unintended consequences of their policies. These series of outcomes are dark moments for the country. As usual, whenever terrible things happen to Nigeria and Nigerians, this government never takes the blame. We know this government does not like being held accountable, and we will not stop, especially during this election season.
The issue of fuel is causing more misery to Nigerians. The stakeholders are still debating the fuel subsidy removal. The country is still not clear about how subsidy payments are being made. The country’s rising debt profile worries those who understand public finance. Bad fuel importation is being investigated, and queues at fuel stations continue to grow due to fuel scarcity. Then we have the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation reporting that the country is losing an average of 200,000 barrels per day of its crude oil production to theft. Lawmakers have summoned the General Managing Director of NNPC to explain these problems. When journalists questioned the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, about the oil theft case, he referred them to the petroleum minister. I hope Nigeria’s Lawmakers are getting the message.
Another poor policy that will further burden Nigeria and Nigerians is the purchase of a 20 per cent stake in the Dangote refinery for $2.76 billion. Nigerians would have benefitted from the investment if the refinery had been operational. But, based on experts’ projections, the refinery will not see operation during this government’s term. So, it would have been better to invest the $2.76 billion in an operational business that will immediately improve the country’s current situation. Also, the investment is overpriced. An American company, HollyFrontier, acquired Sinclair Oil for $2.6 billion. Like the Dangote refinery, Sinclair oil has a refinery with a processing capacity of 678,000 barrels per stream day. These are not well-intended policies that can push the country back to a growth path.
The transportation industry is one particular industry that has been in the news in the past few days as terrorists attacked an airport and blew up a moving train. Before the Minister of Aviation could explain the terrorist attack on Kaduna International Airport, a Kaduna-bound train was also attacked by the terrorists. The vocal transportation minister was quick to deflect the responsibility back to the government for refusing to buy the equipment the ministry requested. He clearly explained how such types of equipment would have helped with the insecurity challenges. The unintended consequences of refusing to spend just N3 billion to buy security equipment have led to many deaths and injuries. Many others were kidnapped for ransom, including Sadiq Ango – a prominent youth who aspires to contest for public office. I pray for their safe return.
With foresight, the government should have purchased these pieces of equipment. But it seems it is not a priority. The government had spent N8.51 billion on presidential aircraft only in 2020. Last year, the Buhari and Osibanjo presidency spent N3.4 billion on feeding and travel expenses. Since we can continue to pay for such costs, I believe we should find the money to secure the lives of the common people if the government truly cares about us.
The issue of electricity supply has been a huge challenge for the country. The two episodes of grid collapse in less than 48 hours are just the outcome of the problem. In 2018, Tony Elumelu, one of the owners of the country’s generating companies, advised the government to recapitalise the power companies by increasing its stake from the current level. The Vice President quickly rebutted the suggestion by saying the government did not have the money. But in 2019, Osinbajo reported that the government had pumped about N1.5 trillion in intervention funds into Nigeria’s power sector in the last two years. It is a clear demonstration of inconsistency in decision-making.
The inability to recapitalise the power companies is one of the problems that must be addressed to improve the electricity supply in the country. Many of us who have lost faith in this government understand that they will not focus on solving problems at their root sources. Based on the government’s responses to issues, I predict they will struggle to deal with the present outcomes of the electricity problems in the country. But I hope I am wrong for the sake of the common people.
In summary, the government is struggling to develop progressive policies. One can deduce that they see the prosperity of ordinary citizens as a luxury that people have to pay for. They treat poverty as an offence for which people are being penalised. Their actions are producing dramatic unintended consequences. As things stand, the public mood will not get better in favour of this government. It will only decline. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, this government claims to know the cost of everything but knows the value of nothing.
Dr Nasir Aminu is a Senior Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University