Nigeria and the petrol subsidy wahala--responses to the SURE-P

This is my response to the Honorable Minister for Finance, who despite being a very busy woman, found time to reply to my email. But she also sent me the op-ed by Paul Collier, to which I referred previously.

Dear Honorable Minister,

Thank you for responding to my email despite being deluged by an overwhelming amount of communication, and having the challenging task of driving economic change. Let me apologize in the first place for any kind of abusive language that I passed along. In retrospect, I realize that I should have edited those words out. They are not warranted because you have, unlike most Nigerian officials, been responsive and open to communication. I pray for your safety and that of your family members. I hope that our people realize that violence is not a solution to any of our problems.

I know the issues are complex. I realize that there are numerous vested interests that want to keep change at bay. I know Nigeria has become synonymous with corruption around the world. My three sisters and their children and my huge extended family still live in Nigeria. I come home sometimes three times each year because Nigeria is my country of focus in my studies, research and consultancy. The level of corruption is not for the faint hearted. It must be tackled. It must be defeated. However, I once again respectfully disagree with the idea that theory does not matter. Whether or not we acknowledge its relevance, the theoretical framework from which we approach the world shapes our responses to it.

Like Professor Collier, I too criticize the tea party. I must caution though that what we are seeing in Nigeria is not just like the Tea Parties and their anti-government rhetoric. I don't think it's identical with Occupy Wall Street either, although our penchant for copying anything western made some have the "knee jerk response" of occupying places, things, phenomena, etc. Despite the superficial likeness of the phenomena that we are seeing, I think we must take a historical perspective and realize that there have been pent up feelings of frustration in the country that date back to the bust that followed the oil boom and the beginning of the Structural Adjustment Program. The pains being inflicted on the poor rent the fabric of society.

Many of our poor people turned to criminality out of frustration. Many flocked out of the country to seek better pastures abroad, and many more desire this, and are willing to leave by any means necessary because the options are highly limited for anyone without connections to be upwardly mobile. Many are trafficked sex workers and menial laborers in Europe and North America. Many saw their hopes that the end of military rule would bring the dividends of democracy in the form of a better life for themselves and their children fizzle out. They have been frustrated.

In harsh economic times, complaints that may be pushed into the dark recesses of people's unconscious come to the fore. Frustrations take on additional magnitude when the prospect for change seems to be remote or attainable.

Professor Collier is a respected Oxford don, and he has studied political economy from a neoliberal perspective. His views will necessarily be different from mine. He is way too dismissive and patronizing in saying that Nigerians lack economic literacy. What the World Economic Meltdown has demonstrated is that no one has all the answers. I think the failure of SAP to produce the expected changes also demonstrated that, but there is a tendency to dismiss Africa's experience as anomalous and failures of policy within it is blamed on inept governments.

Africans need to develop theories that work for our societies. I have been frustrated about the extent to which many of the theories do not help us to understand Africa or Nigeria, but give us the feeling that the continent and its people are enigmatic and immutable. I think it is relevant that Prof. Collier is also not a Nigerian. I am. His family is not faced with the existential challenges that mine faces in our dear country. I daresay I am more involved than he. What he doesn't probably realize is that the poor who live in face-me-I-face-you houses have "I better pass my neighbor" petrol-consuming generators because we do not have reliable electrical power. He does not realize that the places where they buy their water from, sometimes, one bucket or basin at a time, use petrol to run the pumps for the boreholes that produce the water. So, to run the generators, since petrol is needed, they have to cough up more money. Their finances are already stretched beyond the limit. While therefore, they would love to have the bursaries for their children, they also want to be able to pay their bills. They cannot and have not been able to make ends meet. They want decent infrastructure, the rule of law, transparent and accountable government and a better future for their children. They are not stupid, only frustrated and perplexed about why things that seem so predictable in other places become impossible in our country. Finally, they are venting their frustration.

It is also important to realize that we had bursaries in Nigeria when I went to the University of Ibadan from 1976-1979. The bursaries and subsidies to higher education were delegitimized during the days of SAP as unnecessary. They were scrapped because we were told by the World Bank that higher education is a luxury and we should concentrate on primary education. The wisdom of those days also called for people to pay the right price for ALL services including hospital care, education, etc. The broken institutions we are seeing today are the direct result of this horrible advice. There has been a turn-around and governments are now encouraged to guarantee basic education for all. Institutional partnerships are being urged between western and African universities after our universities have become ghostly apparitions compared with the noble institutions they once were.

The professors who responded (with the exception of my OAU sister), left Nigeria to work in North America and the Caribbean. They would have loved to stay in Nigeria and contribute to the country's advancement and well being. They too still have family in Nigeria and care about its survival and progress. They have watched in frustration, the wanton dissipation of our national resources to serve the interests of a small group of venal elites. They abhor corruption.

What is the cure for corruption? I think we should look at the issue structurally. I don't think there are any angels on earth and although I wish it were not so, I know that there is corruption everywhere. In the places where it's been kept at a minimum, the World Bank and others who say that good institutions that foster transparency are necessary have to be applauded. But what kind of institutions? What works in the US may not work in Nigeria. We need to do the hard work of studying Nigeria's history and culture to better understand the kind of incentives that Nigerians would respond to. We also need a well-functioning and just legal system. We need good, ethical leaders who do not take advantage of their position to subvert justice. We need watchdog institutions and need to protect whistleblowers.

With Nigeria, I see over the years, many beautiful plans but little follow-through and implementation that gives clear benchmarks and insists on matching outcome to intent. What Professor Collier is saying is not rocket science. Many Nigerians have said the same, because they look at the world from a similar perspective. Many other Nigerians differ and make valid suggestions that should be taken seriously. Doing this well is a gargantuan task that needs a clear head and focused attentiveness. May God grant you the grace and wisdom to sift through all the suggestions and the strength to fight the good fight in defence of our country.

God bless you and your family.

I applaud the intervention of Nigerians and encourage everyone of us to keep speaking up and contributing to informing the public. When I heard that the pump price for petrol was reduced, I still agreed with the consensus opinion from the responses I got that the matter is beyond the issue of petrol subsidy, in the first place because the subsidy is a "red herring", i.e. fictitious, as per some of the reasons laid out by people including:

1. My colleague, Professor Ayo Olukotun "

a. Olukotun: Fuel subsidy protest: A postscript

b.  Apologise for removal 

c.  Fuel subsidy removal and statesmanship. Monday, January 09, 2012

2. Pastor Tunde Bakare Facts You Must Know: Subsidy Made Simple (SMS) —Tunde Bakare

3. Nasir Ahmad ElRufai, See 
Budget 2012 - Broke Country, Expensive Leaders By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

Written by Nosa Osaigbovo Friday, 20 January 2012

5.  Nigeria: There Was No Subsidyin Nigeria - Agbakoba
Turaki A. Hassan
20 January 2012

Personally, I am gratified that many bright and concerned Nigerians are responding publicly to this matter. I'm glad that those responding are enabling our democracy to function in ensuring communication between government and citizens. The Nigerian government is totally out of touch with reality. As I told a friend's son, who happens to support the subsidy removal, although I'm not poor, I want everyone to imagine they are earning 18,000 naira a month, or have no hope of finding a job. How have they survived? How will they survive? There'll be no end to stealing, armed robbery and misery. Is that the kind of country we want?

The Nigerian government has failed in the basic task of being concerned about the welfare of its citizens. Comfortable and wealthy Nigerians have chosen to look the other way for far too long. The mark of a good society is that we realize we are all created by God and should be concerned about one another even if we don't have anything to gain."

I also told a fellow Nigerian who is a member of a public interest group that responded to my comment the following: "The overwhelming sentiment from most of the people I've heard from is that the matter goes beyond the petrol subsidy issue and is about transparency, lack of fiscal probity, good governance and in particular, the huge and massive deployment of Nigerian people's money to feather the nest of the top members of the cabinet and the legislature etc.

The struggle is ongoing. I want to include others who have responded and share some of their responses as well. I have not identified anyone of them by name because I did not ask their permission before responding. But this is an opportunity to engage one another and see what we can do to bring sanity and well-being to our country.

Funmi Soetan, Ph.D.
Centre for Gender and Social Policy Studies,
Obafemi Awolowo University,
Dear Sister,

In addition, Government has refused to tell us (in spite of the FOI bill) the size and how the government spent the revenue derived from previous removal of subsidy on diesel and kerosene???? That was some huge sum!!! Imagine all the households using kerosene in Nigeria and all the industrial firms (not to talk of households) using diesel to power their generating plants!!!

May God save Nigeria from her so-called leaders. Leadership is about service not greed! Nigerians are tired of being deceived, for as the adage goes... "everyday for the thief but one day for the owner". May that day not be a bloody one.

"My dear Sister,

Well-said. Your response is quite comprehensive and appropriate. In addition, how did the government spend the revenue generated from the deregulation of the diesel and kerosene? Why ask the masses to sacrifice to the tune of 120% while the executive only sacrificed by only 25%? That indicates the need to close the inequity gap between the leaders and the followers. A friend earns 20k per month and spent 300 Naira per day or 6,000 per month on transport fare. The fare rose to 800 per day or 16,000 Naira per month post-fuel price increase. Her Landlord has also increased her rent, her children's school fees has been increased and so have prices of goods and services. What message of belt-tightening can be preached to such a woman who also happens to be a widow? This is the plight of millions of Nigerians who have been pushed further into poverty and misery. The welfare of the citizens should be the main preoccupation of government. The people are the principals and government officials are but their agents.
Therefore, good governance is about prioritising citizens' interests.

The massive cost of governance in Nigeria is absurd and should be reduced drastically. Comparing the price of fuel in Nigeria with that of neighbouring countries without similar comparison of the earnings gap between the highest paid and lowest paid Nigeria is unrealistic. Corruption needs to be tackled and wastages reduced to free up resources for development. Accountability of public officials (the agents) to the people (the principals) is a sine qua non for good governance.

May God bless Nigeria."

A fellow Nigerian Professor of Philosophy in the Diaspora said the following:

"Thanks for sharing this with me. And I commend your very brief and to the point response to her. She must think that Nigerians are dummies. The figures do not add up - many of us are persuaded that there is no "subsidy", because production cost of oil in Nigerian should not include transportation cost of crude to any other country and transportation of refined products back to Nigeria. The price of a barrel of oil should be strictly ex-oil field price. The only overhead that should go into oil in Nigeria should simply be refining and distribution.

When the President budgets N1b for food per annum and teachers are paid less than N50,000 per month, how does he she justify her position as an intelligent economist or financial person? If Senators take home quarterly allowances in excess of N20m, how does he justify heaping "temporary" pain on the hapless Nigerians? Strange she did not mention why Nigeria finds it rocket science to simply pipe the gas that is flared daily into a turbine to generate power (electricity).

Do we need to be recolonized again for her masters in Washington, Paris and London to do this for us? Many countries do not have oil, yet they use oil to generate energy, uninterrupted! Why is this a challenge to Nigeria, where we have some of the best minds on planet earth - and during the war, Biafra was able to do this without much resources? If she is truly interested in debate, then she can let us engage. How does she present a budget to Nigerians which she could not dream of in the organization she represents in the West? Would someone not tell her that she needs help if generators for the presidency in Washington was to cost billions?

From a Nigerian Professor of Women’s Studies and Law who is based in Canada:

Dear Funke,
Happy New Year! And we hope that it does indeed turn out to be a happy one in the long run.

Thank you for forwarding this and expressing the views you did. The minister and others are clearly disconnected from the situation of ordinary people in the country and the impact of this policy and are not taking the trouble to get informed (very easy to do, especially when you have the resources of government) due to arrogance or carelessness.

As you point out, the idea that somehow the Western educated elite - "professionals" are "experts" is rife, and anti democratic tendencies are well entrenched after decades of militarisation. Whereas these "professionals and experts" are often just muddling along or acting in their own self interest and ordinary people and specific interest groups are experts on their own circumstances and life experience and need to be consulted as well as allowed to participate in governance. Attempts to stop their protest or in other ways shut them up, can only work for a limited time.

Everywhere in the world, such attempts at intimidation exist in different forms and are resisted. To show its goodwill the government should take democracy and democratisation seriously and engage these interest groups in constructing alternative policies and engaging in open debate. The government should respond seriously to the issues tabled by Nigerians through organised labour and civil society organisations instead of staying silent and in effect dismissing them as insignificant or ridiculous.

Why should the remuneration package of top government officials not be reviewed and cut. Why should the mode of operation and accounting of various industries and institutions including the oil industry not be reviewed to stop the draining away of resources? Why is the first port of call raising petroleum products prices to almost what it is in North America - about 94cents - in a country where so many live on less than $1-2 a day and are already hard hit by the existing economic situation.

There are real and complex problems to be dealt with but we need transparency and fuller information in grappling with these problems together. People need to be involved and carried along with government if the kind of trust that the Minister is calling for is to be established. Of course we all appreciate that there is hard work to be done by government leaders but part of that work is putting the various teams and interest groups they have to work and consult to come up with workable policies that have the support of a significant majority NOT just laying down policies based on questionable presumptions and theories!
Funke, thank you for keeping us informed and engaging us.

Dear Prof. Okome

The debate going on is precisely what leaders should orchestrate and listen to before taking decisions in good faith. These experts engaged in the debate are people in whom a lot of public funds have been invested to enable them focus on specific issues in a way that all of us cannot. They now bring their various foci to the table to inform decision making. That includes the poor people in the street who feel the impact of the policies in the worst ways. They also are entitled to make that known and to hear from other experts what the dilemmas are, so that together they can fashion and support alternatives.

The Minister should be more humble and recognise that if the policies of the government had the understanding and support of a critical mass of Nigerians or even a significant group in a position to protest, she would not be so threatened because even if she was not there there would be others advocating that position.

The arrogant position of sole saviour has its major drawbacks. Building an informed movement and interest groups are what is needed. But the "opposition" should learn from this too. If civil society organises to intervene in policy making, it is not about isolated individuals who are so easily identified and threatened or intimidated.

Lets put our egos aside and work for the common good in the best possible ways. This is what the fight for the freedom of information bill was about, and also what the fight for the decentralisation of government and governance is about. If people dont have access to information and they don't have training and experience and exposure in participating in decision making, how can you then castigate them for ignorance and behaving like tea partyists or "fighting against their own true interest".

Who defines their own true interests? Is it not critical that they determine this. What kind of arrogance informs the definition of the true interest of groups and individuals with no consultation with or recourse to them as to what their priorities or suggested alternatives are?

Building a critical mass of informed and educated citizens is essential and part of that economic AND social literacy is the importance sharing and compassion in the making and implementation of policies that benefit as many as possible, not rabid selfishness and individualism. Yet for years, as you point out, the institutions that are best positioned to carry out this education and to make it relevant to the specific context of the country have been under attack from inside and outside the country and many of those who worked and could work in them have fled like glorified refugees to lick their wounds around the world.

From Olatunji Ariyomo :

WITH regard to government's assurance that it will re-invest the savings, I with good reasons, have serious basis to doubt government's capacity to accomplish what it claims:

1. Is it not in this same Nigeria where Lagos-Ibadan express-way (the most important road that links Lagos to other parts of Nigeria) was concessioned without a BEME (Bill of Engineering Measurement and Evaluation)? And it took Government 2 years to realise that? This is only one example.

2. Is it not in this same Nigeria where several of the projects listed by government in this SURE-P have gulped multiples of billions in the past without any tangible result?

3. Is it not in this same Nigeria where government fights corruption while at the same time ensuring that the system is so porous and so subject to abuse that makes even the most saintly a potential victim? Would it not be easier to PREVENT rather than allow it happen and begin to FIGHT it (usually selectively)? We can prevent corruption by ensuring that the processes involved are not 'person' dependent. We can do this by having honest and robust systems that would make even the potentially corrupt pretend saints.

4. Is it not in this same Nigeria where the governors have always collected billions but the destination of such billions remain the black-holes in the respective state government houses? Is it out of place to ask - what have the governors done with the billions collected yesterday? And the days before?

5. Is it not in this same Nigeria where although government acknowledges in speeches that infrastructure (physical and social - civil, energy, amenities etc) is the most critical challenge facing Nigerians, yet bodies such as the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Council for the Regulation of Engineering Practice in Nigeria etc have no professional inputs to policies affecting infrastructural development?

I have provided some form of detailed reaction to some of the arguments of government HERE on CP-AFRICA. IT can be accessed directly via this link ( ). I gave some suggestions there that I think can help us permanently solve this problem.

NOTE 1: The numbers of armed robbers in Nigeria and children embracing lives of violent crime have some form of proportional relationship to the increased cost of access to basic things of life. Nigeria is a petrol economy: we depend on petrol for our vehicles, our generators (the poor are unable to buy the costly diesel type but the small 'I better pass my neighbour type'), the transport buses on the streets of our cities and those for inter-village communions etc. Removing subsidy will thus lead to an Increase in the amount payable to access critical but basic things of life and this will dislocate the micro economy of ordinary folks by directly affecting the purse of the poor people as more money would be taken away from them. The domino effect will impart food prices and access to social amenities. More youths would see government as a wicked institution and would take their anger against the innocent as more would embrace a life of crime - especially as they continue to see children of the rich (oil 'tycoons', politicians, top civil servants etc) living a live of luxury.

NOTE 2: I want the government to be successful. My fear or concern however is that the government's access to suggestions before taking decision seems to be limited. Perhaps if the revered Dr. Okonjo-Iweala had requested for the opinion of Prof. Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome before taking the original decision of subsidy removal in an open-minded manner, the narrative today could have been different and the lives lost may have been preserved.

Thanks for the opportunity to share our views.

Olatunji Ariyomo, MScEng.(Sheffield), STI Policy(Harvard), B.Eng.(Akure), COREN Regd., MNSE, MNICE, MNCS, MIET(UK), FSES (FPA)

From Sina Babasola
Westminster University

Good day and many thanks for your comments.
Pls I have two basic questions that the Finance Minister should answer, [for the] sake of our country. Why is it that IMF and World Bank plus Minister, Ngozi- are not asking or pressurising Obama to remove subsidy on the Agric. sector of American economy but they are asking Nigerians to suffer the more? Fuel to me, is supposed to be a comparative advantage product to Nigerians.

Secondly, why is Obama who had in the last few months created more 300,000 jobs opportunities for citizens considering reducing the size of his administration and Jonathan and his team have refused to reduce our own over bloated government? You should read this year’s Budget and El-Rufai’s lecture at the Nigerian Guild of Editors in Benin last year to really appreciate the fact that this PDP led government is not serious about solving any problem.

Thirdly, Nigeria needs deep thinkers in the mode of late sage, Chief Awolowo. Most of those in the corridors of power in the country now love money than anything.. Nobody is reading again and more worrisome is the refusal of successive governments to fund the education sector very well. Our rulers should read Prof. Achebe' work - The trouble with Nigeria and come up with solutions. They love to send their wards to Euro/American schools with stolen funds.

Let me say with all sense of regret that Nigeria and Nigerians needs pple like late Bade Onimode, Tunji Aboyade and Ola Oni now more than ever but the question is do we still have people like them in Nigeria?.

From a Nigerian Professor of Political Science:

Dear Compatriots,

I am pleased with your reactions to the fuel subsidy issue. It would be interesting to hear the Minister's response to the issues so far raised, especially by Olatunji Ariyomo. Olatunji's submissions clarify the basis for the demonstrations and explains why the policy choice of the government cannot address the issues. What is obvious from way the government has handled the problem of graft surrounding the subsidy on petroleum is that the government has given up the fight against corruption. The government appears to say we know the subsidy process is riddled with corruption but there is nothing we can do about corruption. So, the only way out is to deregulate so that the opportunity for corruption is eliminated. But we know that deregulation does not automatically eliminate corruption. We have seen this in the financial crisis that has gripped the world, especially our banking system. Even the privatization and public/private partnerships will not work unless corruption is addressed. As for Collier's piece, there is an apparent misunderstanding of the Nigerian situation. I see the 'We are the 99 per cent' protest in the US more closely related to the Nigerian case than the tea party that he associates with the Nigerian situation.

from: banji oyeyinka

Greetings friends

I really fear for my country because the removal of subsidy and the reaction of government (sending out the army) points to two things: the lack of sensitivity to the plight of the deprived and the high intolerance to the rights of citizens who voted the president in on trust. Of course the lack of transparency and high prevalence of corruption in the appropriation and use of state revenue is always a hallmark of governance in a mineral dependent economy like Nigeria. The situation that we recently witnessed and the eye opening information circulating in the public domain which describe how corrupt politicians allocate resources to select interest groups or citizens, who then in turn favour the elite in power, will continue to feed citizens anger to boiling point until the power elite restrain their greed and demonstrate fiscal responsibility. I will suggest the following for the Minister of Finance to champion unless we plan to face catastrophe in the next twelve months.

1. No matter how troublesome they find this, the executive and legislative arms should Reduce Governance Financial Burden: The government should reduce the cost of governance not salary cut of 25% but overall by 50% in order to focus more on effectively delivering public services to the people. All these folks spending state money recklessly won't they survive if we don't have oil?

2. Ensure that total recurrent spending as a percent of GDP should drop from 8.5 to 4%, while total capital expenditure as a percent of GDP should rise from 4 to 10% in the next two years 2012 and 15% over five years. Right now as the minister knows very well recurrent expenditure is almost 150-200% non-oil expenditure. It should to be as it used to be pre-199 pegged at 30%!!!

3 . Reduce the budget for attendees to conferences and meetings both local and foreign by 75%.

4. Abolish Constituency Allowance (CA), a legislator takes away USD 1 MILLION a year. It is a distortion of the capital budget of the Federal Government and it is difficult to measure the outcome. The National Assembly is not the executive and vice versa and many have characterized CA as nothing more than disguised bribery. N45 million per quarter is equal to N180 million (US$1,200,000) per year per member. When multiplied by the over 600 hundred member house and assembly representatives, this is a large sum that will help towards the Development Agenda.

As the minister expressed in a speech, public anger is not against subsidy, it is a merely a signal of something very deep. The suspension of the strike is as dangerous to our polity as the use of soldiers to muzzle citizens who are expressing their frustration against half a century of arrested development and impunity in our polity.

This is the least that bureaucrats and politicians can do to win the trust of Nigerians and allow government to implement reforms. Right now trust is zero and anger is rising.

Professor Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, PhD
Director, Monitoring & Research Division (MRD)
P.O. Box 30030 00100

From a Nigerian Professor of Political Science

Dear All,

Why do our leaders disdain the mental power of their folks and have implicit faith in that of non-Nigerians? Why do they think non-Nigerians love to see Nigeria develop than Nigerians? Why can’t they see through imperialist thought or advice? Why can’t they realize that their faith in the expertise of foreigners for over fifty years has left Nigeria undeveloped, even worst off? Why did import-substitution industrialization not result in the industrialization of Nigeria? Most of the motor assembly houses I met in Ibadan in early 1980s have since been turned into church assemblies for deepening Nigeria’s underdevelopment. No organization or country can smell material progress and self-respect if it does not care about assisting its primary constituents to realize their full potentials. Was USA developed by Britons? Was France developed by Germans? Was Japan developed by Western countries? Why can’t they realize that it is competition for supremacy in science or development that is the hallmark of relations between states of the world? But why should these issues bother them when they already have ready made resting places in Europe and North America?

From Osuolale Alalade:

My take on Collier:

Paul Collier on the Nigerian crisis reflects a dominant paradigm that comes with a certain aggravating mindset. Both the paradigm and mindset epitomize the dangers of fly by night touristic intellectual engagements that have defined the discourse of third world Affairs for a long time. These engagements rest on anecdotes and casualness, rather than the rigor of incisive research and exhaustive deliberation. Unfortunately, the global policy elite are weaned on these surrealistic enterprises, such that membership of this exclusive elite club is validated only by subscribing to these outlandish orientations. Our leaders, in turn, are validated when they turn national policy making processes into blind faith healing experiments in national welfare under the tutelage and guidance of the global policy elite. The failed developmental policies that litter our firmaments are the direct consequences of these approaches from Kafka in processing the complexities of the critical challenges that we face in the Third World. With the failures driven by the same policy prescriptions of these dominant global elite, their intellectual barons must roll out their heavy guns to rationalize these failures. In the least, the paradigm and the mindset associated with it reflect a certain contempt for our universe by the Colliers of this world. They assume that having attained great heights in their specific fields, they can, almost with hubris, sell bogus understandings on any subject under the sun. Collier exemplifies these in his pernicious perorations on the crisis on the oil subsidy in Nigeria. How does one begin to understand his glib equation of the profound spontaneous eruptions across a nation of 160 million diverse peoples over the fuel subsidy with the incoherent crap of a functional illiterate throw up of a political system driven by media sound bites and sales figures. And to think of his dripping contempt for the peoples of Nigeria. In all this the lesson is to repudiate our tendency to allow ourselves as a people to be validated by the assumed Superior Other all around us. We must tell our own stories and be in the fore front of fashioning the narratives of our lives, paraphrasing Chinua Achebe. The outrage on Collier is a healthy sign of great times ahead.
My bit said.

From a Nigerian woman in her 60s who's resident in Lagos. She wrote while the mass protests were ongoing

Funke, I've read through all you sent concerning what Nigerians have been experiencing for some time. The removal of petrol subsidy triggered off reactions from a sizeable number of Nigerian citizens. You will agree with me that God, for a reason best known to Him blessed our nation to such an extent that we should be envied by other nations of the world. God also made us a special breed to the extent that we are able to tolerate endure and work under very high pressure. We also are very sensible people able to react to issues when we think we've had enough, and that probably accounted for what happened in the past one week.

The caliber of people on the street is evidence that people are unanimously saying ALL IS NOT WELL AND ENOUGH IS ENOUGH to lack of human feeling and bad governance in Nigeria. Let’s look through the year 2012 budget and see how much President Jonathan wants to spend on feeding and cutlery: Feeding N1.6b and cutlery N300,000,000. I was just thinking, does he and members of his family break the plates and throw away cutlery after each meal? I know that the older you are the less food your stomach is able to consume. How many children eat at his table? Will Americans agree that Obama eat on their hard earned money? And he is asking Nigerians to sacrifice and says that the long term effect will be better for us. We want as a Nation to first see sacrifice being demonstrated by the Senate, house of Rep and House of Assembly people.

We need as a matter of urgency to see improved transportation system on the ground. For example the president said it on the air that the Fed Govt. was going to buy 1,600 buses to distribute to all the states to cushion the effect of high transportation cost, when Govt. Fashola provided 2,000 buses for Lagos State alone and it has not sufficiently met the needs of Lagosians. I am sure the man and his team wants to reduce the population of Nigeria drastically by making us stampede on one another. Jo I am tired jare, will talk to you later.

From an under-30 Nigerian woman, a lawyer who lives in Lagos who also wrote while the protests were ongoing:

Hello Aunty! Your response is very much on point. It's impressive dat Nigerians can stand up to their rights this time around. We have finally woken up from our slumber. It has gone far beyond d removal of subsidy on fuel. Not even Barack Obama earns wages like dis corrupt ministers, senators & Mr. President.

I doubt that d budget for food, cutlery, furniture for the White House is anything close to half of what is on budget for Aso Rock Villa, not to talk about other excesses & fraudulent enrichment of a few sect in d country(their political sponsors). I really hope the Finance Minister will not just read your response but act on it as she & her counterparts seem to be operating from another planet. Many thanks for sharing this with us, I have forwarded to my contacts.

From a Nigerian woman who is a Human Resources Manager resident in Lagos

I must say I enjoyed all the contributions so far, but I felt that the way and manner NLC called off the strike, left a lot of issues with no clear direction. I am therefore greatly exhausted from the events of the past 10 days as I believe that NC should have taken a better approach in calling off the strike. Although it was really unrealistic for NLC to think they can request the Govt to return to status Quo. I guess they gave govt a window rightfully so but they should have articulated a better communication plan to address the people on whose mandate they were talking to govt. All said and done, this issue is really about governance and accountability.
Funke, if I stay on this issue, no one will provide for my kid's education. I need to stay on course.

There is more to come, especially Commentaries by other Nigerians on this matter and plans for a Nigerian National Project that suggests concrete solutions.


Ayo Turton Esq. said…
Much have already been said by these great Nigerian intellectuals. But the question I would like to ask Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealla is this:

On her first trip as the Minister of Finance under Obasanjo, the same reason she gave for us giving away $18 billion to the Paris Club that we could not really afford was that we have been paying too much in interest charges, that we could begin to save this money spent on interests to build our infrastructure and provide better standard of living for our people.

Well, this is about 6 years after, I will want her to show me where the infrastructure is and how much the life of an ordinary Nigerian has improved since then.

Instead we have depleted our foreign reserves, we have incurred more debts to the tune of about $35 billion, we have cleaned out our Stabilization Fund and have emptied the Excess Crude Oil Account!

How can we trust her now that she has come to us with the same mantra on the phantom fuel "subsidy"?

Ayo Turton Esq.
Unknown said…
Dear Prof.,

I hope this finds you well. Having read your thoughts and reflected on same, I would be failing somewhat in my love for country by not calling to your attention some obvious facts that have laid our country comatose for so long.

We cannot pretend that the crippling economic situation we live with today are merely the natural outgrowths from corruption and bad leadership. Yes, they do play a part but only as much as they serve to perpetuate those conditions foisted on us by Western governments and global financial institutions. I must add too, that these conditions have directly led to corruption and bad leadership.

Weak governments i.e. so-called 3rd world governments, are blackmailed, bullied or coerced into legitimizing bad loans which are built up to Shylock levels and technically impossible to repay. Some of the tactics employed are to look the other way at a people's yearning for better life and encourage corruption and the oppression of a people once whatever rogue regime plays ball. When they do not, they are clobbered across the head with allegations of corruption in their main stream media or better still, demonized and hauled before the ICC for butchering their people. No mention will ever be made about who supplied the instruments of coercion and oppression.

If we are serious about our continuing state of affairs, we must start by examining how we got to this sorry pass in the first place. We must ask why the IMF and World bank dish out loans to military regimes, pariah entities and usurpers, knowing fully well that the dissemination of such funds facilitate the longevity of such rogue regimes and the impoverishment of a people. We must ask why we continue to service the excesses of a Babangida or Abacha regime whereas the IMF and World bank (through their hand-outs) afforded them the means and staying power to oppress and impoverish my people.

Fuel 'subsidy' removal are preconditions for continuing business with these global financial institutions. It is not about the betterment of our people and has never been. Another conditionality bestowed upon us by the tireless efforts of ex-Goldman Sachs' Hedge Fund Manager in London, Olusegun Aganga, and then Finance minister was the creation of a Sovereign Wealth Fund which made clear that proceeds from 'subsidy' removal and elsewhere must be placed with it and invested in Western markets. So, what is this tittle-tattle about Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program (SURE) all about when by the dictates of the IMF, funds accruing from it are to be placed elsewhere.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is on industrial attachment from the IMF to free up funds for her benefactors. Do not be deceived. This is not the time to be nice, lives and livelihoods are at stake. Most of the debts crippling Nigeria today are Obj (post 1975)/Buhari/IBB/Abacha/Abdulsalami fixtures. Rogue regimes that held a gun to our collective head which these same global financial institutions sustained in power by their generous hand-outs ledgered as loans.

Why is Ngozi not fighting our case with them to this effect? Why is she not pursing computations of all payments made to these rogue regimes with a view to demanding a refund of all sums paid in error by our legitimate governments to these banks?

She ought to know to assert that these loans are bad loans dished out to illegitimate rogue regimes without the people's consent or benefit. It's simple; you cannot make me pay for what I did not take or use. I will urge you to read the following link, it portrays the gimmickry of Western powers and their International bankers.
God's Speed and Love, always.

tifa705678 said…
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all comments. What baffles me the most is government actions pre-removal of fuel subsidies. If I hadn't been following all year, it would have looked to me that they most have woken up on Jan 1 to announce a new year gift.
Nothing at all was put in place to cushion the effect of the removal. Talks on fuel subsidy had been going on for ages and government officials did not deem fit to at least do something about the comfort of Nigerians before the removal of the subsidy? Nigerians cannot even boast of having electricity supply 40percent in a day. Did
government officials not even think that before removing subsidy they should have done something to reduce daily
fuel consumption... If they were serious about looking to
boost some form of confidence in Nigerians, fuel subsidy should not have been removed without provision of
constant electricity at the minimum.
My stand remains the same as all previously expressed fuel subsidy is NOT the issue. If government officials did
not put an adequate plan in place before the removal of
fuel subsidy to cushion it's effects, I doubt they have
concrete plans for the anticipated savings as they have removed the so-called subsidy.
I have great respect for Hon. Minister Okonjo-iweala but
was deeply troubled upon listening to one of her speeches
on what will be done with the savings from removal. All I
heard was 'we shall, we will'... Nothing like we had thought about effects on Nigerians and that is why 'XYZ' is up and running etc. Even the provision of buses by Mr.
President was announced after the removal of subsidy.
Nigerians need to see some form of commitment from the
government - provision of at least stable electricity and 50 percent cut in packages of government officials - and not how the savings will be used (we have heard that story before).
Until that happens our government remains the most wasteful without foresight and compassion for the very
people they have been called to serve.
Oladapo Odumosu said…
I luckily bumped into this site, and I was so glad to do so.
One thing is clear: the choice is either Nigeria splits into several pieces very soon, or a revolution will take place that will keep the country united.
We have a president that is inept, ineffective, corrupt and totally clueless.
We have a legislature that is the most corrupt in the world, each member earning at least $1.4 million dollars a year.
We have a judiciary that is filled with political appointees who deliver judgements at night in political offices.
We have a citizenry that is so emasculated that they have decided to wait for their proverbial reward in heaven and continue to shuffer and shmile on earth, apologies to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
Let things continue this way. Hooke's Law will always come to play. For Nigeria, the elastic limit seems to be infinite, but the breaking point is inexorable, inevitable and unstoppable.

Oladapo Odumosu, M.D.
Avondale, AZ USA
Wolof said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wolof said…

Part of the reason why people like you have left to teach abroad is that Nigeria runs economic policies based on the principle of "awuf". If the Government had since 1960 calculated how much it costs to train students and made serious efforts to recover the money through fees, Professors would be paid livable wages and have facilities for research. We wouldn't have thousands of Nigerian youth going to study religious knowledge in Universities ( Asians have a much more lower humanities to sciences). You may call this "neo-liberal" world view. But Nigeria is what it is today-a poor and deeply corrupt country, because of a world view that justifies providing free or subsidized services to the few people who live in our few cities-that is why the farmers in the villages stopped planting cocoa and palm oil and sent their children to the city.Prof Collier is right-Nigerians, including our diaspora Profs, don't know any economics! We have suffered a "double jeopardy"-corruption and insane economic policies that equally corrupt countries such as Indonesia have avoided. warm regards
Wolof said…

Part of the reason why people like you have left to teach abroad is that Nigeria runs economic policies based on the principle of "awuf". If the Government had since 1960 calculated how much it costs to train students and made serious efforts to recover the money through fees, Professors would be paid livable wages and have facilities for research. We wouldn't have thousands of Nigerian youth going to study religious knowledge in Universities ( Asians have a much more lower humanities to sciences ratio). You may call this "neo-liberal" world view. But Nigeria is what it is today-a poor and deeply corrupt country, because of a world view that justifies providing free or subsidized services to the few people who live in our few cities-that is why the farmers in the villages stopped planting cocoa and palm oil and sent their children to the city. Prof Collier is right-Nigerians, including our diaspora Profs, don't know any economics! We have suffered a "double jeopardy"-corruption and insane economic policies that equally corrupt countries such as Indonesia have avoided. The reaction to the subsidy removal is eloquent testimony to the salutary political economic effect of withdrawing subsidies and letting people pay for what they enjoy- citizens become very interested in how their resources are being used. warm regards
Ayo Turton Esq. said…
Chief/Alhaji/Dr/Otunba Wolof,
Sorry I have use those titles (whichever is applicable) because I do not want you to be mad at me for not properly addressing you with this your elitist submission.

Really? Nigeria subsidized our cities? Which one of the "subsidized" cities do you live in so I can join you long as there is 24 hours light, so I wouldnt have to generate my own light, there is pipe-borne water, I hope "poor" water is not king in your "subsidized" city, there is security, I wouldn't have to live in a medieval-like walled home we call fences, I hope the "subsidized' cities have what non-subsidized people but civilized people call motorable roads?

God bless the subsidized people of Wolof Fantasy Island.
Unknown said…
Perhaps you may want to consider what becomes of additional revenue, if we can call it that, in a country that continues to foam from the mouth because of corruption. The issue is not removal of subsidy but what becomes of the funds accruing therefrom.

Is it just enough to believe govt, a very corrupt one for that matter, when it says "Don't worry, just trust us, everything will be ok once subsidy is removed." I think not! The question, really, is what has changed to stop funds accruing therefrom from being embezzled.

Look at the size of govt for the love of goodness. Look at the National Assembly salaries and allowances. Why does one need a Min. of Transport and another for Aviation? Whats with a Min. for Niger Delta and then NDDC? The list of duplications are endless (creating theft zones for the boys). As there are duplications so too the multiplier effect on corruption.

All we are saying is put an effective system in place first, that guarantees efficient application of funds for the benefit of our people, before placing painful sacrifices our way. We have heard all these pretty promises before and today we are fed up and twice shy.
Wolof said…

thanks. I agree with you 100 %. The problem with the Nigerian commentariat is their befuddled thinking. We just lost a huge opportunity to roll back big wasteful corrupt government in Nigeria.Saying there was no subsidy or denying that it benefitted people living in a few cities, including people who have 3-4 cars, is economic illiteracy or dishonesty. 30 People in a bus to Victoria Island= 3 litres of fuel. 1 Person in a car to Victoria Island=2.4 litres of fuel. How can you tell me that people in cars and buses are benefiting from fuel subsidy equally? What you want is a developed transport system that is comfortable enough for thousands of people riding in rickety cars and using fuel that could be sold abroad for money to spend on hospitals and schools to start riding in buses.That is the economic case-you must first get it right then we focus energy on forcing the thieving govt felons to cut their costs rather than waste time on illiterate economic arguments. Even Abacha stored away petrol subsidy savings and used it for stuff people saw-we can do much better under an imperfect democracy-if we think straight and fine tune our strategies.
Ayo Turton Esq. said…
Lord have mercy!
What does it matter if people have 2-3 cars? Would they be riding more than one car at a time?
How will a bus use 3 liters and a car will use 2-4?

What do you consider a benefit if the objective of those riding on buses and cars is to get to their destinations
? Would riding the car put some "subsidy" change in their pockets? It actually cost more to drive? Where is the benefit? Voodoo economics I guess!

Whose responsibility it is to provide a dignifying mode of transportation? Why begrudge those who will probably not drive like me if they have alternatives?
Which one should come first, provision of alternatives or pricing the only viable means out of reach?
I can only hope that it is not people like you that are advising this man.
VoiceofTruth said…
The fuel subsidy removal issue shows that having good degrees from prestigious universities/business schools do not necessarily translate to good governance and leadership, GEJ, Okonjo-Iweala, Sanusi Lamido, Olusegun Aganga, Diezani and Adoke just proved that to us. They all turned a blind eye to the real issues of CORRUPTION, INEFFICIENCY, LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY, TRANSPARENCY, WASTAGE and HIGH-HANDEDNESS of govt officials (both elected and non-elected) AND TRUST in all tiers of govt which affect every area of our lives as a nation e.g. security, power, water, oil, transport, health, education etc and focused only on getting more money (via subsidy removal) to perpetuate their greed and dastard deeds at the expense of the welfare of the citizens.

Admitting there is a cabal which they are powerless to prosecute and bring to justice simply means they have no moral right to remove subsidy, they will simply be giving the cabal more money on a platter of gold. It's a big leadership failure and Nigerians are no longer ready to accept lame excuses and promises.

Prof Chinua Achebe and a host of learned Nigerians have said it all. GEJ please listen and act on the advice of the wise ones.
Oladapo Odumosu said…
There is a Yoruba saying that says " even a dead body will find company on the way to the grave".
It should not come as a surprise that this government, as corrupt and inept as it is, still finds people like Wolof supporting it.
Long live corruption.
Long live ineptitude.
Long live bad governance.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Wolof said…
I remember an interview with the writer Femi Osofisan-he said many of his former classmates boasts when he meets them at parties that they have never read a book since they left the uni. In the T Kelani film "Oleku", set in 1960s Uni of Ibadan, new graduates sing "Henceforth, we shall never "count" books again, we shall be counting money" to count and to study in Yoruba have same word "ka". In the 1980s when graduates couldn't get jobs, people often complained about IMF-instigate embargo on jobs, lamenting 60s and 70s when new graduates bought Peugeot cars after 3 months of working. People ate whole chickens and had beds made for them in unis. Till the mid 80s, you could walk into a store in Ibadan and buy biscuits, comics, shoes, albums etc 7 days old from English or American factories. Etc Etc. in 70s/early 80s, people laughed at you if you didn't cook Uncle Bens in your party-u were either too poor or from up country. What's my point? African governments were buying off "intellectuals" and/or city dwellers with luxuries and lifestyles that the economy could not sustain. (I lived in the Uk for 5 years, I never saw anybody buy/cook Uncle Bens rice-too expensive!). A major instrument of facilitating this imported sweet life was very high foreign exchange rate - naira was worth more than the dollar until SAP. African intellectuals hate SAP and curse the IMF and World Bank-they are too used to this something for nothing life!
Wolof said…

I hate corruption and waste as much as you do. I worked with the Government as a consultant for one year and Allah be praised, half a penny of Nigerian money didn't enter my pocket as bribe or over invoicing or through any corrupt means.If you really know our civil servants and politicians, you will never want them to administer any subsidy again. Did you hear how they manage the NNPC during the House of Rep hearing? Subsidy involves under the table dealings,govt people paying for things you use on your behalf- we are too corrupt in Nigeria for this. Bring things into the open like telecoms, you pay for what you use, if the company mismanages the money it collapses. That's what can work in Nigeria! Reality of our life. not abstract ideology
Oladapo Odumosu said…
Mr. Wolof: What really are you saying. What relevance to what is happening now? Are the elites solely responsible for the level of corruption in Nigeria today?
Many of us who qualify tio be called elites refuse to be included among those who brought Nigeria to her knees. That is why we are trying to save the country. Please refer to facebook at "Take Nigeria back (from the locusts and termites)
Wolof said…

my point is that we look on this past as a period of the good life which the IMP came to spoil. Younger people have heard about how good life was then, so they resist any "adjustment" e.g. paying school fees and fuel fuel price as an imposition of hardship. You don't have to be an elite to enjoy when the government is spending irresponsibly-everybody was eating Horlicks, Chocolates, wearing all sorts of lace/wonyosi etc before the party stopped. Real sustainable development is about girding your loins, using resources prudently, taxes people and spending wisely, selecting the weakest and poorest and having targeted spending that gives them a real chance in life-not frittering resources on millions and millions of people.
Oladapo Odumosu said…
Mr. Wolof:
Yes, I agree totally that we should all gird our loins. The question is: where do we start from? Can you justify why ANY Nigerian public servant, including the president should earn more than the equivalent of $200,000 a year? From the tone of your posts, it is clear that your answer will be NO. However, I am sure you know that the senators earn about $1.7 million a year while the members of the House of Representatives earn $1.4million a year. We do not even know how much the president and vice-president earn. He, the president, has refused to declare his assets, against the dictates of the Nigerian Constitution.
It is unconscionable to start the belt-tightening with the poor masses.
Lest I forget, I will like to remind you that the so-called fuel subsidy (if at all there is any), is the only relief that Nigerians get from their country. In the US, the clean air we breathe is a form of subsidy. The good roads, security of life etc. No American citizen dies of any acute emergency illness, because the emergency rooms are mandated to treat even the poorest person with any real emergency WITHOUT asking for payment before service. This is in the bastion of capitalism in the whole world. This does not happen in Nigeria. If you do not pay, you can go and die. I know this because I have practised medicine in both Nigeria and the United States.
Please do not let us leave the leprosy and try to treat the ringworm. We need to clean the proverbial 'augean stables'.
Nigerians are very good at reaching out to good leadership. Remember what happened with Murtala Muhammed and the brief Buhari rule. Remember how the Yorubas still hold Awolowo in high esteem, twenty-five years after his death?
Jonathan has shown that he is not capable of providing true leadership. Even without Boko Haram, he is clueless, inept, and very corrupt. If he is not, let him declare his assets for a start.
Oladapo Odumosu said…
We should not be concerning ourselves about what type of generator to buy.
What we should concern ourselves with is why we cannot generate enough power in our country to merit purchasing the generators in the first instance.
I am sure that there are thousands of Nigerians who, if given the chance, can show us how to generate and distribute enough electric power for the whole country and even create surpluses.
However, this will not be possible in the climate of unbridled corruption that pervades the country. It is this corruption that we in forums like this one should be addressing.
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