A former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, has urged the Federal Government to immediately remove fuel subsidy.
Mr. Tinubu, a senior member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, said Nigeria should rather commit available resources to social programmes and infrastructure that would impact on the people.
Mr. Tinubu made the suggestion on Friday while speaking in Kaduna at the 10th memorial anniversary of Bala Usman, a left-wing politician, scholar and historian.
In 2012, Mr. Tinubu was one of the well-known critics of then Jonathan administration’s attempt to remove fuel subsidy.
The former governor said subsidy on petrol was once a good idea but that “it has been perverted into its opposite”.
He said the aid was no longer helping the people, but had long become a device used by crooked business interests to steal public resources.
“In a perfect world, I wish we could sanitize the subsidy regime and thus continue (with) it,” he said. “However, I have reached the conclusion that there are too many demons in the system for this hell to be converted into good earth let alone heaven.”
He said it would be better to spend the money from subsidy on people-based programmes.
“I would choose to remove the subside and use the money to help people – let us feed our school children, with our local produce promote agriculture, create jobs and start erecting a social safety net for the vulnerable among us in true need,” he said.
“I am one of those enjoying or benefitting from the cheap pump price per litre, but I don’t need it. I rather pay for the availability and let the needy benefit more from higher pump prices.
“Let us begin a process of a thoughtful but decisive subsidy phase-out. While this is occurring, we should simultaneously phase in social programs benefiting the poorest, most vulnerable among us.
“Programs such as transportation subsidies, school feeding, improved basic medical care and coverage for the poor, and potable water projects are some of the things that can be done with the funds.
“This way, we can undertake expenditures confident that the fruits will go to the hungry, not the already well fed. End the fuel subsidy. Subsidize the people instead – Subsidize the people indeed!
“Bala Usman would have wanted us to do this and do it now. Bold endeavour. We must do what we must to build railways and roads and bring light to those who have languished without it in darkness.
“Put tax incentives in place to spur new refineries. End the queues at the fuel pump. The tax we would forfeit is but reshaped to become an investment in a better Nigeria.”
Speaking on “the paths to Nigeria’s economic liberation”, Mr. Tinubu said it was critical to give attention to employment for the youth.
“The nation’s economic engineers should focus primarily on allocating value and opportunity to our under-utilised labour force and our idle, yet potentially productive capital in ways promoting wealth creation and expansion of aggregate demand.
“And we should do this without bending to the wishes of the IMF, WTO and the league of global money masters who would keep us low.
“It is sustained aggregate demand that empowers the nation to rescue itself from the whirlpool of economic contraction,” he said.
Speaking further, he made case for the imperative of industrialisation, state-driven development and freeing Nigerian economy from external control.
“In their formative stages, the English, American and Chinese economies were highly protectionist. America was known as the most protectionist of the western nations during the century when it emerged from a second-rate economy to become the largest in history.
“The Chinese economy – the world’s second largest – remains a den of protection. If this is the way of the most successful nations, we should do as they did but not do as they say we should do,” he said.
Essentially, he stressed that Nigeria must protect local businesses essential to the country’s development objective.
“The industries and manufacturing activities essential to our national maturation and development, we must protect. This may not be textbook economics. But we do not reside in textbooks and neither do our challenges. This is the way of the real world. We would be wise to adhere to it.”
“Thus, we must identify those industries strategic to the nation we seek to build and provide incentives such as tax relief and help in the form of effective tariffs to insulate them, allowing them to grow in productivity and competitiveness in a conducive atmosphere.”
“The important thing is that we grow our industrial base so that we lessen our import dependence and provide jobs for a growing urban population.”