Why Tinubu Had To Remove Fuel Subsidy

The spokesperson for President Bola Tinubu, Ajuri Ngelale, has defended the president’s decision to remove the petrol subsidy, stating that the move was a necessary step rooted in economic pragmatism.

In a recent interview with media entrepreneur, Chude Jideonwo, Ngelale highlighted that while President Tinubu was the “implementer” of the subsidy removal, the plan was already set in motion before he took office.

According to Ngelale, the petrol subsidy, which had long been a subject of debate within Nigeria’s economic policy framework, was funded up until July 1, 2023.

However, President Tinubu opted to announce its removal on May 29, shortly after assuming office, as a strategic measure to preempt the looming deadline and ensure the nation could adequately prepare for the economic adjustments that would follow.

The decision to remove the subsidy has sparked discussions across the country, with some praising it for its long-term benefits to Nigeria’s economy, while others express concern over its immediate impact on the cost of living for the average Nigerian.

Subsidies on petrol have been a significant burden on the nation’s finances, with proponents of their removal arguing that the funds could be redirected towards more impactful developmental projects.

Ngelale said, “I happened to know that when the president made that announcement on May 29 that subsidy is gone, the plan at that time and again, I want to make this clear that even before Mr President took office, there was a national assembly budget supplement approval to effectively pay for the subsidy up until July 1, not June 1.

“I want to make that clear that it is for a reason he came out on May 29, he said subsidy is gone but there are funds in place to pay for the subsidy all through the month of June, meaning that, that gives him above a month to be able to find out what things are and be able to move forward with respect to the removal.

“I raised that because many people are of the understanding that the president on his own said it’s gone and it was just his policy, whereas, yes, he is the implementer but it was envisaged before he got there which is why there was a deadline on which the payment for the subsidy would be removed by July 1.

“Mr president made the pronouncement on May 29 and as of June 1, he is now on the seat, he is getting the report. I think to some extent that maybe he wouldn’t be getting it as a president-elect but now he is getting the full rush of it.

“I think as an accountant, the first thing he would have done when he got onto the seat was, I want the balance sheet, I want to know exactly what money is where, what we have, let me have the picture.

“I think it is safe to say that from day one when he got that picture, it was far worse than it was expected to be and on the basis of what he understood knowing that we are going to borrow another crunch of foreign exchange from overseas in order to pay for another batch of refined PMS that we are subsidising, in view of that, it makes no economic sense for us to wait until July 1.”

Commenting on whether there is a political vendetta against Godwin Emefiele, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Ngelale said it was a “misplaced notion”.

He said, “I think that was a misplaced notion. I think that if there was anyone who would be a subject of political vendetta, it wouldn’t be somebody who didn’t even scale through the political primary, he didn’t even contest in the primary.”

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