In the socio-economic landscape of present day Nigeria, there’s hardly any other issue as pertinent and crucial as the sudden increase in the pump price of premium motor spirit popularly called petrol. The plethora of negative effects of the new pump price of N145 per litre has been the song on everyone’s lips. Vehicle owners, commuters, artisans, white and blue collar job holders, market women…you name it seem to be in a battle of who-can-lament-the-most. And who can blame anyone complaining? The N58.50k difference (especially with no palliative measures in place to cushion the effect) between what used to obtain and what we have now came as a shock to many.
There had been rumours of an impending increase in fuel price for a while now, but no one expected that it would be an over 40 percent increase. Nigerians are not finding it funny. Labour has blown hot air, regular folks have argued for and against the development, economists have tried to school us on the implications of the new price regime and there have been pockets of protests in some parts of the country. I have been lamenting too. Wondering how I’ll cope with the new situation, but knowing within me that subsidy has to go. Now, whether the timing is right or not is a debate I will not be getting into today.
Today, I am choosing to explore the other Nigerian side of me. The side that has to show up when everything becomes overwhelming. A side that is important in attempting to combat the depression that buying ridiculously priced tomatoes and garri can evoke. And so, instead of complaining and feeling hard done by the Buhari-led administration, I have chosen to try my best to blank out unpleasant thoughts of what it would take to survive these times which threaten to not only derail the course of the best laid plans but mess with one’s sanity too. I am going to focus instead on the positive aspects of the fuel price hike, however infinitesimal they might seem.
Apart from the obvious fact that the cabal who have been the beneficiaries of the many millions of dollars purportedly paid as subsidy will have nothing to feast on anymore and competition between fuel marketers which should hopefully drive prices down eventually (as was the case with diesel), for the average John or Jane Doe out there, there are immediate upsides to the upward review of the price of petrol, some of which I’ll be shedding more light on below;
Firstly, I don’t know if anyone has observed, but there has been a remarkable reduction in the number of cars on the roads since the announcement of the increment was made. If you live in other parts of Nigeria where traffic is almost always sane and you can make an appointment ten to twenty minutes after leaving home then this may not mean much to you. But, if like me you live in the wonderful city of Lagos with all its attendant eccentricities and chaos, then a less congested road is a huge deal. Less cars on the road literally translates to less stress and less man-hours wasted commuting and ultimately increased productivity.
Secondly, I don’t know about you but I am tired of the shenanigans of fuel attendants who saunter around like tin gods whenever there is a shortage of petroleum products (which has increasingly become the status quo). The fuel attendants and their bosses are the biggest beneficiaries each time this occurs. Charging ridiculous fees before one can even gain entry into the filling station sometimes. Nigerians are subjected to the indignity of begging for hoarded petrol even after paying through their noses and queuing endlessly. I must confess that petroleum marketers and their staff become my least favourite people in the entire world each time this happens.
Bottom line, if it is certain that Nigerians will never have to queue to get petroleum products and precious man hours will be saved, then it makes the burden of the new price regime more bearable. Yes, I know if government is doing what it should do then we shouldn’t find ourselves at the mercy of the marketers in the first place, but I have also observed that most of the problems we have in Nigeria even tough caused by government are unarguably escalated by the masses. The “poor’s inhumanity to the poor” but that’s a matter for another day. For now, I take solace in the fact that I am no longer subject to the whims and caprices the often uncouth petrol attendants.
Again, this fuel price hike might just be a blessing in disguise for those whose partners who have “vested interests” elsewhere. Let’s face it, except for the stupendously rich, the rest of us have to do plenty of permutations and review of our finances in a bid to figure out how to survive the times. I suspect that many of the men who have mistresses and side-chicks will be forced to kiss them goodbye. Needless to say such a development would be music to the ears of wives and “authentic” girlfriends who had previously had sleepless nights “fasting and praying” for their straying men to come to their senses and return home.
There’s nothing that puts a man in check like a harsh economic situation or an epidemic in the mold of the Ebola outbreak. In the same way commercial sex workers experienced low patronage during the Ebola days, the fuel price hike is bound to restrain the excesses of cheating partners. Now, if you are not in this situation, you may not really appreciate this point, but trust me, those who are in it may end up being thankful for the hike as an answer to their prayers. Between taking care of domestic needs at home, paying house rent and the children’s school fees, there would hardly be any room to accommodate expenses for illicit trysts.
Nevertheless, as this government gets closer and closer to the anniversary of its first year in office, it is important to take stock of what it has been able to achieve so far and where there’s still plenty left to be desired. I am not certain that many Nigerians would give a pass mark for governments exploits in the last 365 days or thereabout.
The power situation is as terrible as ever before. Not much as been done in many sectors of the economy. This administration has plenty to prove in the next three years. It really needs to get off its mark. With the passing of the budget, it’s now or never.