Reply to Mr Paul Collier by Richard Ali

Mr. Collier,

I hope you’ve not written this with a black [collier’s] intent? Let us first take a look at your statistics and contextualize them.

You say #750 is being spent on the subsidy per household in Nigeria and state that most of it does not get to the average family by which you mean those selfsame households? In fact, the effect of that money DOES go to the families in the form of food and transportation at the rates they were [that is 100% less] before the “removal” of the “fuel subsidy”! Food and transportation costs have gone up in the last week by percentages of 100 to 150%–who do you think has got less money for food and transport in the first place, Mr. Collier?

What has happened is that, in effect, FGN has raided the piggy-banks of Nigeria’s urban middle-class and rural poor and stolen HALF its value by making basic expenses like food and transport TWICE their “subsidized” costs. That knocks off that argument about the subsidy having little effect on average households.

Your #750/household figure, I assume that is based on the international price of Petrol? Do you realize that Nigeria is a crude oil exporting nation and domestic use of petrol has got NOTHING to do with the international price of PMS and that subsidies are to be paid, when neccessary, ONLY on crude bought WHENEVER there is a shortfall in supply from local refineries? Do you know this? The government owns my country’s four refineries, have you factored in whose responsibility it is to ensure they are working into the writing of this piece? And when this responsibility is not discharged, who do you think should make structural adjustments, Mr. Collier?

Second, you say
“Even in respect of the cheap petrol that stayed in the country, the benefits accrued disproportionately to the rich. Owners of big cars were gaining much more from cheap petrol than the mass of ordinary Nigerians who do not own a vehicle.”
Are you stating that only the rich have cars or that only they SHOULD have cars–both these would fly in the face of the fact seen in any Nigerian street that the average cars you see are featureless Toyota’s and Honda’s, each ranging between ten to seventeen years old, MOST bought second hand from Japan, in other words, these cars are owned by the Nigerian middleclass who unlike the US middleclass who you so annoyingly compare us to, CANNOT afford the price of a new FORD or Peugeot! You may have a bee about the Tea Party in your bonnet but the buzzing of that idea will not create a similitude between the US and Nigeria, not in this case, and I daresay, not in most cases.

Thirdly, the attempt to paint the protests as populist and load that word with as much negativity as you can manage, fails because a cursory reading of any ten posts from the Facebook group “Nationwide Anti-Fuel Subsidy Removal: Strategies & Protests” or from the reading of any ten reports on the protests in any international news agency would indicate that what is being protested is a public policy devoid of social justice being initiated by a government that lacks transparency to be implemented by a bureaucracy that is corrupt! Do this research, just a google search away, and then come and dispute me. The question that arises is–why should the Nigerian middleclass and the poor take the fall for the inefficiency of the elite/government? Answer me this and if you fail to it is because you have discovered WHY truly the protests are going on.

At the risk of mixing metaphors, Mr. Collier of this poorly mined piece, the fuel subsidy removal is merely the last straw to break the back of the long-suffering Nigerian people.

Go back and do your homework and then come back so we speak.

– Richard Ali.

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