Fuel subsidy removal: Don’t share money as poverty alleviation, expert tells Tinubu

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A governance expert, policy analyst, professional accountant and chairman board of Amaka Chiwuike-Uba Foundation (ACUF), Dr Chiwuike Uba,  has said social security and poverty alleviation can be achieved if Tinubu  avoids the economic and political approaches used by the immediate President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. 

Speaking exclusively with Blueprint, Uba said he expects the new administration would examine the existing fuel and electricity subsidy and implement the phase-out of subsidies if they really exist. 

He said: “President Tinubu’s administration would need to re-think Nigeria’s social security architecture from the current ‘money-sharing’ to ‘empowerment’ approach. It is important to ensure the well-being of the beneficiaries and the sustainability of the Nigerian economy. There is no doubt that Nigeria’s spending on budgeted social security programs is abysmal compared to what it should be. 

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“However, sharing the sum of N5000 per month as CCT to about 408,682 (0.003%) Nigerians out of 133 people who are multi-dimensionally poor is not the best approach. Of even greater concern is systemic corruption, which makes it almost impossible for the poor and vulnerable Nigerians to benefit from the schemes.

“First, over N4 trillion (excluding pension, gratuities and retirees’ benefit) budgeted for social protection between 2010 and 2021 would have been deployed to establish cottage industries in 774 LGAs in Nigeria. Artisanal industries will not only create direct jobs, but also other indirect jobs along the value chain. There is no doubt that this would reduce the burden on the government to share the money. 

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“More money will also be freed to fund health-related social security programs. Most Nigerians die from preventable and easily manageable illnesses due to inadequate health insurance coverage. 

“Nigeria has only 2.1 per cent of its population affiliated with at least one social protection benefit, which is almost the lowest in the world and only 3% of the population has any form of health insurance coverage. Basic health, education and WASH facilities and services are lacking in Nigeria. These should be part of the priorities of the new administration.

“Second, I would expect that the new administration would examine the existing fuel and electricity subsidy and implement the phase-out of subsidies if they really exist. The money saved from the subsidy withdrawal should be spent entirely on other social security programs that would benefit poor Nigerians. Nigeria spent more than N13 trillion on fuel subsidies from 2005 and more than N1 trillion on electricity subsidies from 2017 to 2021.

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“Unfortunately, like other social security systems, where most of the money ends up with the rich, the richest 20 percent of Nigerians consume 75 percent of Nigeria’s PMS. Nigeria’s poorest 20% consume only 1% of its petrol.” 

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