President Buhari [top] and Zanaib Ahmed [below].
It was after the Federal Executive Council’s meeting of Wednesday, April 5, 2023, that the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning – Zainab Ahmed, let the cat out of the bag about the sum of $800 million the Federal Government recently borrowed from the World Bank.
She revealed this while addressing Journalists on some key points of that day’s meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari. She went ahead to divulge what the borrowed money was meant for.
It was here, at the point of break-down of the borrowed money, that the Nigerian people’s hearts were broken into pieces. Those that had their hearts broken down were those with functioning consciences; with active memories about the past, and most importantly, those that are conversant with the modus operandi of this government’s atrocious financial’s management.
Madam Zainab told Nigerians that the purpose of securing this fresh loan of $800 million; that would be invested in consumption – and not production, was to serve as palliatives for the anticipated final fuel subsidy removal; an exercise slated for June 2023. Let us run with her language of that day.
“The Federal Government has secured a $800 million World Bank facility for fuel subsidy removal palliative. She explained that the money $800 was first tranche of the palliatives to be disbursed through cash transfers to about 50 million Nigerians, who belong to the most vulnerable category of society.
We better take note of the fact, according to the Minister’s words here, that the amount of money under discussion – albeit $800 million, “was first tranche” of what is being expected. It means that more of the borrowing for the provision of palliatives against the fuel subsidy’s removal is on its way. She was not generous enough to tell us how much the total package of this borrowing for consumption would be anyway. But will you blame her for not telling us? What is our worth in their caculation?
Let us look at the continuation of her narrative after revealing that this was first tranche:
“The secondary question on exit of fuel subsidy, this is a commitment in the Petroleum Industry Bill. There’s a provision that says that 18 months after the effectiveness of the PIA, all petroleum products must be deregulated. That 18 months take us to June 2023.
Also, when we were working on the 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Appropriation Act, we made that provision to enable us exit fuel subsidy by June 2023. We’re on course, we’re having different stakeholder engagements, we’ve secured some funding from the World Bank, that is the first tranche of palliatives that will enable us give cash transfers to the most vulnerable in our society that have now been registered in a national social register.
Today that register has a list of 10 million households. 10 million households are equivalent to about 50 million Nigerians. But we also have to raise more resources to enable us do more than just the cash transfers and also in our engagements with the various stakeholders. “So, there are several things that we’re still planning and working on, some we can start executing quickly, some are more medium-term implementation.”
Providing more details, she said the funding was for execution of the planned exit, adding: “The $800 million is for scale-up of the National Social Investment Programme at the World Bank and it’s secured and ready for disbursement.”
Then finally, on whether the incumbent government has been discussing subsidy removal with the incoming administration, Ahmed said: “There are a lot of discussions going on at different levels, including with members of the transition committee of the incoming government.”
As given above, we have enough information from Madam Zanaib to base a critical evaluation of the loan issue upon. It is given for granted that the Buhari government, with evidence available, has proved to be the most reckless government in recent history, when it comes to the issue of reckless borrowing.
The presently verifiable amount of over N77 trillion his [Muhammadu Buhari] government shall be bequeathing to the incoming government remains enough evidence of how reckless his government can be in borrowing for consumption than in production, as the case at hand.
What are the destructive elements of this journey into the abyss of no return? We should endeavour to capture them one by one, because it is in so doing that, we would be able to anticipate the evil route we are taking into our weird world of Eldorado.
First, the present $800 million is just introductory to the actual amount that we did not know for now, and may never know – creation of a bigger disaster for tomorrow.
Two, the present loan that we know the amount is, as we are now being told, for palliative of disaster that is pending, but not yet arrived. The disaster shall be arriving in Nigeria and on Nigerians by June this year, after the Creator of the Disaster; albeit the Buhari government, would have left the scene on May 29th – disaster engineered for tomorrow.
Yet, and this is the real danger, Buhari and his Cabinet would be the one to disburse this palliative – having been in consultation with all stakeholders, including members of the Transition Council – according to Madam Zanaib Ahmed, the minister – atrocity of connectivism in fate accompli.
Number three is even more intriguing, because in the words of the Madam Zanaib Ahmed, a “Holy Template” of sharing formula had been perfectly set, and this – the template, is perfect enough that Angels from Heaven would have nothing to add – creation and elongation of lies.
Today that register has a list of 10 million households. 10 million households are equivalent to about 50 million Nigerians”, she said, and quickly added that “but we also have to raise more resources to enable us do more than just the cash transfers and also in our engagements with the various stakeholders. “So, there are several things that we’re still planning and working on, some we can start executing quickly, some are more medium-term implementation.”
She probably was relying on a previously created template, by this government, of direct cash transfers to about 50 million Nigerians, who belong to the most vulnerable category of society, because according to her, and again, today that register has a list of 10 million households. 10 million households are equivalent to about 50 million Nigerians.
Who are these 50 million Nigerians from her computerised 10 million households? The authentication of this Social Register table is not known to most Nigerians, except Buhari’s Cabinet members and the few co-conspirators Civil Servants that would always help in prosecution of atrocities in government.
Or we can say it, boldly and audaciously too, that the most likely living witness to Zanaib Ahmed’s Social Register table of most vulnerable category of the Nigerian Society would be her counterpart in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq. Because it was only her that once achieved this feat, and that was when she spent N85 billion in feeding poor and vulnerable Nigerian school children at a time of Covid-19 lock-down – and most factual, when the school children of the poor were with their poor parents in their villages across our country – a familiarly repeated deceit route to disaster.
I think the issue here is the fact that the stealing propensity of those in government, mostly as driveable from bankruptcy of political leadership’s quality, and in addition to the shamelessness positional stand of the dramatis personae in this despicable act of aggrandization, the common rules of Honour Among Thieves is never to be observed nor applied.
Or who would not know that the whole issue borders on lack of transparency?
Speaking on this $800 million issue, a public affairs analyst, Jameel Muhammad, blamed the government for the lack of transparency in the petrol subsidy issue. Listen to what he said:
“My initial impression has always been the lack of transparency. 800 million dollars is about N362 billion (official rate), and that is about 5 to 6 per cent of what the government now claims to be spending on subsidy, which is about N6 trillion. If you remove N6 trillion from the system, you are cushioning the effect with 6 per cent of it.” He equally argued that it was wrong for the government to borrow to subsidise consumption.
He said, “Why is the government going to the World Bank to get a loan again? I am sure it is at a certain interest rate, which is draining resources. There is already a lack of transparency in the operation and then the administration of the removal too, this is a very big problem. “Government could subsidise production from the source but not to subsidise consumption by giving out money to people.”
The Co-Founder and CEO of Nairaxi Nigeria, Kingsley Eze, put it more appropriately when he said that “if 10,000,000 vulnerable households are on the national social register and even if you divide the $800m among the 200 million people that will be around $4, which is about N2, 000, at the official rate, and not enough to , fund transport cost to work for five days”.
He opined that “If you transfer such money assuming to all the citizens, which will be around N2, 500, operators will hike the transport price but if there are buses with a government logo on it knowing that the price is cut by 50 per cent, this is more sustainable.”
The oil subsidy has remained with us, all the years as one big scam against the Nigerian people until President Goodluck Jonathan took a very bold and courageous decision of putting an end to the muster, by announcing total removal of oil subsidy, on January 2, 2012.
Oh, the Nigerian terrifying Predators rose up stoutly against him, calling the heaven down to a fearful place of Armageddon, unless President Jonathan revised the decision. And what was the argument of the Predators? They concluded shamelessly that “there was nothing like fuel subsidy, and what the government of Jonathan called subsidy itself was a scam”.
The beauty of that confrontation, as later manifested, was those who led the aggression against President Jonathan are the ones paying out a whopping sum of N6 trillion for fuel subsidy today, and this N6 trillion is only for 6 months – January to June 2023. Nigerians now know whom the real SCAMMERS are.
It is however very sad, in drawing the curtain on this hazardous exercise, to note that this $800 million, already borrowed; and probably, with others to follow, as pointed out by the Finance Minister, as she called this first tranche, is already in the kitty of the Federal Government – with spending and sharing formula already paved – all in the name of palliative for fuel subsidy removal.
Who can reverse the hand of this clock for us? And if there is no one to reverse it for Nigerians, shall we all not come together, in shouting the chorus of the CATASTROPHE OF $800 MILLION PALLIATIVE FOR FUEL SUBSIDY’s REMOVAL? We deserved to cry and wail together in our unified tragedy.
This court adjourns – C.O.U.R.T
Godwin Etakibuebu; a veteran Journalist, wrote from Lagos.
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