Subsidy removal was right call, should’ve been done over 10 years ago: Otti

Governor Alex Otti of Abia State says the removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Tinubu should have been done over ten years ago.

According to the governor, if that had been done then, the country would have been put on the path of sustainable national development, Vanguard reports.

Mr Otti said this on Thursday at the 63rd Founders’ Day lecturer of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State.

The Abia governor, however, said that the federal government should have made more strategic planning and communication before removing the subsidy to insulate the public from the anticipated shocks.

Mr Otti explained that lack of investment in local refining has had severe economic consequences, including job losses and hampering of the growth of related industries.

He also stated that the old fuel subsidy arrangement only benefited the elite businessmen who can pool the resources to go into fuel importation.

He noted that the system encourages arbitrage, waste and other forms of corruption due to absence of effective monitoring and reporting systems and deliberate manipulation of the system by connected individuals in connivance with dishonest officials.

This, according to him, makes the poor who were the original intended beneficiaries, end up funding the extravagant lifestyle of the rich and connected.

He said, “One thing I have learnt in communicating policies and plans is that you can never get everyone to agree with your proposals. However, sincere and clear communication, using various channels would help on two fronts: buy you genuine public support and give your audience an opportunity to understand your intentions better.

“The removal of fuel subsidy was clearly the right decision and should have been done about ten years ago or earlier but even then, I am of the considered opinion that more could have been done to insulate the public from the anticipated shocks.

“Being a policy that would introduce shock into the system, I believe it should have been communicated better. I do not think that much was done to properly educate the public on the issues at stake,” he said.

Citing nations like Angola and Senegal, that strategically retained subsidies on essential products for the poor, he expressed concerns that the removal of the subsidy had worsened living conditions for citizens and called for the immediate implementation of robust policies to address rising poverty and unemployment.

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