By Rasaq Adebayo
The causative effect of the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government which has eventually led to an astronomical increase in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as petrol has taken a toll on the economy and living of many Nigerians.
In Lagos State, the increase in fuel price to N586 has led to an increase in transportation fares, while the number of cars and commercial buses has greatly reduced on the Lagos roads.
Many car owners have abandoned their cars and now take public transportation, which they said is more economical than driving their personal cars.
However, there are a few public buses ply the roads while private commercial buses have also hiked their fares beyond the capacity of average commuters.
In separate interviews with ECHONEWS, Lagos residents appealed to the State Government to produce more buses for public transportation, which should be subsidised for average Lagosians to afford.
Mojeed Alabi, an Editor at Premium Times said though the hike in the price of fuel puts pain on people in terms of the economy, it has reduced the traffic on major roads across Lagos State.
According to him, the volume of fuel consumed by motorists has equally reduced.
“There is no more traffics on the road. Do you know that the volume of fuel I use from UNILAG to my House at Ogba has drastically reduced compared to when there were traffics? The price of the fuel I consumed then compared to now that there is no traffic jam is almost commensurate. The time wasted in traffics has also been reduced. When we look at the hike in fuel price critically, we will see its advantages.
“Now everybody has abandoned their cars and use public transport, which is the best. Before, if you are many going to a function, everyone would take a car each but now, all of you will take just one car to save the cost of fuel. This act has reduced traffic jams on our roads.
“I will only appeal to the government to provide sufficient viable public transport to ease the transportation hardship on people.”
Another Lagos resident, Moriregbamu Abayomi said Lagos State is a special city with congestion and needs special attention and structure in terms of transportation.
He commended President Bola Tinubu for taking a bold step to remove the fuel subsidy, saying it is the best way to go.
He, however, said the palliative should be the one that would be for everybody.
He specifically called on Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to expand the coverage area of the State public transportation system, urging that the fare should be reduced more for the convenience of the populace.
Jamiu Adedigba, a private car hire service render, said the government could partner with private transport entrepreneurs to provide public transportation service at subsidised rate for the Lagosians.
“It is only that people do not understand what subsidy is. It is not necessarily giving out cash to the service providers. It may be in terms of tax holiday. The government may give the partner company some period to not pay tax to reduce the transport fares for the residents. And that will be the best palliative,” he explained.
According to Wikipedia, a tax holiday is a temporary reduction or elimination of a tax. It is synonymous with tax abatement, tax subsidy, or tax reduction. Governments usually create tax holidays as incentives for business investment.
Recently, Ojodu LCDA launches free public transport intervention for the residents of the council area.
The LCDA is the first local council to provide such palliative in Lagos State.
The Chairman of the local council, Hon. Segun Odunmbaku, last week, took delivery of buses to be donated for the ease of movement for residents and commuters as part of the palliative measures of his administration to cushion the effects of the fuel subsidy removal on the people of Ojodu and environs.
While taking delivery of the first batch of buses, Idunmbaku said they would be distributed to ply community routes across Ojodu LCDA and convey passengers free of charge as his administration is working with other tiers of government to provide more palliative measures to reduce the effects of the fuel subsidy removal on the people.
“As a government committed to the welfare of its people, we aim to provide more palliative measures to our people through access to free transportation, food banks, and free GCE/Jamb forms to alleviate the conditions of our people.
“We also implore Nigerians to be patient with the government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as it takes bold reforms to reposition the country economically as the benefits would soon materialize for long-term socioeconomic development,” he said.
Stakeholders have urged other local governments to do the same for their people in their various areas.
Meanwhile, feeling concerned over the high level of hardship confronting Nigerians as a result of the subsidy removal, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) was reported to have advised the Federal Government to undertake well-considered policies that would ease the sufferings and hardship millions of poor Nigerians were undergoing.
The CAN President, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, in a statement on Friday in Abuja, noted that although there was a consensus for the removal of fuel subsidy to boost economic growth and expel the massive corruption trailing its regime, it was also agreed that the removal of subsidy should be done in a manner that would not subject Nigerians to untold hardship.
In this regard, CAN in a bid to ensure what was idealistic be balanced with what was realistic, has proposed some measures that could help government mitigate the prevailing hardships faced by Nigerians which was further worsened by the recent hike in the pump price of fuel and high inflation rate.
He said: “While Nigerians were trying to adjust to the initial increase in the fuel price to N540 and its consequential effect on the cost of transportation, food, goods and services, and the general cost of living, another hike alluded to market forces took the price to N617.
“This has placed an enormous burden on the already struggling masses, further widening the gap between the rich and the poor and drastically eroding the purchasing power of ordinary citizens, and making it extremely difficult for them to afford the necessities of life. The situation is just unbearable for millions of Nigerians who were already suffering poverty.
“While CAN acknowledges the complex and difficult decisions that government must take to manage the nation’s economy, there is the urgent need to prioritise measures that will alleviate rather than exacerbate the existing poverty level and hardships of Nigerians. It is therefore imperative that economic policies are formulated and implemented with utmost care and consideration for the prevailing hardships experienced by Nigerians.
“We therefore appeal to the government as a matter of urgency to consider the following recommendations among others: Government should engage with critical stakeholders in a meaningful dialogue to explore sustainable solutions to the current situation. It is pertinent to develop comprehensive economic policies that promote inclusive growth, job creation, and social well-being.
“Government should focus on diversifying the economy, reducing dependency on volatile commodities, and promoting investments in sectors with the potential to create sustainable employment opportunities. This will not only bolster economic resilience but also contribute to the overall well-being of citizens. “The fuel subsidy palliatives being considered by the government should go beyond cash transfers to consider introducing mass transport across the states to reduce the cost of transportation.
“The multiplier effect of this will be profound. Government should take measures to reduce the price of fuel. Such measures should include the removal of unnecessary levies and tax- es on imported petroleum products, the stabilisation of the foreign exchange market, and putting back our local refineries to functional and effective use. “While we agree that there is no gain without pain, the pain must not be unbearable.
“Consequently, we again urge the government to take into account the impact of its policies on the most vulnerable segments of society and ensure they are not disproportionately burdened and subjected to unnecessary hardships.
“Government must listen to the concerns of the Nigerian people and implement sound economic policies that prioritise the well-being of all citizens. By addressing the prevailing hardships caused by the recent fuel price hikes and high inflation, we can pave the way for a brighter future for Nigeria.
“We appeal to Nigerians for more patience while urging the government to take urgent steps to ameliorate their sufferings. Let us work together to build an economy that is inclusive, resilient, and offers opportunities for every Nigerian to thrive.”