“Fuel subsidy is gone”, said President Tinubu as one of his first acts in office. The fuel subsidies regime which was meant to make Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly known as fuel, affordable to Nigerians was widely believed to have been corrupted, ensuring that those expected to benefit from it did not do so. Between 2005 and 2020, Nigeria spent over N13 Trillion ($74.386 billion) in fuel subsidy payments (NEITI, 2022). This is over 200% and 290% more than education and health spending respectively (Dataphyte, 2022).
However, the removal of fuel subsidies with the concomitant increase in fuel price has had ripple effects on all aspects of the economy, driving up food prices, and cost of education, transportation, and healthcare services. This is having a disproportionate effect on vulnerable Nigerians, including persons with disabilities (PWDs), whose disability costs continue to increase.
The National Dialogue on Subsidy Removal (NDSR) was convened by the Centre for Transparency and Accountability (CTA) in partnership with Nigeria Strengthening Civil Advocacy and Local Engagement SCALE, sponsored by the USAID and implemented by Palladium, to discuss the impact of fuel subsidy removal on vulnerable Nigerians and chart a transparent, accountable, and sustainable way forward towards inclusive solutions to mitigate or cushion the adverse effects thereof.
In her goodwill message, the Executive Director of IFA, Grace Jerry, who is also the co-chairperson of Accelerate Disability Inclusion in Emergencies (ADIE), a coalition of CSOs and OPDs working to ensure Political, Accountability, Inclusivity, and Resilience Support for PWDs and a robust and inclusive post-Covid19 recovery response, stated that “while fuel subsidy removal is good for the country, its ripple effects have disproportionately affected PWDs”. She further emphasized the need for dialogue and inclusive measures to cushion the effect of subsidy removal on Nigerians, including PWDs.
Participants at the event identified both short-term and long-term measures to cushion the effect of subsidy removal on Nigerians. Short-term measures identified included tax holidays and cutting down multiple taxations in the informal sector, cutting down the cost of governance, provision of accessible mass transit services, cash transfer to vulnerable and the poorest Nigerians, and the establishment of a price control mechanism.
Long-term measures identified included full and effective operationalization of national refineries and modular refineries, grants and loans to the informal sector, upward review of salaries of civil/public servants, especially lower-level public servants, and a forensic audit of the fuel subsidy regime and commitment from government to ensure effective and speedy administration of justice on those found wanting.
The Dialogue, which agreed that there is no problem with the removal of fuel subsidies but how it was done without wide consultation of stakeholders was well-attended with leaders from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) well-represented, including representatives from the CTA, SCALE Palladium, NEITI, and Accelerate Disability Inclusion in Emergencies (ADIE) Forum. MDAs were also represented, including the police and the Ministry of Finance.