Speaking, yesterday, in Abuja at a symposium, El-Rufai chronicled how he chaired a committee that worked with the World Bank to chart a way out of the subsidy regime.
The symposium was jointly hosted by Agora Policy and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The theme was: ‘How Nigeria Can Build a Post-Oil Economic Future’.
The event also featured the presentation of Dr. Zainab Usman’s recently published book, ‘Economic Diversification in Nigeria: The Politics of Building a Post-Oil Economy’.
El-Rufai said: “Between September and November 2021, the National Economic Council gave us the assignment to work out what to do, if we withdraw subsidy, how much will be raised, and so forth. And we worked with experts and the World Bank. I chaired the committee that did that job, and we came out with a report on what to do with the resources, which will be transparently explained to Nigerians. Components of it include investment in security, social protection, etc. The report is there.
“There is a framework on what to do with it, and how to release more money for education, health, infrastructure etc. Many people don’t understand that in 2021, the budget of the Federal Government for roads was N200 billion, and in that same year, we projected to spend N1.2 trillion on subsidy.
“That was when it started and we saw the danger. And I remember when I went to brief the President on the report, I said, ‘Mr. President, does it make sense to you for us to spend N200 billion on all federal roads in Nigeria in one year, and six times that on cheap petrol?’
“He (President) said it doesn’t make sense. So, why are we doing it?”
On his part, the former Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, also condemned continued subsidy on petrol, despite its corrosive impact on the economy and Nigerians.
Going down memory lane, he also recalled the opposition that greeted its planned removal in 2011.
He said: “When we tried to remove fuel subsidy in 2011, there were huge debates. And the main issue was that you’re going to impose suffering on Nigerians, you’re going to increase the price of fuel. We tried to explain that it’s bad economics. For every $1 billion Nigeria spends on fuel subsidy, it is $1 billion out of education, $1 billion out of healthcare, $1 billion out of power, $1 billion out of infrastructure.
“So, don’t tell me I’m going to increase the price of fuel, because what you are saying is that for the poor people in this nation, cheap fuel is more important than education, more important than healthcare, more important than power etc. If you do that for 30, 40 years, what kind of country are you going to have?”