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The burden of change

It is not in doubt that many Nigerians are not happy with the way things are going in the country right now irrespective of the political party they belong. It is incontestable that many Nigerians are now battling with the burden of change because things are not, economically speaking, the way they should be for them and their families. Some of them are finding it increasingly difficult to get money to settle their bills. Those in business are also not finding things easy either. We are all casualties of years of over-dependence on one product economy, the crude oil by subsequent Nigerian administrations that presided over our misrule and complete ruination.

Most state governors are not finding it easy to pay workers’ salaries. Some companies are sacking some of their workers citing poor economy as the major reason for their action. Most Nigerians had thought that change will make a difference in their lives, a positive one at that.

But what they are seeing on a daily basis is not what they bargained for. They are worried that the change they expected is not what they are seeing. Apart from the fact that the new government is waging a war against corruption through sundry mind-boggling media revelations of looted funds, every other thing pertaining to governance appears to have taken the back seat.

The economy is on its knees begging for serious attention. The value of the naira to the dollar has taken an all time nose-dive to the detriment of the national currency at N370 per dollar. Some economic pundits are predicting that the exchange rate may reach N400 and above per dollar if nothing drastic is done to address the free fall of the naira now.

Not minding that the government is opposed to the devaluation of the national currency, it has devalued itself without any prompting. While the government and its agents get the naira at 197 per dollar, the rest of us get it at N370. The paradox is dangerous. The demand for the dollar is made worst by our penchant for imported goods. We have developed high taste for foreign goods that some our citizens cannot do without them.

Some Nigerians, including economists and financial experts, have called for the devaluation of the naira as a way of addressing the problems of the economy but President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is vehemently opposed to that.

His argument and those of his supporters is that it will cause inflation and other problems that may prove hard to solve. It is believed in some quarters that some Nigerians, opposed to the devaluation, may instigate general demonstrations against the move.

Besides, the fall in the price of crude oil in international market does not help matters. It has made nonsense of our economy and the 2016 Budget, which has been buffeted with lots of needless padding. Rumours are rife that this is the way past budgets had been padded. Maybe, that is the way some state budgets were also padded. All the same, I do not expect such padding from a change government. Not even the painstaking effort of the lawmakers to clean the budget of the excessive padding will make it wholesome.

The “voodoo” budget should be exorcised of all impurities before it can be passed and this will definitely take a long time. Alternatively, let the presidency prepare a fresh budget and forward it to the National Assembly. That will save the lawmakers the drudgery of cleaning the “wayo” and “wuruwuru” budget. Those who prepared the tainted budget in a government of change should be fished out and be given condign punishment.

The sack of the head of budget is not enough. More heads should roll so that people will be afraid to take similar path in future. I commend the lawmakers for their vigilance in unearthing the budget anomalies. They should keep up the good work. We expect no less from them in a change era.

Electricity supply throughout the country is reported to be at its lowest ebb ever due to low water level and the alleged vandalization of gas pipeline. At almost 1,000 megawatts of electricity now from the earlier position of over 5,000 megawatts, Nigerians are in darkness.

I am utterly surprised that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, is advocating for 45 percent hike in electricity tariff so that electricity can be supplied to Nigerians. I cannot understand why Fashola would like Nigerians to pay high electricity tariff before the product can be supplied. That position should be inverted for it to make sense and maximum impact.

In other words, the government is telling us that there is scarcity of electricity supply now because we are not paying high tariff. That argument is faulty and unacceptable. My stand on the issue is that if the electricity companies supply quality service to Nigerians, they will pay.

It will be quite unreasonable for anyone to ask Nigerians to pay for service that is not provided. Nigerians cannot pay for the darkness that they pass through every night.

They will pay for power that is consumed and not otherwise. That is why the electricity distribution companies should supply their customers prepaid meters. The supply of prepaid meters would save the consumers and the power distributors the agony of estimated bills and power used and not paid for.

If at all, there will be increase in electricity tariff, it should be gradual. The imposition of 45 percent increase of electricity tariff in one fell swoop is indeed an over kill.

All the comparisons of what citizens of other countries pay for electricity do not make sense because the data may be likely tainted. Moreover, our standard of living and those of the countries being compared cannot be said to be the same. Therefore, there is no basis for such comparative analysis.

It is good that the Senate has rightly intervened and stopped the implementation of the tariff hike slated to take off early this month. Therefore, the government should retreat from the tariff hike and work towards improving power supply for Nigerians cannot pay for darkness which the power distribution companies are now selling to Nigerians.

Beyond fighting corruption, which is good, the government should work on other sectors that affect the people. Let it begin with the economy because if the economy fails, every other sector is bound to fail. Government should use the recovered loot on projects that will benefit the citizenry. They should do so fast before the recovered loot is re-looted.

I say this because the war against corruption should be for the living and not for the dead. Change should not be a burden to Nigerians. Change should mean better standard of living, better policies and better services. Change should translate to a sweet song. It should neither be a dirge nor a song of lamentation we are witnessing now. Change should be the solution and not the problem.