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Fuel subsidy: Babalola urges FG to create good business environment, empowers 45 graduates

Engr Sunday Babalola

By Emmanuel Kehinde, Ilorin

A philanthropist, Engineer Sunday Babalola, has urged the Federal Government to create a good environment that would help entrepreneurs and other businesses to thrive before the planned removal of subsidy on premium motor spirit (PMS) takes effect in 2022.

He urged the government to create a good business environment, endure proper regulation, reduce taxes on businesses, set up a system that people can take loans from in a good, pragmatic and monitorable manner;

Babalola, represented by Kwara State Coordinator of Kwara Panacea Ambassadors, Mr. John Adegboye, spoke in Ganmo, Kwara State, during the second edition of the Igbomina National Students Union empowerment programme of 45 graduates.

The empowerment tools included laptops: sewing machines for tailors; dryers for hair dressing, Ovens for culinary services; and digital cameras for photography; among other empowerment tools.

It could be recalled that during last year’s empowerment, 14 Information, Communication and Technology gadgets; 12 sewing machines, four ovens, two make-up kits, one dryer and one professional welding machine that he provided were given to the beneficiaries according to their areas of interest.

The philanthropist had given scholarships to 1,362 students and pupils in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, empowered widows, aged people, sponsored health outreaches, which the beneficiaries included some members of Gaa Akanbi, Biada and Oniganka communities in Ilorin South Local Government of Kwara Central; Aare Opin, Osi Community and Oke Opin from Ekiti LGA; Odo-Owa in Oke-Ero LGA of Kwara South and Patigi,Tankpafu and Garogi of Patigi LGA in Kwara North.

Through their foundation, Bayo and Bunmi Babalola Foundation, which he and his wife, founded, they had empowered five widows of the deceased officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps each with a grinding machine, in response to the request of the Civil Defence Officers’ Wives’ Association.

He also had placed some aged people on monthly salaries.

The chieftain of the All Progressives Congress pleaded with Federal Government to implement strategies that will ameliorate the plight of Nigerians and help them maintain their living during the removal of subsidy on premium motor spirit (petrol).

He stated that the removal of fuel subsidy is desirable, inevitable and will grow Nigeria’s economy.

He, however, urged the Federal Government to ensure that its implementation should have a human face so that it will not inadvertently unleash hardship on the masses who it was intended to ameliorate their sufferings.

He also said the speculation of a possible rise in the pump price of petroleum in 2022 may sound unpalatable to many Nigerians, especially entrepreneurs, noting that though initially, prices of goods will rise, removal of subsidy is necessary.

The energy expert, who is a retired Deputy Director of the Department of Petroleum Resources, explained that the removal of the subsidy and the attendant petrol price increament will have effects on the people.

He explained that first, it will affect Nigerians because prices of goods and services will go up.

According to him, that will be the effect but eventually, it will normalise.

He lamented that subsidy is one of the things that is ‘killing’ Nigeria, adding that once the price normalises, Nigerians will all get used to it.

“The only thing is that people will prioritise what they want. Those priorities will eventually help us to streamline our spending and living; Some Nigerians are living a false life.”

Babalola who a former acting Managing Director of Belemaoil Nigeria Limited pleaded with the Federal Government to therefore implement measures and strategies that will cushion the initial attendant problems of the fuel subsidy removal.

“Honestly and sincerely, I have been an advocate of the removal of fuel subsidies for a very long time. I do not see how we can continue this way and expect that this country will move forward.

“The refineries are not working and they can not work. How much money have they pumped into revamping of the refineries and they are not working yet? They have spent heavily and none of them is producing. If we are waiting for the refineries to work, it is like waiting for a cock to have teeth.

If you remove the subsidy, people can now question the people who are handling the subsidy why are they not working. One of the reasons things are the way they are is because people do not question things. People say this is a government thing, it does not involve my business. If it affects you directly, you will rise up.

“Nigeria will be bleeding if the government continues pumping money into old refineries and they will not affect positively anything. The refineries will not work.”

“I like the idea of making NNPC a limited company. I like the idea of the total commercialization of the NNPC. That will help us. It will make them to sit up. If people do not do their work, they will get fired and people will sit up and do their work.

“The federal government should stop pumping money into the rehabilitation of the old and moribund refineries.”

Babalola, who is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, warned that Nigeria’s high unemployment level posed high insecurity threat to Nigeria.

He called on the federal, state and local governments as well as other philantropist, the organised private sector, donor agencies and groups to synergise and engage in concerted and pragmatic efforts to address unemlpoyment and under-employment in Nigeria.

Babalola said, “This graduate/youth empowerment is part of our contribution to reducing unemployment, insecurity; increase the welfare and security of Nigerians as well as to boost national development.

“The rate of unemployment in Nigeria is alarming.

“According to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics on March 16, 2021; Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to 33.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020 from 27.1 per cent in the second quarter.

“The 33.3 per cent translated to some 23.2 million people being unemployed, which is the highest in at least 13 years and the second-highest rate in the world. This is alarming and sad.

“Reports have it that while the unemployment was 33.03 per cent, under-employment was 28.2 per cent. More worrisome is that youth unemployment was 42.5 percent while youth under-employment was 21.0 percent.”

He added, “The high unemployment rate is one of the reasons we are doing what we are doing. It is said that as long as we are running the country the way we are running it, there will be high unemployment.

“Our outlook must change. The high unemployment rate will continue because the government will not employ all the graduates.

“The tertiary Institutions in Nigeria churn out about 1million graduates or more every year. Government can not employ everyone. It is impossible!

The federal, states, and local governments have to create environment that is enabling for people to establish businesses. Once those businesses are established, the owners will pick up and employ people and therefore mop up unemployment.

“The statistics do not surprise me. It will be like that. The number of youth unemployment will still grow as long as there is dependence on the government for employment and the environment is not conducive for private businesses to thrive.

“Youth unemployment is a bad thing. It may continue to grow till most of the governments at all levels change their ways. Most of our states are civil service states.

“They spent 75 per cent or more on recurrent expenditure because they have to pay salaries and other recurrent issues and if they want to employ, it will increase the overhead. It is so sad the way we have been running the country.

“The environment today is being controlled by the government. Government is the major employer of labour. When you create an environment that is enabling, you create a system whereby entrepreneurs can establish businesses and those businesses will employ more because they will need people to help them.”

Babalola further said, “I must say that sponsoring this year’s programme was a very serious decision on my part. I am currently in the middle of many investments and professional decisions and projects which is costing me in Hundreds of Millions in Naira and Dollars.

“This reality, when juxtaposed with the laissez faire income, which has characterized today’s economy all around the world; will discourage anyone from embarking on acts of philanthropy such a this current empowerment exercise. But who am I to refuse to honour our illustrious Royal Fathers, who through phone calls have seemingly ordered me to ensure that by all means possible, our young men and ladies of Igbomina stock are empowered!

“I need to correct an impression that I am solely Igbomina-centric in assisting the less privileged and youths who are in need of assistance. I have at one time or the other rendered assistance to so many people from other Senatorial Districts of Kwara State through the Bayo and Bunmi Babalola Foundation as well as the Kwara Panacea Ambassadors.

“These two bodies are principally my eyes, ears and mouth pieces in advance of any empowerment exercises that I will participate in.

“The word ‘empowerment’ as it is now being commonly used is a clear characteristic of the failure in leadership; failure in democracy, and failure in our political processes.

“I don’t need to deceive you by saying that most of the leaders for who many of you are canvassing for, do not actually have your best interest at heart. If not, how do you wish to characterize the current situation in which vast majority of graduates who are yearly shipped into the labour market have no clearcut government policy which is targeted at ensuring that they don’t end up struggling like I did for more than seven years after I graduated from the University of Ibadan?

“I believe that you, the young people of Nigeria are no longer leaders of tomorrow but the Leaders and Deciders of Today! That is, if you can rise to the occasion through becoming active participants in the Political, Economic, Social and Cultural activities in our country today.

As we are slowly approaching 2023, a time when the choice of a new set of political leadership will be made to direct the affairs of Nigeria at all levels, it is up to you, the young people of Kwara and Nigeria to ensure that you use your numerical dominance in population to elect credible, intellectually sound and morally upright leaders.”

“My empowerment and other philanthropic gestures are my contributions to molding the youths. Let me reiterated that it is very clear that youths are the leaders of today. I do not consider them to be leaders of tomorrow. They actually are the leaders of today.

“Molding the youth is very important so that they will be helpful to their communities and society and to the country in general and of course, our dear state.

“Whatever the youths are into is based on what they have been taught yesterday. Our duty is to teach them the right way so that they take the right decision and excel. The youths, instead of being used for political thuggery or to engage in crimes, it is better for us to help them do what is right.

“We have many vibrant, resourceful, energetic, enterprising, and honest youths who have been contributing to national development and who, when they are assisted, will transform the country.

“But there are still some of the youths, although few, who are involved in crimes and other counter-productive engagements. Why are some of them doing that?

“It is basically because they are not helped. Our responsibility is to help as many as are determined to do the right things so that they will not fall prey to evil acts.

“So if we are not helping the youths, we are not making them to grow and lifting them. That will be inimical to the wellbeing of the society. That is why we are so involved and determined to empower the youths.

“To all those who are empowered today, I will tell you like I likewise told the House last year, “what will make me so happy to the point of being elated is to see some, if not all of you become employers of Labour in the current stock in trade for which you are today being empowered”.

“To our dear and esteemed Royal Fathers here present, I wish to strongly beseech you that you likewise issue a strong Royal Command upon all other illustrious Sons and Daughters of your Domain to endeavour to join hands and resources with me, as we together increase the number of the people to be empowered via this medium.

“I will like to encourage the Igbomina National Student Union. You are doing well and I must congratulate you on this very important milestone.

The Director, Centre for Open and Distance Learning, University of Ilorin, Professor Bashir Omipidan identified youths as agents of growth, societal positive movement and custodians of the future.

Professor Omipidan who was the guest speaker identified bad behaviors of the youth to include peer pressure, wasteful spending, premarital sex,drug abuse and consumption of alcohol and charged them to emulate their counterparts that have made positive impact in all spheres of life.

He commended Babalola, the sponsor of the empowerment programme.

President of Igbomina National Student Union, Mr Bolaji Sodiq extolled the virtue of Engineer Babalola for his uncommon philanthropic gestures.

He added that INSU would continue to embark on activities that will empower youth in Igbomina land.

The National President, Omo Ibille Igbomina, Engineer Timothy Adebayo who also thanked Engineer Babalola for consistently blessing and mentoring youth in the area advised the beneficiaries to use the facilities to build their future.

There were goodwill messages from the Olupo of Ajase-Ipo, Oba Ismail Alebiosu, Olomu of Omu-aran, Oba Abdulraheem Adeoti, Olusin of Isanlu-isn, Oba Solomon Oloyede including Special Adviser to the Minister of Interior, Mr Teju Ishola.

The high point of the event was the presentation of the empowerment tools to the beneficiaries by the royal fathers and other dignitaries on behalf of Babalola.

One of the beneficiaries, Jimoh Funmilola Habiba, thanked Babalola for the gesture.

Another beneficiary, Owolabi Pelumi Agnes, prayed God to reward Babalola and promised to make good use of the empowerment tool.

Another beneficiary, Lukman Sodiq Olayinka, while lauding Babalola for his empowerment initiatives, called on the government, the private sector, other philantropists to assist the youths grow by investing in their talents and careers.

Pastor Sunday Babalola


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