The recent abolition of fuel subsidies has ignited a blaze of debate across Nigeria, sending ripples of impact through various sectors of the nation. As the government justifies this move as a necessary step for economic growth, it becomes imperative to dissect the precise repercussions of this policy on the student populace within the educational institutions of Ogun State.
This exploration is prompted by Governor Dapo Abiodun’s statement addressing concerns raised by labor unions during a peaceful protest held at his Oke-Mosan office in Abeokuta on Wednesday, August 2. The governor reassured the unions and residents that his administration is wholeheartedly committed to mitigating the economic hardships spawned by the subsidy removal. In Ogun State, students have, without doubt, borne the brunt of the subsidy’s ripple effects.
In this backdrop of change, Joy, a sophomore at Olabisi Onabanjo University, candidly shares her sentiments: “The fuel subsidy has undoubtedly cast a shadow on my academic journey. It brought forth stress and uncertainty that made it challenging to concentrate on my studies. The increase in the cost of goods and services has forced me, as a student, to meticulously manage my finances, and I find myself grappling with exorbitant expenses in food and transportation.”
Faousiyat, an ND 1 Marketing student at Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Abeokuta, chimes in: “Fuel subsidy is a pressing concern for most of us students and even our lecturers. It has rippled through various aspects of our lives, from transportation fares to printing costs, provisions, and even electricity supply. The spike in transportation costs has disrupted our daily routines, making it increasingly challenging for us to attend classes consistently, thereby affecting our academic pursuits.”
The immediate consequence of fuel subsidy removal is the surge in fuel prices, inevitably leading to escalated transportation expenses. For students who depend on daily commutes to their institutions, this becomes an added burden. The reliance on public transportation means that they must now allocate a larger portion of their already tight budgets to commuting, resulting in reduced attendance, punctuality issues, and hampered engagement in their studies. Moreover, the financial strain could significantly impair concentration levels, ultimately affecting overall academic performance.
Anika Micheal Olaleye, PKA “Prodigy,” a 300-level student of Water Resources Management at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), voices his concerns: “It’s a bewildering decision, executed with a lack of foresight. Moves of this magnitude should have been made after months of thoughtful planning. In terms of its impact on studies and lifestyle, lecturers are no longer able to maintain their daily schedules, leading to chaotic timetables as they struggle to merge classes on the days they can be present. On a personal level, the surge in transportation costs has restricted my mobility, particularly for someone like me who enjoys frequent visits to the cinema.”
The fuel subsidy’s removal, compounded by other economic challenges, has heaped financial pressure on students who must stretch limited resources to cover tuition, housing, and other essentials. Soaring fuel prices contribute to heightened inflation, which, in turn, results in increased prices for indispensable goods. Consequently, students face elevated expenses for food, accommodation, and other basic needs, further squeezing their already tight budgets, and making it increasingly difficult to finance their education.
Faousiyat emphasizes, “Printing on campus or elsewhere now costs 50 naira more due to the fuel price increase, and we students rely on photocopies and file organization. Electricity supply has become erratic, and generators, once a lifeline for night-time study sessions, no longer offer the same support due to the fuel price hike. These issues are taking a toll on us students.” She also points out the rising cost of transporting foodstuffs from home to school, especially when her mom sends them via bus transit.
In a conversation with Shindara, a Library and Information Science student at Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), she laments the hike in transportation costs, food prices, and water supply issues. She explains, “Pepper, which once sold for 100 naira, now commands a minimum price of 200 naira. Traders attribute this to the increased cost of transporting goods due to rising fuel prices.
“The water supply in my hostel has also suffered; my landlady used to pump water efficiently with a generator, but since the fuel subsidy removal, she can’t afford to do so as before. We often find ourselves searching for water before we can go to school. Additionally, the electricity supply is unreliable; even when available, it’s often low current. The fuel subsidy removal has sent shockwaves through various facets of life, affecting everything from food, drinks, water, electricity supply, to transportation. A drink I used to buy for 500 Naira now costs 800 Naira due to the increased use of generators for refrigeration.”
With the elimination of fuel subsidies imposing a heavier financial burden on students, there is growing concern about its toll on their mental and emotional well-being. The added stress could contribute to increased levels of anxiety, depression, and academic burnout. However, potential solutions are available to help students cope with these challenges and safeguard their well-being.
The government can contemplate implementing measures to alleviate the financial strain on students. This might involve forging partnerships with transportation providers to negotiate discounted fares or devising specialized transportation schemes tailored to students, thus ensuring more accessible and dependable commuting options. Governor Dapo Abiodun took a proactive step last month by announcing a plan to provide electric-powered motorbikes to residents who rely heavily on this mode of transportation. This initiative seeks to alleviate the burden on individuals grappling with soaring fuel costs while promoting a more sustainable means of travel. Governor Abiodun underscored his government’s unwavering commitment to addressing the community’s challenges stemming from the fuel subsidy removal.
Institutions can also step up by establishing financial aid programs, scholarships, and stipends to help students cover transportation expenses and other essential needs. Students, in collaboration with their respective student unions and organizations, can engage in constructive dialogues, raise awareness, and advocate for their right to affordable transportation, spotlighting the hardships they endure due to the fuel subsidy removal. A noteworthy example is Olabisi Onabanjo University, which initiated a five-week virtual lecture program on September 4 to alleviate the financial strain on its students.
The elimination of fuel subsidies in Nigeria has cast a long shadow over students studying in Ogun State institutions. From the surging transportation costs to the widening socioeconomic disparities and academic challenges, the ramifications of this policy shift are extensive. As a society, it is crucial to acknowledge and address these hurdles by implementing supportive measures, ensuring that all students can access education without undue financial hardships. By uniting and advocating for change, we can work toward fostering a more equitable and inclusive educational environment for every student in Ogun State.