The Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms, Taiwo Oyedele, on Monday, buttressed the popular “let the poor breathe” quote of President Bola Tinubu, saying the statement means more than people might think.
Oyedele, who was inaugurated in August by Tinubu to head the committee, affirmed the President’s euphemism during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
The President first delivered the now-famous phase in May, during a tour of the Presidential Villa in Abuja. With the hardships trailing Tinubu’s insistence on fuel subsidy removal, the soundbite has since taken on a life of its own among Nigerians, while others have asked when exactly the poor would start to “breathe”.
Oyedele, however, reiterated the President’s statement, noting that there is little appreciation of the impact of the comment.
“I think that statement, ‘Let the poor breathe’ — sometimes people don’t appreciate how important it is. Unfortunately, sometimes, people say it like it is a joke or just a cliche, but the reality is that things are tough,” he said.
The tax committee chair added that subsidy removal suggests the majority of people living in poverty are not having it easy and that the impact of the exchange rate harmonisation may be greater than the impact of the withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
According to him, when things are “hard” for the middle class and the elite, they cut down on savings and investments, but they still meet their basic needs.
“For the poorest people, what they have to cut down from is three meals – if they are lucky, it’s two. Some were doing two, so it’s down to one; some were doing one, now there is a reduced portion.
“Some will withdraw their kids from school, some will not be able to get medical treatment. I am talking about paracetamol to fight malaria. We removed subsidy from fuel and you would have noticed that traffic is light,” Oyeledele lamented.
He added that the average Nigerian has a difficult time making ends meet and that those with lower incomes were the ones who found it difficult to use their cars as they once did.
“If you also think about it, those are the people who would regularly patronise the vulcanizers, the mechanics. So, if you speak to the vulcanizers now, life is difficult,” Oyedele stated.
The tax committee chair explained further that the bottom line is the need for a sense of urgency to act immediately, adding that it would also be problematic to convey the urgency while not acting clearly.
In a Sunday night post on X, formerly Twitter, Oyedele also promised that no higher tax rates would be imposed on Nigerians under Tinubu’s administration.
He added that no new tax would be introduced and that the committee’s objective was to reduce the number of taxes levied on Nigerians.
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