Reactions trailed the announcement of a new pump price for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), better known as petrol, by the Federal Government on Wednesday, with labour leaders kicking against the increase from the current N86.50 per litre to N145 per litre, while marketers hailed it. Ekiti state governor, Ayo Fayose, in a quick reaction on Wednesday, described the hike in petrol price as a “demonstration of the level of hatred the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) government has for Nigerians,” just as a manufacturer, Abimbolu Babatunde said “It will push up inflation, and this is not the right time for such decision. The timing is wrong; the economy is already in a mess.”
However, the Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Mr. Obafemi Olawore, supported the decision to remove subsidy calling it the right step in liberating the downstream sector. “It is a step towards deregulation. At MOMAN, we support full deregulation,” he said. Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, announced the Federal government’s decision to jerk up the petrol price on Wednesday at a press conference held in the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Full text of the press briefing read: “We have just finished a meeting of various stakeholders presided over by His Excellency, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. “The meeting had in attendance the Leadership of the Senate, House of Representatives, Governors Forum, and Labour Unions (NLC, TUC, NUPENG, and PENGASSAN). “The meeting reviewed: The current fuel scarcity and supply difficulties in the country. The exorbitant prices being paid by Nigerians for the product.
These prices range on the average from N150 to N250 per litre currently. “The meeting also noted that the main reason for the current problem is the inability of importers of petroleum products to source foreign exchange at the official rate due to the massive decline of foreign exchange earnings of the federal government. As a result, private marketers have been unable to meet their approximate 50% portion of total national supply of PMS. “Following a detailed presentation by the Honorable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, it has now become obvious that the only option and course of action now open to the government is to take the following decisions: “In order to increase and stabilise the supply of the product, any Nigerian entity is now free to import the product, subject to existing quality specifications and other guidelines issued by Regulatory Agencies.
“All Oil Marketers will be allowed to import PMS on the basis of FOREX procured from secondary sources and accordingly PPPRA template will reflect this in the pricing of the product. “Pursuant to this, PPPRA has informed me that it will be announcing a new price band effective today, 11th May, 2016 and that the new price for PMS will not be above N145 per litre. “We expect that this new policy will lead to improved supply and competition and eventually drive down pump prices, as we have experienced with diesel. In addition, this will also lead to increased product availability and encourage investments in refineries and other parts of the downstream sector. It will also prevent diversion of petroleum products and set a stable environment for the downstream sector in Nigeria.”
Reacting, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) in a statement by its General Secretary, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson said: “The unilateral increase in prices of petroleum products today by government represents the height of insensitivity and impunity and shall be resisted by the Nigeria Labour Congress and its civil society allies. “With the imposition on the citizenry of criminal and unjustifiable electricity tariff and resultant darkness and other economic challenges brought on by the devaluation of the Naira and spiraling inflation, the least one had expected at this point in time was another policy measure that would further make life more miserable for the ordinary Nigerian “The latest increase is the most audacious and cruel in the history of product price increase as It represents not only about 80 per cent increase but it is tied to the black market exchange rate.
“Furthermore, the process through which government arrived at this is both illogical and illegal as the board of the PPPRA is not duly constituted. In our previous statements and communiques, we had stressed the need for reconstituting the boards of NNPC and PPPRA and wean both away from the overbearing influence of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources who has assumed the role of a Sole Administrator. “The allusion to the fact that the this increase was arrived at after due consultation with stake holders is not only ridiculous and fallacious, it goes to show that the brief meeting held today during which government was advised shelve the idea until at least it meets with the appropriate organs of the Congress was in bad faith.
“Accordingly, we urge the government to revert the prices to what they were. We would want to put everybody on notice that we shall resist this criminal increase with every means legitimate. “Already an emergency NEC meeting has been scheduled for Friday, May 13, 2016 to decide on the next line of action. Meanwhile, our affiliates, state councils and civil society allies are requested to commence mobilization immediately.” Similarly, National President of TUC, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama in a telephone chat with Daily Times also said “What we are saying now is that we have to see the template, we have to discuss with our organs like our sister union, NLC and we will come up with a position and keep the media posted on our decision. Also reacting, Comrade Joe Ajaero, factional President of NLC, told Daily Times that removing subsidy without fulfilling the agreement reached with the unions was a betrayal.
According to him, “We do not in any way support full deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector driven on the import of finished products. This to us, remains ill-advised, impoverishing and a gang-up by the ruling elite against Nigerian workers and masses. “We have observed unfortunately that the federal government did not make any provisions for supporting the existing subsidy on petroleum products especially Petrol and Kerosene (in the 2016 Budget). “We are worried that the Government feels it can badger Nigerians into submission by subjecting them to continuous harrowing experiences of petroleum scarcity so that through suffering Nigerians may get used to increased prices of the products.
“This to us is most unfortunate especially for a Government that preaches change and came into power on the enormous goodwill of Nigerians. “We shall be mobilising Nigerian workers and masses to resist this. Government must keep its promises to Nigerian people and end this increasing angst and deprivation in the country. “We do not see in this budget any attempt to immediately boost local refining capacity either by ensuring a quick Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) on the existing refineries or by establishing new refineries as promised during last year’s elections,” he said. In his reaction, Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose said he was waiting for the reaction of those who took to the streets to protest when fuel subsidy was removed by the Dr Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2012.
He urged labour unions in the country to stand by their members always, not minding the political party in government. Fayose in a statement on Wednesday by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, said the latest hike in pump price of petrol was another vindication of his predictions on what to expect in 2016. The governor alleged that the scarcity of petrol being experienced in the last three months was deliberately orchestrated by the federal government to pave way for the already conceived increment.
He said: “Nigerians are now left at the mercy of political liars who took over power by deception and are governing by deceit. “When they were seeking for votes from Nigerians, they promised to reduce petrol pump price to from N87 to N45 per litre, they promised to create three million jobs per year, they said $1 will be equal to N1 and above all, they promised to pay unemployed youths N5,000 stipends and provide one meal a day to pupils nationwide. “Instead of fulfilling their promises, they have increased petrol pump price to N145 per litre, increased electricity tariffs, retrenched thousands of workers and imposed untold hardships on Nigerians. “As they did in 2012, if labour leaders do not also stand up for the people at this time, posterity will not forgive them.”