Nigerians have expressed anger over the proposal of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) committee on fuel subsidy, to push for the full deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector that will leave petrol price at N408.5 per litre.
At a virtual meeting on Wednesday, the committee chaired by Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai in a report, recommended a Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise called petrol price of between N408.5 per litre and N380 per litre while calling for the immediate removal of fuel subsidy.
El-Rufai said the current subsidy regime was unsustainable, and only smugglers and illegal marketers benefit from it. He also said Nigeria could not fully benefit from the recent production cut by Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which was meant to keep fuel prices high, because of subsidies.
“Between N70 billion and N210bn is estimated to be spent every month to keep gasoline price at N162 per litre, this is below the cost price and the remittance to the federation account will shrink to less than N50bn per month or even zero if threats persist,” he said.
“The committee recommends PMS pump price increment from the current N162per litre to N408.5 per litre (negotiations with organized labour unions). N380 per litre (settlement with organized labour).”
Reacting to this on Thursday, Nigerians across the states unleashed their anger on the governors. In Anambra state, a civil servant, Mr. Uzoma Okeke said the proposal was unthinkable given the state of the nation’s economy.
A bus driver, Michael Okafor said he was already struggling to buy petrol at N170/litre in the state.
In Jos, Plateau State, Malam Nura Alhassan, a tailor, expressed dismay over the development. “If the proposal becomes reality, the poor in this country will suffer a lot because whatever figure is increased, the effect will fall on the ordinary Nigerian.”
More persons reacted to this in Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Abeokuta, Jos and Kano. For instance, in Kano, Buhari Abba Rano, 36, said, “With this level of insecurity around Nigerian governors are busy commissioning fake projects and loitering around Abuja and overnight agitating for complete deregulation. This this shows that our crude oil has become useless and they don’t care about the lives of the common man.”
Fatima Baba Kura said: “I believe this proposed price will set back the country to a worse state than it is.”
In Lagos, many Nigerians expressed shock over the proposed fuel price increment from the governors who are supposed to defend their people.
A student, Miss Onyekachi Emeka said the price increase would trigger a hike in transportation fare.
Across Akwa Ibom, Abia and Edo states, the residents corroborated the views of other Nigerians as they described the proposal as unfair to the Nigerian populace who have already had enough of the inflation rate, high cost of food and fuel and the deteriorating security situation.
Experts who reacted to this development have urged the federal government to discard the governors’ proposal in the best interest of Nigerians.
A petrol industry commentator, Siraju Oyewale said arbitrary fixing of fuel price is antithetical to the principle of deregulation.
“I have a problem with people sitting down and fixing prices of petrol. That is not deregulation. That is still price regulation. Politicians, or even government agencies fixing prices is antithetical to the principle of deregulation.”
Although he supports deregulation, Oyewale said the price would initially rise above the current price but not up to N380.
Oyewale also said Nigeria must refine its crude oil locally to tackle the rising petrol import cost by NNPC.
An Abuja based economic expert, Samson Simon Galadima said selling petrol at more than twice the current price would further exacerbate inflationary pressure, hence, impoverishing Nigerians even more as purchasing power is diminished.
Galadima said a lasting solution to Nigeria’s fuel price instability will be a deeply diversified energy-mix “because our overdependence on petrol is quite unhealthy”.
President of the Independent Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Chinedu Okoronkwo said it was wrong for the NGF to fix fuel price.
He said full deregulation would encourage more local and foreign investors to invest in the sector and grow the economy but that the governor’s proposal should not be honoured.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has said it will not go with the proposal by NGF that a litre of petrol should be sold at N380.
NNPC’s spokesman Dr Kennie Obateru who disclosed this to Daily Trust on Thursday said fuel price as it is now is a policy issue and only the federal government could direct the corporation to sell at specific price.
“We are still waiting for the conclusion of the ongoing meeting between the organised labour and the Federal Government. It is after the outcome of the meeting that we can say the price can be announced. It is a policy issue and we just have to wait for the federal government’s pronouncement”, Obateru said.
NNPC said the NGF only made a proposal which could be accepted or discarded by the federal government.
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