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Fuel crisis: Obasanjo dares Nigerians

Posted by JOHN NWOKOCHA & VICTOR AHIUMA on 2005/08/29 | Views: 527 |

Fuel crisis: Obasanjo dares Nigerians

"THE price of today in the world market is an abberation. It is not sustainable. But in a situation where under a period of six months, we have used N112 billion to subsidise fuel is unsustainable. It is also unsustainable that the consumers should not bear that increased cost of fuel".

• Says no going back on price hike

•Labour, civil society coalition wait for Oshiomhole

• NLC leader cuts short visit to US

"THE price of today in the world market is an abberation. It is not sustainable. But in a situation where under a period of six months, we have used N112 billion to subsidise fuel is unsustainable. It is also unsustainable that the consumers should not bear that increased cost of fuel".

With these words, President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, foreclosed a review of the hike in the price of petroleum products effected by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulation Agency (PPPRA) in collaboration with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and marketers nationwide last Thursday.

The hike, which saw the PPPRA announcing between N65 and N70 for a litre of petrol, had triggered threats from the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and its civil society allies, who asked the Federal Government to shelve it or face unpleasant consequences.

NLC appeared set for a showdown with government on the matter at the weekend as its president, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, currently in United States (US), was said to be cutting short the visit to enable him lead Labour and Civil Society’s (LASCO) fight against the price hike. Oshiomhole is expected back in the country today.

Similarly, president-general of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), an umbrella body for senior staff association in the country, Comrade Peace Nkiru Obiajulu, is expected in the country any moment from now for the same purpose.

The third labour centre, Congress of Free Trade Union of Nigeria (CFTU), had already put its members which included the senior staff in the nation’s financial sector on alert for what a source in LASCO told Sunday Vanguard would be an epic battle between the Nigerian people and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank agents in government.

In Lagos, yesterday, the deputy governor, Otunba Femi Pedro, described the hike in the price of petroleum products as an attack on the people of Lagos.

Obasanjo, fielding questions, yesterday, from Nigerians on his monthly programme on FRCN, The President Explains, insisted that the people must pay the new price.

The president had been told by a telephone caller that effecting the hike on the basis of crude oil price in the international market was faulty because additional revenue accruing to government does not translate to higher income for Nigerians, and that the hike would further impoverish the people.

His response: "You are not quite right. When we talk about Nigerians being poor, what are the indicators of poverty? Lack of access to wholesome drinking water, lack of healthcare, lack of education for our children.

"The additional revenue we get from oil should be put into these areas, energy, water supply, roads, health facilities, education. And that is when you will start actually removing poverty from those who are absolutely poor. But if all that we do is burn up fuel with that money, we are not ready to eliminate poverty. We should have built a stabilization fund so that when the price goes up, it is not directly passed to the consumer".

Asked why part of the excess money made from the sale of oil in the international market could not be used to cushion the price of petroleum products locally, the president stated: "I do not like the idea of taking from the Federation Account because it belongs to the local governments, states and the Federal Government.

"We are looking into all sorts of possibilities. While passing the burden of international price of fuel to the consumer is politically unacceptable, not passing some of it to the consumer will also be economically unsustainable", Obasanjo added.

Sunday Vanguard gathered from Labour House in Abuja at the weekend that the secretariat had been in touch with Oshiomhole (in the US) in the past few days to intimate him with the development in the country on fuel price. According to the source: "Before he left, he personaly wrote a letter to President Olusegun Obasanjo urging him to intervene and stop the fuel hike as it would mean sentencing Nigerians to death because of the crushing economic hardship in the country which has compounded unemployment and general insecurity in the country.

"I can tell you that when he (Comrade Oshiomhole) was informed that the Presidency had approved the hike instead, he was very disappointed. And when we informed him that the price hike has been effected, he said he is coming back immediately to ensure that NLC provides the needed struggle and fight against this latest assault on the Nigerian workers and masses. So, we are expecting him by Sunday (today)."

In the same vein, the president-general of TUC, Comrade Peace Nkiru Obiajulu, is being expected in the country any moment from now to co-lead the LASCO fight against the hike. Sunday Vanguard gathered from TUC Secretariat in Lagos that Obiajulu, who has been out of the country, would be coming back any moment from now because of the fuel price hike crisis.

An official of TUC told Sunday Vanguard on condition of anonymity that TUC would never disappoint Nigerian workers and masses as far as the welfare of the people is concered. In fact, at a press conference, last Thursday, Secretary General of TUC, Chief John Kolawole, vowed that TUC would mobilise all its affiliates to join forces with other progressive forces to fight this added punishment on Nigerians.

To emphasise the determination of TUC to fight against the hike, Kolawole said the body had given a ten-day ultimatum beginning from last Thursday for mass rallies across the 36 states of the federation preparatory to when LASCO and other progressive forces would decide to embark on national strike and mass protests.

‘Fuel price increase, an attack on Lagosians’

Lagos State deputy governor, Otunba Femi Pedro, yesterday, described the new increase in the price of petroleum products by the Federal Government as an attack on the people of Lagos.

Pedro, who spoke at the Kosofe Local Government secretariat, venue of a reception as part of the monthly state environmental monitoring exercise, added that over 50 per cent of available refined petroleum products in Nigeria is consumed in Lagos thus making the residents the most affected by any price increase.

He added that it was very regrettable that since the coming on board of the PDP-led government in 1999, Nigeria had had more than five increases in the price of refined petroleum thus continually impoverishing the people. The deputy governor charged the people to reject the PDP and all its candidates in subsequent elections both in Lagos State and the country saying the party represents everything evil and anti-people.

Meanwhile, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone D has condemned the fuel price hike. The association in a statement, yesterday, said the hike would have terrible socio-economic implications for Nigeria. Demanding immediate abrogation of the new price and a return to N50.50 per litre of petrol era, it called on civil society organisations, artisans, peasants and the media to join the fight to ensure the price reversal.

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