N170 per Litre of Petrol: Another in Buhari’s ever-increasing hardship index

November 18, 2020
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By Ifeanyi Izeze

Where actually is this government taking Nigerians to? All sorts of increment have now become the order of the day. Meanwhile, nothing serious is being done to arrest the unprecedented sleaze and incessant corruption in the system especially in the political arena. Poor Nigerians are now paying more to fund the obscene lifestyles of the looting next level politicians and their cronies.

These increments coming right in the middle of the devastation caused by the shutdown of the economy orchestrated by the Covid-19 pandemic, clearly shows that this government is thoughtless and mindless inflicter of pains and misery to the people it supposed to carter for. All over the world, funds are been provided and incentives given to make things easier for the citizenry but it is completely opposite over here in Nigeria. Instead the government is taxing the last drop of blood out of the already battered populace.

How do you as a government keep increasing the misery index of the people you are supposed to be ruling? From the October Consumer Price Index (CPI), inflation in the country increased by 14.23 percent (year-on-year) and food price index rose by 17.38 percent which most people believe were very conservative estimates.

Now, the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), on Thursday Nov 12 announced a fresh increase in the ex-depot price of petrol that will usher in a new pump price regime of between N168 and N170.

It is unimaginable that this latest price jack up was the 7th in the serial upward reviews in 2020 alone and maybe more are still coming.

In May the price was increased to N123.5 and taken up to N125.5 in June from where it went up again to N143.8 in July. The price was also jacked up to N148.5 in August, N162 in September and N168 in October. Now we have N170 in November, who knows what the price will be by December.

How come this word “deregulation” never favours the masses of this country?
Nigerians always suffer the problems caused by clueless administrations particularly the present government. The price of crude is down from where it was in 2019 and rather than come down, the prices of fuel products has continued to increase astronomically. In the US and Europe, fuel prices are far lower than they were in 2019, why is our own case different?

If we truly deregulated our downstream subsector, shouldn’t fuel price be dropping with the drop in the price of crude oil at the international markets? No, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) always surprises itself with their own version of fuel price calculations.

Casually, the Minister of State for Petroleum Timipre Sylva defending the N170 fuel price increase said “it mainly affects the elites and not the masses.”

Hear him: “If you want to transport food from the north to the south, it will be by trucks that are run by diesel, not with petrol. Those trucks that transport food from the north to the south are usually run by diesel.

“Kerosene is the preferred fuel at the lowest level of our society. These have been deregulated long ago. So, what is the problem with deregulating petrol, which is mostly used by the elite? Let us be fair to this country, let us be fair to the poor people in this country.”

How else can anyone explain this statement if not to say that the Minister must have been joking or was “high on something?”

The Minister should have known better, coming from Bayelsa state, that the nation’s current domestic need of diesel and kerosene are being overtly met by the batteries of illegal “kpofire” refineries that litter the entire oil areas of the Niger Delta region. Bros, na my mouth you wan hear am from?

Now the question is: Did Timipre Sylva not tell us few weeks ago precisely in September that the government had stepped back in fixing the price of petrol, and that only market forces and crude oil price would continue to determine the cost of the product?

His words: “The Federal Government is no more going to be releasing guiding price bands for the sale of petrol at filling stations; hence, oil marketers are now free to fix prices.”

Recall also that the PPPRA Executive Secretary, Abdulkadir Saidu, stated openly at a media briefing in his office that “going forward, petrol price would be determined by the forces of demand and supply and the international cost of crude oil.”

So why the continued price regime announcement and enforcement by the NNPC/PPMC? Is it not clear that something is not adding up in all these?

How can anyone rationalise the current situation where petrol importation into Nigeria is solely done by the NNPC through its subsidiary, the Pipelines Product Marketing Company (PPMC)?

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources had few weeks back, stated that the Federal Government had deregulated the downstream petroleum sector since March 2020, thereby relieving the government of the burden of fuel subsidy and giving oil marketers the freedom to determine fuel price, with guidance from the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).

Curiously, the peculiarity with the current NNPC’s system of subsidy is that the corporation had been the sole importer of petrol into the country and the organisation is making the subsidy payments to itself by deducting the amount as cost from its revenue before making remittances to the Federation Account. So how can NNPC reconcile paying itself the abolished subsidy under the guise of operational expenditure recovery?

This is where the major problem lies and if we actually have a government that’s concerned about the welfare and wellbeing of its people, very urgent measure should have been taken to correct this aberration.

Oil marketers (majors and independents) were not importing petrol because of inaccessibility of foreign exchange from the government. Meanwhile, every month the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) keeps telling us they released hundreds of millions of Dollars to the forex market to stabilise the economy. Where are the monies going into? Who receives those foreign exchange releases and for what purposes?

Which should be of priority: alleviating the hardship on the ordinary citizens of the country, or making few Bureau de Change operators overnight billionaires simply because they are connected to the Presidency and/or from a certain section of the country?

How longer can this nation afford to allow this deliberately created confusion to continue? Is it not glaring now why the trumpeted revamp of the nation’s three and half existing refineries and/or establishment of new modular plants have remained a lip service and time-buying ploy?

It is vexing the manner this country is managed by this Buhari’s government as it only displays a discouraging picture of inveterate hopelessness but come what may, whatever that has a beginning will surely end one day because we cannot afford to continue like this for long. Every year since this administration came into office, the NNPC has been declaring that the nation’s existing refineries will be brought back onstream within four months. Now four months has crept into six years plus. Is that how a country runs?

We now understand why it makes better sense to the NNPC and the government people to import all the fuel we need rather than make genuine efforts to revamp our nameplate refineries. God will sure judge all of you without exception!

(IFEANYI IZEZE writes from Abuja[email protected]; 234-8033043009)

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