“Our party is talking with top international players in the oil and gas industry, and this engagement has shown that the appropriate pump price of fuel in the Nigerian market should be within the borders of N87 to N90.”
Another season of rhetoric is here again. These are times when promises are made by politicians to woo the electorate.
In its eagerness to take over the reign of power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seized the opportunity of the auspicious moment to tell Nigerians what they would like to hear concerning the action plan of its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
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This time around, it is about appropriate pricing of petroleum products. Since the advent of the present democratic dispensation, the issue has been at the heart of policies of successful governments.
Often times, unfulfilled promises are made to cushion the pains of the ordinary people who have had to grapple with the vagaries of the market forces.
The PDP, still playing the old game, recently declared that its candidate had prepared a template that would bring down per litre price of petrol to N87 or N90.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, who made the disclosure, said pump price of fuel should be between N87 and N90, given the current subsidy arrangement.
This is coming on the heels of speculations that the Federal Government was planning another round of increase in pump price of petrol. Latching on the sentiment of the populace, he said: “Our presidential candidate, Atiku, has worked out a pricing template that will immediately crash the pump price of fuel in the country, since the Buhari-led APC administration, in its insensitivity, has failed to do the needful in the last three years.
“Our party is talking with top international players in the oil and gas industry, and this engagement has shown that the appropriate pump price of fuel in the Nigerian market, under the current subsidy regimes of the Buhari presidency, should be within the borders of N87 to N90.
“We completely reject the Buhari-led FG’s increase of the official prices of diesel and kerosene.
“Such increment will bring more economic pressure on the already impoverished nation, as most businesses and homes across the country heavily rely on these products for sustenance.”
The party made the statement following the clarification by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that there was no truth in the rumoured planned increase of the pump prices of petroleum products, especially Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly known as petrol.
According to Ologbodiyan, the APC government had let the people down by its failure to fulfill its electoral promise to bring down the price of petrol to N40, blaming the cabal in the presidency for milking the economy dry in the name of subsidy.
His words: “With the current price template of crude oil in the international market, the Buhari administration has no justification to keep the pump price of fuel at N145 per litre and watch Nigerians groan under the weight of high prices, while the cabal at the presidency loots the funds.
“For every N145 paid for a liter of fuel, the Buhari presidency cabal diverts a hidden N58, which Nigerians have continued to pay since the fuel price was increased from N87 to presumably subsidized cost of N145.”
The party further challenged the administration to explain to Nigerians the colossal sum of money expended on the subsidy regime which ultimately ends up in private pockets.
“Apart from the N1.4 trillion allegedly siphoned through sleazy oil subsidy deals, the Buhari-led FG is burdened to account for the over N3.49 trillion stolen under the hidden N58 per liter of fuel on over 50 million daily domestic consumption estimated in the last three years.
“We urge Nigerians not to despair as our presidential candidate, Atiku, has already worked out a blueprint that will end sleazes, ensure appropriate pricing template and free resources to guarantee the availability of product on a national pricing regime,” Ologbondiyan assured Nigerians.
“Once bitten, they say, twice shy. The question now is: Can Nigerians trust the PDP again? While it held sway as the ruling party, the country had witnessed incessant increases in the pump price of petrol and other allied products with the attendant hardship occasioned by the perennial scarcity of the products. All these had inadvertently eroded the basic social capital – the trust and confidence – that exist between the government and the people.
“Therefore, to rebuild that essential confidence, the party needs to go beyond rhetoric to explain to Nigerians how it plans to achieve the Turn Around Maintenance of the existing refineries without which there could be no better deal ahead.
“For the 16 years of its hold on power, the PDP-led government failed completely to demonstrate enough political will to deal with the root of the problem.
“Rather, its regime of subsidy was characterized by many shoddy deals which later led to the startling revelations that came out of the investigation panel set by the House of Representatives.
“More intriguingly, Atiku, who is now an advocate of appropriate pricing, was part of the old regime, which had little regard for due process.”
A chieftain of the APC, Prince Tony Momoh, reacting to the PDP’s statement, urged Nigerians to disregard the promise as another tissue of lies being concocted by desperate politicians to hoodwink the electorate. His words: “These are times when a lot of promises are made. Even before the time comes, there are already a lot of denials. I don’t think people should take these things very seriously. Promises are made to win votes. It looks like the motto of politicians is lying. So, political statements should be taken for what they are.
“One thing you cannot do is to take a particular decision which can override what operates in the environment. You cannot but be political to make a particular promise, which you are not in a position to enforce as a result of the circumstances in the environment. For example, if you promise to sell two million barrels of oil per day, but for one reason or the other you could not produce up to two million because producing that amount does not depend only on you, it depends on the operating environment, pricing and other circumstances, which may be beyond your control. In our case, nobody foresaw the recession that came. It came, it was managed and we got out of recession.
“If the PDP is now promising to sell a litre of petrol for N90, it depends on their reading of the environment. If we (APC) are in position to make it N40, couldn’t we have made it possible?”
A former member of the BOT of the PDP, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, on his part, insisted that Atiku has what it takes to address the issues of economy and appropriate pricing of petroleum products in the overall interest of the Nigerian masses.
“I am not in a position to check my economic facts about the price of petroleum products in Nigeria. But the fact is that Ologbodiyan is not a reckless young man and he has never been known to make statements that lack electoral foundation and electoral truth. I am sure there must have been a committee set up by the party concerning this matter. I am very sure in my mind that when Atiku Abubakar becomes president, he will ensure that the lives of the people are better in many ways by his policies. Atiku is a very brilliant successful businessman. He will know what to do with the economy when he gets to power,” he submitted.
One-time Presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP), Martin Onovo, who is also an oil expert, maintained that the proposal was achievable depending on the political will to deal with the vagaries of international price of crude oil, productive capacity of domestic refineries and other extraneous factors that determine the pump price of the products.
He said: “The price of petroleum product today is very high because we are importing. We produce crude here, we sell it to foreigners, who refine it and sell back to us at their own price, which includes taxes, transportation cost, insurance, management cost and so on.
“Importation of petroleum is a major economic waste to this country. If we refine domestically efficiently, you can sell at much less than N90. I can’t give the exact figure unless we calculate it.
“But the problem with calculating it is that it depends on the price of crude oil and the dynamics of the industry at that time. It is definitely less than landing cost they give to you.
“We have four refineries, Dangote is also building one.
“We can very easily get these refineries working, but the Nigerian factor will always come to play. It is definitely possible to sell at N90, if we have the political will. Atiku can do it; Buhari too can do it, if he wants to do it. What does it take to bring refineries back to full capacity? Importing refined petroleum products is not the best option.
“It will be more difficult today to achieve N90 pump price because the country is poorer than ever before because of misrule.”
It is now up to the electorate to make an introspection into the past and weigh the two sides of the coin.