More Nigerians from all walks of life have continued to condemn the recent increase in the pump price of premium motor spirit, otherwise known as petrol.
The angry consumers have argued that the increase came at a time that was least expected. While slamming the Federal Government, they described the move as insensitive and anti-people. Their take was that by increasing the price of fuel at a time Nigerians are grappling with economic and social reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, was nothing but to further traumatise them.
Without wasting time, most filling stations quickly adjusted their pumps to N143. But even if the new price is being already implemented, many Nigerians are still kicking their legs in the air. Most people have grudgingly accepted the new price and moved on, but there are others who are still insisting that the decision must be reversed due to popular demand.
Other critics believe that the increase, despite the declining price of crude oil in the international market, was unjustifiable by the Nigerian government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The annoyance that is being displayed by Nigerians could be understandable as many people are struggling to survive the attendant effects of the coronavirus pandemic that has continued to ravage the world.
Those who spoke to Daily Sun believed that the masses with low or no income would end up being at the receiving of the government’s action. Many people said that they received news of the new price with rude shock
The Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) had announced a new retail price band for oil marketers. In a circular dated July 1, the downstream regulator said oil marketers are now expected to sell petrol within the price range of N140.80 and N143.80.
The dust raised by the announcement is yet to settle. Labour unions, the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), economists, politicians and other stakeholders have descended on the Federal Government for taking the path it took.
President Buhari moved the petrol price peg of N145 per litre to N125 in March. It was the first time the price would be adjusted since it was reviewed in 2016, from N86 per litre to N145 by the president.
A public affairs analyst, who is based in Osogbo, Osun State, Mr Shittu Qudus, told the correspondent in a telephone interview that the increment would certainly have a spiralling effect on the overall cost of living. He raised the alarm that the government’s decision was targeted at individuals who are struggling to eke out a living for themselves.
“It is simple mathematics. What the increase means is that transportation would go up. And when that happens, commodity items would go up because no trader would like to sell his or her products at a loss. In fact, every facet of peoples’ lives that is essential for meaningful living would be affected in one way or the other.
“Our governments, both past and present, have taken us for a ride for too long. It is always the lazy way for government to cover up for its incompetence. It is sad that after almost 60 years of independence, we as a nation, still depend solely on crude oil to run more than 80 per cent of our affairs.
“When serious governments in other climes are dishing out economic stimuli and seeking other ways to reduce the plight of their citizens at this challenging time, our government has resorted to petrol price increase. I keep asking what exactly could be wrong with us as a nation.
“After so much noise about billions of investment in the sector, our refineries are still not working. If the past governments could not do it, this government has spent five years with the same story. Whatever excuses they are selling to us are totally unacceptable.
“It is glaring that the masses are suffering, and from all predictions from experts, deeper poverty looms. With all these happening, the government has only succeeded in impoverishing the common man on the street. Enough is enough,” Qudus said.
Also reacting, a businessman in Lagos, Mr Julius Edobor, said that those in authority could fix whatever amount of money they wish on pump price because it didn’t affect their day to day living.
“If the government cares about the masses, it would have considered their plights at the moment. Many people have already lost their jobs. Many workers are going home 50 per cent or less of their salaries due to COVID-19. Yet, the government believes this is the best time to increase petrol.
“I am not too surprised because most public officers have allowances for everything they consume. The average Nigerian bears the brunt and nobody cares so long that the people are still breathing. But the truth is that we have not been breathing well under this administration.
“The government is aware that most people depend on petrol to survive in Nigeria. Power supply is not stable, therefore, artisans, firms and households must purchase petrol to sustain whatever they do. It is confusing and disheartening that government would increase the price of petrol just three months after reducing it.
“The government thinks that it is wise. It just lifted the ban on inter-state travel as part of measures to restart the economy, and here we are with increase in pump price of petrol. Transporters and motorists will need more fuel to execute their long distance journeys. Passengers will be charged more because the driver is strictly into business.
“The most annoying thing is that COVID-19 is still with us with its problems on livelihoods. So, there is no reason for the government to announce an increase at this period. Is the government even aware that food prices have gone over the roof. This is what we will continue to get when we have the same set of politicians holding on to power for decades. This is the sad reality,” Edobor said.
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba has rejected any further hike in the pump price of petrol, electricity tariff and other essential public utility charges. He vowed that the NLC was fully ready to mobilise Nigerians to resist attempts by anyone to impose “modern-day slavery” on Nigerians.
Another irked Nigerian, Mr Adeyemi Bayo, submitted that the crude oil that supposed to be a blessing has turned out to be a curse to the citizens. He joined others to describe the increment as a wicked to compound the masses woes.
He said: “It is funny knowing that we are charged international rates for a product of which Nigeria is the sixth largest producer in the world. We have been groaning and paying these unjust costs for years. But how long shall we continue this suffering and smiling”?
The Federal Government said in March that it had bowed to long-standing pressure to restructure the downstream oil sector and had therefore removed oil subsidy after the country was hit by lower oil prices, which placed more pressure on its foreign exchange reserves.
Many analysts have described the increment as sheer punishment on the citizens, especially given the prevailing economic situation in the country. They believe that the government could have devised other better means to boost its revenue against petrol increment that would directly impose untold hardship on already suffering Nigerians.
Organised labour has also spit fire by rejecting the new pump price. It, therefore, called for its reversal with immediate effect.
In announcing the latest increment, the PPPRA said: “Please recall the provision for the establishment of a monthly price band within which petroleum marketers are expected to sell PMS at the retail stations, based on the existing price regime.
“After a review of the prevailing market fundamentals in the month of June and considering marketers’ realistic operating costs, as much as practicable, we wish to advise a new PMS pump price band of N140.80 – N143.80/litre for the month of July 2020.”