FUEL PRICE HIKE: ARE NIGERIANS IN A DEN OF PERENNIAL HARDSHIP?

From the reports, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has released a statement on 11th March 2021 pegging the pump price of petrol – Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) at about N212.61 per litre. This is like adding petrol to the fire of inflation and hardship that is heating up like hell already.

Flashback

In 2016, shortly after the Buhari’s administration took over power, price of fuel moved to N145 per litre from N86. This was under the alleged new deregulation policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Nigerians wept. The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN tried to show understanding. As a Professor, he opted to educate us on the situation, asking for our support. He stated that the reason behind the price hike was more of a foreign exchange problem rather than a subsidy removal. According to him, the policy will see independent marketers and any Nigerian entity source their own foreign exchange and import fuel, and that this will bring about competition and more benefits. hear him:

We expect that with competition, more private refineries, and NNPC refineries working at full capacity, prices will drop considerably. Our target is that by Q4 2018 we should be producing 70% of our fuel needs locally. At the moment even if all the refineries are working optimally they will produce just about 40% of our domestic fuel needs.

The then Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, reaffirmed the views of the Vice President. Kachikwu folded his sleeves and reached out to us to seek our understanding with the following words:

We expect that this new policy will lead to improved supply and competition and eventually drive down pump prices, as we have experienced with diesel. In addition, this will also lead to increased product availability and encourage investments in refineries and other parts of the downstream sector. It will also prevent diversion of petroleum products and set a stable environment for the downstream sector in Nigeria.

The above words, coming from highly respectable Nigerian leaders, were like drops of ice on our skin, to quench the fire of hardship. We showed understanding and forged on. We believed they knew what they were saying.

But time has revealed that all the analysis appear to be pointless to the average Nigerian. No results. Even at N162 before the recent increase to N212, that wasn’t the expectation. Their predictions became as nauseating as the predictions of a false prophet whose prophesies never came to pass. Results are the only true evidence of any scientific or economically driven pontification.

Back to the present

The problem in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry seems cancerous. It is not unconnected to the high level corruption within the industry.

President Buhari and his team came at a time Nigerians desperately desired change. Change in the manner the affairs of the nation was being administered over time. Buhari showed knowledge and will-power throughout the campaigns. But regrettably, we do not appear to have seen much change. Everything still looks the same. The bird that hops from the ground and lands on the anthill is still on the ground. That’s an ancient proverb.

Buhari desires to be remembered as a man who fought corruption. But it seems he will rather be remembered as a man who fought corruption but corruption defeated him. There is serious systemic and institutional failures in the administration of the affairs of the nation. Most of our leaders at various levels do not appear to be ready for the big sacrifice. Personal interests are far ahead of the interest of the nation. Otherwise, how do we explain that in the heat of inflation and hardship, our leaders are still getting richer by simply being in Government. There is still a lot of waste. But it is not a mystery after all. Those who vy for political power are largely “investors”, in view of the amount of resources spent on the way. There needs to be a conplete overhaul of our political system and approach to attaining political power.

We need workable economic policies that will strengthen our economy and enable us play in the international market with baskets of other wares and not just our barrels of oil. Buhari and his team know this. They also know the blueprint. But it is doubtful if they have what it takes to enable us to achieve the goal.

Conclusion

Currently, we, the Nigerian masses, appear to be in a den of perennial hardship, with no sight of hope. He who is on the ground fears no fall. But Nigerians are sinking already, in fear and anguish.



Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has worked with a number of startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.
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