2nd July 2020
THE NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS CONDEMNS AND REJECTS THE INCREASE IN THE PRICE OF PETROL (PREMIUM MOTOR SPIRIT)
It was with great shock and consternation that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) received yesterday’s news of increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit commonly called ‘petrol’ from N121 to N143. The increase was reported to be consequent upon a “monthly review meeting” by the Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
In a press statement by the Executive Secretary of the PPPRA, Saidu Abdulkadir, purportedly released on June 28, 2020 and carried by many news platforms including the Premium Times of July 2, 2020, the PPPRA contradicted itself when it said that the latest price increase described as an “advisory” was meant to regulate a product that government claims had been de-regulated. That this new hike in the pump price of petrol was announced without the approval of the board of the PPPRA and the oversight ministry speaks volume of the arbitrariness and public contempt in the operations of PPPRA. We find this deeply disturbing.
It is also very embarrassing that the PPPRA boss while trying to defend the indefensible appeared to be out of sorts and ready to clutch at any available straws to sell his “ice block merchandise” to “Eskimos”.
Apart from contradicting himself that PPPRA is still trying to regulate a deregulated product through “advisories”, the PPPRA went on to exert more nails on the coffin of his own polemics when he argued that PPPRA was just like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) that would always act to protect the public interest. That was how far the niceties went. The rest of the statement by the PPPRA boss, as reproduced in the excerpts below, was about how PPPRA plans to protect investors and increase their profit.
“While the Market-Based Pricing Regime is a policy introduced to free the market of all encumbrances to investment and growth, it should not be misconstrued as to mean a total abdication of government’s responsibility to the sector and citizenry… that the new pricing regime would encourage oil marketers to resume supply of petrol, leading to further value creation in the downstream, foster job creation and ensure reasonable returns to investors”.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Saidu Abdulkadir did not even feign pretense that government has abdicated its responsibility to protect Nigerians from the cut-throat tendencies of neo-liberal market forces. Contrary to the provisions of Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution, PPPRA claims that the abdication is not ‘total’. When the statement by the PPPRA is juxtaposed with the recent killer electricity charges unveiled by DISCOs, Nigerians cannot help but feel the heat of a potent threat to run millions of Nigerians under. It is even worse that this is coming at a time when our people are living on the precipice of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nigerians would recall that the last downward review in the price of petrol was at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown. The economic benefits of the so-called “downward” review was hardly enjoyed by ordinary Nigerians who were mostly indoors. Just as the lockdown is being eased out and as soon as the inter-state travel ban was lifted, the government decided to hike petrol price. Nigerian people and workers are forced to interpret this move as grand mischief and deceit.
It is clear even to the blind that the crisis in our downstream petroleum sub-sector is ‘self’ nay “government-inflicted”. The refusal by successive governments to fix our national oil refineries is at the root of this problem. Government simply wants to transfer the cost of its own inefficiencies to the Nigerian people. Nigerian workers say “No” to such.
It is grand mischief and deceit to keep comparing apples with mangoes. There is no way Nigerians would accept a situation where we are charged international rates for a product which Nigeria is the sixth largest producer in the world. The extra costs that the PPPRA wants Nigerians to pay in order to promote “growth” and “investment” are actually the cost of profits made by countries that we ship our crude oil to, the cost of sea freight of the refined products, the cost of demurrage at our seaports when the refined products arrive, the cost of frequent devaluation of our national currency, and the cost of official corruption by gatekeepers managing the downstream petroleum sub-sector. Nigerians have groaned to pay these unjust costs for years. This latest increase might just be the last straw that would break the camel’s back.
We demand that the Federal Government reverts to the old price of petroleum especially given the fact that price of crude oil in the international market has only slightly increased from the previous price before the so-called downward review was announced two months ago. We also renew our call for a national conversation on the management of our oil assets which we insist must be in tandem with the provisions our country’s constitution which clearly mandates that the commanding heights of our national economy must be held by the government in the interest of the citizens of Nigeria. Finally, we demand that our four national petroleum refineries must be fixed without any further delay. Nigerian workers want to be appraised of the timeline set by government to ensure that this is effectively done.
Nigeria belongs to all of us. Workers are major stakeholders in the Nigerian project. Nigerian workers and people must not only be treated fairly but must be seen to have been so treated by their government.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni