On the latest price fuel hike

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NIGERIANS woke up on Tuesday morning, last week, to read from the social media that a litre of premium motor spirit (pms) otherwise known as petrol, which used to cost N87.00 during the regime of the former President Goodluck Jonathan and politically reduced to N86.50 when President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in May, 2015, was to sell for N145.00, an increase of about 68%!

All along, President Buhari had consistently refused to remove subsidy from petroleum, so no one expected an anti-people volte face in that direction without notice. Secondly, the times are pretty hard for all honest Nigerians. The Federal Government, which appropriates 52% of the total revenues accruing to the Federation, leaving all the 36 States of the Federation and the 774 Local Government Areas with only 36% and 12%, respectively, is groaning under the incubus of a serious economic meltdown and is at its wits’ end, as it were, how to implement a N6.06 trillion budget for 2016; almost 30 of the 36 States cannot pay the salaries of their workers; inflation has skyrocketed (rate is now between 13-14%); market women bemoan their fates, telling tales of woes: the cost of tomatoes and other food items are now in the heavens; a bag of rice that used to sell for between N7-8,000 now costs about N17,000 or N18,000.00. One wonders why the Government imagines that the common man lives a more buoyant life than the Federal Government, the States and the Local Government Councils.

Thirdly, if the cost of crude oil which used to cost more than $100 per barrel, and a litre of petrol could sell then for N87.00, it is inconceivable that a litre of petrol in Nigeria should now sell for N145.00 when a barrel of our crude oil now sells for only between $35 and $50. If the buyers and refiners of our oil now pay much less than hitherto for a barrel thereof, why should we pay more for a litre of the refined oil whose crude is purchased from us at a pittance? Not a few Nigerians seek answers to this nagging question.

The Federal Government’s quest for funds to implement the N6.06 trillion 2016 budget is well known. Could this inexplicable hike in fuel price be one of the stratagems to pool resources to fund the budget? We wonder. And how much would this hike in fuel price fetch the Federal Government per week, month or year? How would we know?

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Should this hike in fuel price be seen as the removal of subsidy, which the President has always baulked at? If this is so, we dare advise this government to be more transparent and straightforward in its dealings with the electorate. Today, going by the implausible explanations of the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, it is difficult to know whether the “fuel subsidy” has or has not been removed. If it has been removed and the regime of deregulation has started, why does government insist on N145 per litre and not allow market forces to dictate the price of a litre of petrol?

The above said, why did the Federal Government refuse, fail, or neglect to consider the welfare of the citizens before foisting the N145-per-litre sword of Damocles on the people? Why did the government not consider some palliatives to cushion the harsh effects of a drastic fuel hike, the highest since successive Federal Governments started hiking fuel prices? The Government should have considered that with a 68-per-cent increase in fuel price, the price of everythingtransportation, foodstuffs, everything—must increase.

When previous Federal Governments announced a hike in fuel prices, the President, not a junior Minister, would tell the nation what the government planned to do with the resultant lush fundsconstruct new or repair existing roads, build new or equip existing hospitals, create employment opportunities, do this or thateven though such promises were honoured more in the breach than in the observance! SURE-P was a classic example. But in the present instance, mum is the name of the game!

We appeal to the Federal Government to take a second look at what it has done and reverse itself drastically in the interest of compassion for, and sympathy with, the people, fair play and justice. It should realize, above all, that the prevailing economic hardship affects the ordinary man on the street much more than it affects the government, the disbursers of our commonwealth!