There was widespread anger by Nigerians, on Tuesday, following the hike in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and other oil marketers across the country.
In Abuja and Ondo State, for instance, the cost of petrol jumped from about N537/litre to between N617 and N630/litre, forcing the cost of transportation to skyrocket within hours, and leaving thousands of passengers stranded in many cities.
The Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and many other citizens lambasted the President Bola Tinubu-led Federal Government for being so tough on citizens by allowing the continued hike in the price of petrol.
Although the NNPCL and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, both Federal Government entities, explained that market forces caused the hike in petrol price, since the commodity had been fully deregulated, Nigerians expressed frustrations over the continued sharp increase in the cost of the product.
It was observed that petrol price was raised from N537/litre to N617/litre at some filling stations operated by the NNPCL in Abuja on Tuesday.
Independent oil marketers confirmed the increase in the cost of the commodity, as they stated that any shift in price by NNPCL stations was an indication of a rise in the pump price of PMS.
“This is because NNPCL is still the major importer of petrol into Nigeria currently, though other marketers are gradually importing the commodity. The price this (Tuesday) morning at some NNPCL stations is N617/litre,” the Secretary, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Abuja-Suleja, Mohammed Shuaibu, told one of our correspondents.
Tinubu had during his inaugural address on May 29, announced that subsidy on petrol had ended, a development that led to the jump in the price of the commodity from N198/litre to over N500/litre on May 30, 2023.
Since the withdrawal of subsidy on petrol and the floating of the naira against the dollar, marketers had continued to explain that the cost of PMS could rise to as high as N700/litre.
Similarly, the rise in the cost of crude oil in the international market has also triggered further hike in petrol price, as crude is the product from which PMS and other refined petroleum products are produced.
In Abuja, on Tuesday morning, motorists besieged filling stations that were still dispensing at N540/litre, but as the news of the hike in price by NNPCL stations filtered in, many independent outlets shut their stations.
Others immediately commenced the adjustment of their pumps to reflect the new price.
The Nigeria Labour Congress on threatened to take “matters into its own hands” following the decision by the NNPCL to hike petrol price and the Federal Government’s plan to distribute N8,000 monthly to 12 million poor households in the country.
The NLC in a statement issued by its National President, Joe Ajaero, accused the Tinubu-led government of taking from the poor to pay the rich and unleashing suffering, hardship and sorrow upon Nigerians.
It said it had restrained itself from making further comments publicly on the vexatious issues around the recent but unfortunate unilateral hike in the price of petrol, which was in the guise of “the so-called subsidy withdrawal.”
The statement read in part, “However, the government of Nigeria seems to have been misled into believing that resorting to impunity and imperiousness in governance in a democracy is a beneficial option as it pursues its stated and unstated objectives.
“It is this belief that we are sure has continued shaping the actions of this government since its inauguration on May 29, 2023, to continue inflicting mindless and heartless pains on the populace one after the other without the decency of embracing the tenets of democracy which requires wide and deep stakeholder consultations on weighty matters of state.”
The NLC stated that Nigerians would remember that the Federal Government had called for dialogue in the aftermath of its disastrous forlorn trajectory in the astronomical increase in petroleum product price “and our subsequent call for a nationwide industrial action.”
It said, “We were also witnesses to the actions of the Federal Government in procuring an unholy injunction from the courts which were served us in Gestapo style by trucks laden with fully armed soldiers and policemen.
“In all of these provocations, we remained committed to the principles of the rule of law, good conscience and democracy so that we can continue to be the moral compass for leaders in the public space. This explained our decision to suspend action on the proposed strike.”
The labour union, however, stated that rather than reciprocate the goodwill of Nigerian workers, the Federal Government insisted on threading the path of dictatorship and seeking to impoverish the people further by taking steps that could only be described as robbing the people of Nigeria to pay and feed the rich.
It said, “It is on this basis that the NLC strongly condemns the decision of the Tinubu-led administration to seek the approval of the National Assembly to obtain another tranche of external loans worth N500bn from the World Bank for the purposes of carrying out a phantom palliative measure to cushion the effect of its poorly thought-out hike in the price of PMS.
“Remember that the $800m which was already proposed before the devaluation of the naira by this government was worth about N400bn then but is now worth about N650bn after devaluation. It is from this, it proposes to bring out N500bn for distribution.
“The proposal to pay N8,000 to each of the so-called 12 million poorest Nigerian households for a period of six months insults our collective intelligence and makes a mockery of our patience and abiding faith in social dialogue which the government may have alluded to albeit pretentiously.”
The NLC pointed out that the “further proposal to pay National Assembly members the sum of N70bn and the Judiciary N36bn is the most insensitive, reckless and brazen diversion of our collective patrimony into the pockets of public officers whose sworn responsibility it is to protect our nation’s treasury.”
The union said this might amount to hush money and outright bribery of the other arms of government to acquiesce the aberration.
“It is unconscionable that a government that has foisted so much hardship on the people within nearly two months of coming into office will make a proposal that clearly rewards the rich in public office to the detriment of the poor.
“What this means all this while is that the government is seeking ways of robbing the very poor Nigerians so that the rich can become richer. There is no other way to explain the proposal to pay a misery sum of N8,000 to each of the mysterious poorest 12 million households for six months which amounts to N48,000 and pay just 469 national legislators N70bn or about N149m each, while the Judiciary that has about 72 Appeal Court Judges, 33 National Industrial Court Judges, 75 Federal High Court Judges and 21 Supreme Court Judges and a total of about 201 Judges receives a total of N35bn or N174m each.
“If these other two arms are projected to receive this, what members of the executive council will receive is better left to the imagination of Nigerians; perhaps, the balance of N150bn will go to them. These proposals are not just unacceptable to Nigerian workers but are also dictatorial thus undemocratic,” the association stated.
It said the union would not want to waste the time of Nigerians especially workers on committees that had already been programmed to fail thus ignored.
“NLC would not want to continue to be part of the usual charade of committees with outcomes that are never implemented. We would not want to waste the time of Nigerians especially workers on committees that have already been programmed to fail thus ignored. We do not want to provide a cover for the government to get away with the hardship it has imposed on the people. We do not want to legitimise impunity,” it stated.
Speaking on the next line of action, the congress said, “As a result, if the government does not want to stop these fortuitous actions that it is pursuing in the name of palliatives, we will be forced to constructively review our engagement with the government on this vexatious issue and take matters in our own hands.”
‘Tinubu has deviated’
The Trade Union Congress also blasted the Federal Government over the hike in the price of fuel.
TUC’s National Vice President, Tommy Etim, said the country was now headed towards economic chaos.
He said, “We are entering one chance. It is unfortunate that the government is insensitive to the plight of the commoners and the poorest of the poor. You can see that fuel which is essential to the movement of goods and services, including the informal businesses, have continued to fluctuate in price.