Confusion, anger trail Buhari Government bid to hike fuel price

Confusion, anger trail Buhari Government bid to hike fuel price

The downstream sector of the Nigerian oil industry was on Friday thrown into confusion following speculations that petrol price had been hiked from N160 to N212.61 per litre.

The speculations were triggered by what the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) called March guiding prices posted on its website on Thursday night.

Panic buying immediately ensued across the country as motorists besieged filling stations to buy fuel.

Many other Nigerians took to the social media to denounce what they called fresh punishment and a demonstration of insensitivity by the federal government to the economic plight of the people.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said any price hike at this time is an invitation to mass protest.

But the biggest threat appeared to have come from Labour whose leaders said government’s action was contrary to their agreement.

Officials of the federal government and the relevant agencies quickly took turns to douse the tension generated by PPPRA’s ‘March price guidelines’.

The PPPRA pulled down the notice from its website and its Executive Secretary, Abdulkadir Saidu, said the price guidelines did not translate to increase in the pump price of petrol.

A similar statement came from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporations (NNPC) which said it had not increased the ex-depot price of fuel while Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, went apologetic.

He said no hike in petrol price had been approved and apologised to Nigerians “for any distress and inconvenience the unfortunate information might have caused.”

Labour Minister Chris Ngige also told his constituency – labour – that there was no new fuel price.

As news of the PPPRA’s ‘March price guidelines’ spread yesterday morning, motorists in the cities, especially Abuja and Lagos, rushed to petrol stations to fill the tanks of their vehicles.

Some of the filling stations were either out of stock or simply refused to sell.

There were long queues at the filling stations that had fuel to sell.

Some impatient motorists opted to buy from the black market in Abuja where a litre went for between N228 and N350.

There were also queues at some filling stations in Lagos.

The PPPRA, in its March template posted on Thursday night, put the pump price of petrol at N212.6 per litre.

According to the template, expected ex-depot price is N206.42, while the landing cost is N189.61 for the month of March, 2021.

By midday Friday, however, the agency had deleted the notice.

The executive secretary of the agency, Abdulkadir Saidu, said in a follow up statement that the PPPRA was still mindful of the Federal Government deliberations with organised labour on the matter.

He said: “PPPRA is also mindful of the current discussion going on between the government and the Organised Labour on the deregulation policy.

“While consultation with relevant stakeholders is ongoing, PPPRA does not fix or announce prices and therefore there is no price increase. The current PMS price is being maintained while consultations are being concluded.”

According to him, the guiding prices “posted on our website was only indicative of current market trends and do not translate to any increase in pump price of PMS”.

He noted that the agency was not unaware of the challenges with the supply of PMS due to some concerns, leading the NNPC to be the sole importer of PMS.

He said even though market fundamentals for PMS in the past few months indicated upward price trends, the pump price has remained the same and “we are currently monitoring the situation across retail outlets nationwide.

He pledged that the PPPRA would to continue to “perform its statutory function in ensuring that the downstream sector remains vibrant as well as support both government and members of the public.”

We’ve not increased ex-depot price of petrol – NNPC

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said, separately, that it had not increased the ex-depot price of petrol.

Ex-depot price is the price at which oil marketers buy products at the depots, which determines the price at which petrol stations sell to motorists.

The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the Corporation, Dr Kennie Obateru, told reporters that the organisation stood by “that statement that we issued on March 1 that we are not increasing the ex-depot price in the month of March, and that is what it is.”

He added: “There is no need to panic and I can tell you from our own point of view that we will not increase the pump price of petrol, and we are still standing by that March 1 decision.

“We have sufficiency of product in the country and there is really no need for the public to panic. Like I have stated, the ex-depot price for the NNPC is still as it is; it has not increased and it will not increase in this month of March.”

Sylva apologises to Nigerians, disowns PPPRA’s ‘price hike’

The Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, said President Muhammadu Buhari and himself knew nothing about the purported hike in fuel price.

He apologised to Nigerians for the “distress and inconvenience, the unfortunate information might have caused.”

His words: “Dear Nigerians, you are by now very aware of the news trending that the federal government has increased the price of petrol to N212.6 per litre.

“Irrespective of the source of that information, I want to assure you that it is completely untrue. Neither Mr. President who is the Minister of Petroleum Resources, nor my humble self, who deputise for him as Minister of State, has approved that the pump price of petrol should be increased by one naira. I would therefore urge you to disregard this misleading information.

“You are all aware that for the past few months the government has been in consultation with organised labour to find the least painful option to respond to the global rise in the price of crude, which in turn has inevitably led to increase in the price of PMS.

“It is unthinkable that government would unilaterally abandon these discussions and act in the manner suggested by the information under reference.

“Cynicism and deceit have never been the trademark of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“I would like to equally assure you that the engagement with organised labour and other stakeholders will continue even as the calculations to arrive at a reasonable price regime are being done all in good faith, and you will be availed of the final outcome at the appropriate time.

“Until then, all marketers are strongly advised to maintain the current pump price of PMS before the emergence of this unfortunate information. Those who may want to take advantage of this unfortunate misinformation to extort Nigerians should not give in to such temptation as there are regulatory mechanisms that government can enforce to protect its citizens.

“In conclusion, I want to sincerely apologise to all Nigerians for any distress and inconvenience the unfortunate information might have caused.”

Ngige to organised labour: No hike in petrol price

Labour and Employment, Minister Chris Ngige, in a direct message to organised labour, organised private sector and Nigerians, said there would be no increase in the price of PMS for now, as discussions were still ongoing between government, organised labour and other stakeholders on the matter.

He said any attempt to hoist a fait accompli on the government and all its efforts runs against the ongoing discussions.

He warned those he called insidious harbingers of such information not to “portray government as cruel, irresponsible and unamenable to social dialogue and collective bargaining.”

He said: “Government will at the right time do an appropriate pricing for petroleum products, but not without taking other issues into consideration. This is to ensure that Nigerians don’t suffer the pangs of any price increase in petroleum products.

“Government has deregulated petroleum products and market forces have to dictate pricing. That notwithstanding, government has decided to give it a human face by agreeing to some palliative measures that will make the price realistic and affordable to the ordinary Nigerians.

“We therefore wish to reassure our partners in the organised labour, the NLC, TUC and affiliate unions that there will be no increase in the price of PMS for now. They should therefore continue to cooperate with government side to have a fruitful outcome from the discussions.”

Federal Government jolted by labour threat

The leadership of the Nigeria labour was understood yesterday to have been shocked by the PPPRA announcement, which was contrary to the agreement between the two sides.

It was learnt that during a February 22, 2021 meeting, representatives of the federal government tabled a proposal for pump price of N206 per litre, which was rejected on the spot by labour.

Following the disagreement on new pump price, government’s talks with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) were postponed till after the Easter break.

Sources said the labour leaders were therefore shocked to hear of the PPPRA March guiding price late Thursday night.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that shortly after the new pump price was released, labour leaders communicated with all the unions to get set for a total shut down of the economy at short notice.

A top source said: “The spontaneous reactions from Labour and Nigerians to the new price regime jolted the government. In fact, most government functionaries were caught unawares too.

“Based on the outrage, the Presidency quickly intervened and ordered a reversal. For the first time in the history of this country, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipreye Sylva, apologised to Nigerians.

“Although the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has the statutory mandate to determine fuel price template, it did not exercise caution because many talks were still ongoing.

“The fears in government bordered on the social backlash of the new price regime as evidenced in the public outrage, hoarding of products by marketers, sudden jump in transport fares and the return of queues at filling stations.

“The intelligence appraisal of the new pump price also indicated mass discontent. No government will be blind to such a feedback.

“Just a few months after the #EndSARS protests, fuel price mass action will hurt the nation’s economy.”

Labour leaders were said to have immediately launched into consultations on a massive strike to force the government to bring down the pump price to a tolerable limit.

A labour leader said: “Immediately we heard of the new pump price, we started consultations ahead of a likely emergency meeting.

“We have all resolved on a total shutdown to prevail on the government to reduce the price to affordable rate. What is needed is just a NEC meeting to ratify the strike action which Nigerians are awaiting to join.

“We felt betrayed because new price template was a deviation from our last discussion with the Federal Government delegation.

“We met on February 22, 2021 with a government delegation comprising the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha; the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Engr. Mele Kyari; the Minister of Employment and Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige; the Minister of State for Power, Dr. Goddy Jedy Agba and NNPC management.

“At the session, Kyari tabled a proposal to increase fuel price to N206 per litre because of the huge cost of importing petroleum products. We instantly rejected the proposal, which was supported by the government delegation.

“We asked the government to fix the nation’s refineries. Kyari, who told us that he was going for OPEC meeting from the session, said it will take three years to fix the refineries. We asked them what the government was doing on the refineries in the last six years it has been in power. There was no concrete response.

“We later took time identify many hidden charges which accounted for the high cost of bringing petroleum products from abroad. We said if they can reduce or waive those charges, fuel price regime will come down to affordable rates.

“When we could not agree on the new price regime, the Federal Government delegation, the NLC and the TUC resolved that we should reconvene after Easter to weigh more options on how to adopt affordable rates.”

Responding to a question, the labour leader said: “In total breach of our gentleman agreement, the PPPRA came up with a new fuel pump price. The government or NNPC cannot claim it is not aware.

“The Labour is part of the board of PPPRA but the management did not deem it fit to convene a meeting to brief board members on its plans. So, the new price agenda is suspicious.”

Another source said the Federal Government was warned by a technical committee it set up to always embark on “extensive” consultations on policies with socioeconomic impact.

The source cited a report submitted to the government in which the committee gave the warning.

The report was entitled “Federal Government of Nigeria – Nigeria Labour Congress/Trade Union Congress (TUC) Technical Committee on Electricity Tariff.”

The committee made a general recommendation on policies as follows: “In closing, the engagements of the committee have further reinforced the need for collaborative engagements between the Federal Government (and its agencies) and Organised Labour.

“This should include extensive consultations when major policies are being rolled out to ensure that socioeconomic impacts of these policies are extensively examined and mitigated.”

Fresh fuel price hike invitation to mass protest – PDP

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) warned yesterday that any fresh increase in the pump price of fuel to N212 per liter by the federal government would amount to a direct invitation to mass protests across the country.

Chief spokesman for the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said any contemplation for N212 pump price would be pushing Nigerians to the wall.

This, the party said, could trigger reactions capable of worsening an already tense situation and lead to economic and social crisis in the country.

He described the pricing template as wicked, insensitive and callous.

He added: “It is a barefaced fact that there is no way that Nigerians can survive such hike in fuel price, which will worsen the already agonising economic situation in the country.

“Our party maintains that with an honest and transparent administration of our national production capacity and potentialities, domestic price of fuel should not exceed N70 per litre.

“The continuous unjustified increase in the price of fuel is a deliberate scheme by the APC, through which their leaders fleece Nigerians of billions of naira on a daily basis.

“Nigerians have endured enough under the suppressive, corrupt, insensitive and incompetent APC administration, and it is our concern that any further increase in fuel price may become the last straw that might break the camel’s back as already cautioned by our party last month.

“Our party had cautioned that with over 100 million citizens living in abject poverty, with an alarming 23% unemployment rate and many more living below N500 a day, any increase in fuel price is capable of triggering a mass protest in the land.

“This is particularly as the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its government have been unable to account for the over N15 trillion allegedly stolen by APC leaders.”

The PDP charged the federal government to save the nation the trouble by ending any contemplation of fuel price increase, “particularly at this time Nigerians are expecting a downward review in prices”.

The main opposition party called on Nigerians to remain calm but very alert in readiness, within the ambit of the laws and opportunities granted under democracy, to stand up and defend the national patrimony and collective wealth.

Angry Nigerians say no to new price hike

Reactions from Nigerians on social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, came in torrents.

Social media influencer, Aproko Doctor said: “Food prices before now have been out of reach for many Nigerians then you add #FuelPriceHike on top of it which will further drive up prices of things across the board.

“Yet, the average Nigerian’s earning has not increased… How exactly do we want to bring people out of poverty?

Another user, Ife Chuk, said: “We woke up this morning only to see fuel price at N212 per litre. Before 2023, you may wake up to see the Chinese people coming to occupy your properties as collateral.

Odunlade Adekola tweeted: “Waking up to #FuelPriceHike @ N212 is very bad news. I urge the Buhari led administration to reverse this. We are suffering enough already”

@ThisIsPOU said: “In 2015 under a corrupt govt, 10 litres of fuel was N870:00… In 2021 under a reformed govt fighting corruption, 10 litres of fuel is N2,120:00

@pie4sure said: “Landlord too will increase house rent #FuelPriceHike”

Hassan Ibrahim while reacting to The Nation’s news feed on Facebook said: “Nigerians should expect worse than this when irresponsible elements are in the power corridor. No mercy, no sympathy on Nigerian masses. May Almighty Allah rescue us.”

HURIWA questions uncertainty in fuel price

Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) condemned what it described as the ever pervasive and persistent climate of apprehension, anxiety and uncertainty on the pump price of premium motor spirit (PMS).

The development, the group said, will trigger massive poverty, economic downturn and oppression of the downtrodden.

HURIWA stated that it is inconceivable that the petroleum sector that the President himself supervises as the senior minister cannot provide clarity and certainty regarding the stability and affordability of petrol which remains critical to the economic survival of the masses and corporate entities.

The group said it is regrettable too that at a time most countries are introducing innovative replacements for petrol and diesel so as to protect the environment and the biodiversity, Nigeria still operates with the mindset of the 18th Century because of the gross incompetence of the political class that has hijacked Nigeria.

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