THE movement of petrol pump price to N170 per litre is, again, threatening to rupture our economic and industrial harmony. This followed the hike by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, of the wholesale price of PMS from N147 to N155.
What it means is that between June and November this year, Nigerians have been made to cough out extra N61 per litre at a time they are still struggling with economic woes arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and sky-high inflationary costs, especially of foodstuff.
Predictably, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC; the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association, NECA; and other organised groups within the economy, have risen in lamentation over the increased suffering this will bring.
The Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, has already debunked the notion that this is another Federal Government fuel hike. He reminded us that following the total deregulation of the downstream sector, the prices of refined products are bound to go up and down in response to changes in the international market.
He also blamed the price hike on the rise of crude oil prices due to the discovery of a COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer.
No amount of explanation by the government can exonerate it of its failure to fix the age-old problems of our downstream petroleum sector. It had promised to reform the sector by fighting corruption, reviving the refineries and facilitating the establishment of modular refineries. Incidentally, President Muhammadu Buhari has been the Minister in charge of that portfolio.
Yet, almost six years into his tenure the situation he met in 2015 remains the same. The only noticeable change in the sector is a poorly-executed “deregulation” which still keeps the NNPC as the sole petroleum products importer and dictator of wholesale prices.
We have been ardent supporters of deregulation, but not the way it has been handled by this regime. The deregulation of the industry without first making Nigeria self-sufficient in local refining of petroleum products is a failure of governance. Deregulating amidst continued monopoly of importation of products by the NNPC is a total abandonment of the suffering citizenry to the vagaries of the international oil market.
Government only wants to harvest money from the people and spend rather than do the dirty work of reforming the sector and fixing our refineries.
Unfortunately, Organised Labour, which the people have come to look up to, to pressure the Federal Government to do its job, has failed our expectations.
There are no alternatives to making Nigeria self-sufficient in local refining of petroleum products. We must fix our refineries and build new ones. It is only in today’s Nigeria that such an elementary science is made to appear herculean.