…demand reversal to status quo
The Federal Government yesterday came under heavy attack from the organised labour and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) also known as petrol, from N121.50 to N143.80 per litre.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has rejected the increment, which it described as unjust. The central labour union also urged the Federal Government to revert to the old price immediately. On its part, the PDP said the Federal Government’s increase of pump price of fuel shows lack of sympathy of the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration on the plight of Nigerians.
President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who made the position of organised labour known in Abuja yesterday, said the increase was uncalled for, since the price of crude oil in the international market only witnessed a slight increase that was not enough to trigger an instant upward review of the pump price of fuel in Nigeria. Wabba said the latest increase was the height of insensitivity on the part of the Federal Government, coming at a time when the average Nigerian and the business community were grappling with a lot of hardship following the downturn in the economy.
He warned that this might just be the last straw that would break the camel’s back, as the economic benefits of the last downward review in the pump price of petrol was hardly enjoyed by ordinary Nigerians who were mostly indoors due to the COVID-19 lockdown. He expressed shock that the government decided to hike the price of petrol just as the lockdown was about being eased off and inter-state travel ban lifted to enable free movement of citizens across the country. Wabba argued that the announcement by the Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) when juxtaposed with the recent move by the electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) to also hike tariff, leaves Nigerians with no other option but a feeling that they were facing a potential threat to their livelihood and existence.
He also faulted the new hike in the pump price of petrol, which he alleged, was announced without the approval of the board of the PPPRA and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. He expressed dismay at what he described as the arbitrariness and public contempt in the operations of PPPRA, saying labour found it deeply disturbing.
“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 managinthe downstream petroleum sub-sector. Nigerian people and workers are forced to interpret this move as a grand mischief and deceit,” he said.
Wabba said it was unfortunate that the regulatory authorities did not even make any pretence of the fact that the government had abdicated its responsibility to protect Nigerians from the cut-throat tendencies of neo-liberal market forces.
He said that contrary to the claim of the PPPRA that it was working in the interest of Nigerians, it had become obvious that government and its agencies have “totally abdicated” their responsibilities to the masses. Meanwhile, PDP, in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, described the increase as a punishment to Nigerians given the prevailing economic hardship in the country. The party noted that despite the decline in price of crude oil in the international market, the hike was unjustifiable, adding that it further exposed the insincerity of the APC and its administration. PDP stated that apart from economic challenges, Nigerians are facing social trauma occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our party challenges the APC-led Federal Government to present to Nigerians, the indices and parameters it used to determine the price increase, which obviously cannot be in tandem with the prevalent situation in the global industry. “The actions of the APC administration have continued to confirm that the party has never been pro-poor, but only relishes in imposing hardship and heavy taxes on already impoverished Nigerians, while running an over-bloated government through which resources meant for the welfare of Nigerians are frittered by corrupt officials and the cabal in the presidency,” PDP stated. The party noted that under the APC-led Federal Government, Nigerians have been subjected to untold hardship, which is worsened by excruciating taxes. This, the party added, included a 7.5 per cent increase in value added tax (VAT) on essential commodities and services as well as increase in electricity tariff, stamp duty and other levies on bank transactions.
“It is shocking that the APC government has continued to impose more burdens that have made life unbearable to our citizens, many of whom have lost their means of livelihood due to the misrule of the APC. “President Buhari told the world that the number of poor people will triple following the adverse impact of COVID-19 pandemic; yet his administration, which has turned our nation into the poverty capital of the world, instead of seeking ways to stimulate the economy, is worsening the situation with an increase in fuel price,” PDP added.