Will N145 Per Litre Lead To Fuel Availability? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Will N145 Per Litre Lead To Fuel Availability?

Bola Ige
Posted: May 16, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


The politics of fuel or oil is highly inflammable. The unpredictability of the pump price of petrol has over the years become a thorn in the flesh of various governments- military or civilian administrations in Nigeria.

All past governments had at various times been confronted with the fuel scarcity and long fuel queues across the country, leading to the suffering associated with the inability of government to get their refineries working at full capacity.

From the Gowon era- regarded as the golden days from 1967-1975, fuel sold at 6kobo- 8.45 kobo per litre. Under Murtala Mohammed, for only 200 days 9 kobo and under Olusegun Obasanjo in his first coming 15.3kobo. Under President Shagari, fuel sold for 20 kobo per litre just as it sold for 20kobo in Buhari’s first coming between 1983- 1985.

These figures are gleaned from Vanguard’s May 12 edition of leaders and fuel change under the various leaders who had ruled this country.Under IBB era from 1985 to 2013, the fuel price oscillated from 39.5kobo through 42kobo, 60kobo and 70kobo.Under Shonekan’s brief rule of four months, fuel sold for 5 naira. With Abacha, N3.25kobo, N15 and N11.Under Abubakar between N25 and N20. With Obasanjo’s second coming- 1999- 2007, fuel movements from N30, N22, N26, N42, N50, N65 and N75.During Yar’Dua, the price was N65 before moving to N141 under President Jonathan and fluctuated down to N97 and N87 Naira per litre.

With the fluctuations in the price of fuel over the years, solely because the Nation’s refineries did not operate at full capacity- Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna even after every routine Turn Around Maintenance procedures, which were largely caused by perennial corrupt practices in the down- stream sector of the Petroleum industry.

And just before the last Presidential elections, a lot of hullabaloo was raised by the opposition party in APC, against the ruling party, the PDP over the age- long argument about government’s oil subsidy to independent oil marketers as a huge fraud.

Since the new government led by President Buhari came to power, they had met the brick wall, which they thought did not exist.

In the past few months’ fuel queues had come to the forefront – an indication that the independent marketers can no longer import fuel to supplement what the government can import with its limited foreign exchange.

So, Nigerians were once again faced with the frequent fuel queues and the attendant problems of arbitrary price hikes from 120 naira to 450 naira in certain parts of the country.

In the midst of this unsavoury development, the federal government came back to square one. Since the private marketers were now sourcing from other sources to import the products, it bowed to their pleas for an increased pump price of N145 naira per litre.

Jumping at this opportunity to flex its muscles, which had remained dormant, so to speak, with the coming of the Change mantra of President Buhari, the NLC is now threatening fire and brimstone to resist the new pump price.

The main issue is not the new pump price, but will fuel be available all through across the country? The tendency on the part of independent marketers is to make further excuse of scarcity of forex to import products and before we say ‘Jack Robinson’ or ‘Ibe Kachikwu  , the pump price of N145 might break through the glass ceiling and head toward the direction of four hundred and five hundred.

The open door policy that all or any organisation can now be free to import fuel is a beautiful idea but depending where and how a forex is raised could in the end determine if they could still sell at N145 per litre.

Any utility service that is common to all Nigerians, rich and poor is the petrol we are expected to produce as a crude oil producing country but somehow, we are unable to produce fuel in sufficient quantity to meet the domestic consumption.

Quite a sad commentary on Nigeria’s incapacity so to do. Not because we do not have the funds but the mindset and political will to keep the wheel of the economy running at all times.

If the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) decides to go with the workers- the largely exploited and short-changed in the country- by calling all workers out to occupy Nigeria’s land space in their millions, we might be heading toward another cataclysmic encounter in the horizon.  If that happens, will the government bow to the wishes of the people by climbing down with the recently announced pump price of N145 naira?  The showdown will do no one any good and the economy, now in the last throes of gasping for breath might just go under.

A dialogue will ensue and all that we expect the Labour Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige to do is to come out boldly and plead with the workers, and perhaps, seek a half-way house on how to avert a major confrontation with Labour.

For the Delta born Minister of state for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, I do not envy what he has been compelled to go through. It is not funny and easy to be a Minister now; technocracy will not solve this purely Labour matter, of bread and butter. On fuel depends all other items- transportation for all; food items from the rural areas will have double their prices and so on ad infinitum.

As we watch events unfold in the following days, Nigerian workers could decide where the pendulum will swing.