• Friday, June 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

Fuel pump price hike: FG’s brazen show of insensitivity to citizens’ misery

Nigeria’s petrol scarcity, when will it end?

In the last five years, Nigerians have experienced incessant increment in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly called fuel.

Sadly, every increment in the price of PMS comes with an increment in the prices of other commodities and especially transportation, worsening inflation and cost of living across the country.

But the ugly development is not unconnected with the recent rating of Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world.

However, the incessant increase seems to follow the Federal Government’s insistence on ending fuel subsidy, a policy, which peaked during Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, and was hugely criticised by civil societies, and the public.

Today, the situation is getting worse as fuel scarcity lingers since late November, amid fear of another increment in the price as Nigerians buy fuel as high as N280 per litre in fuel stations and N400 in black market.

Read also: Petrol scarcity persists, drains pockets

But what baffles many is the inaction of the government, which worries many concerned citizens, who aptly describe the government stand as ‘conspiracy of silence’.

Lamenting the despicable conditions Nigerians are facing currently in their country and in the hands of those that swore to make their lives better, Samuel Onikoyi, a Brussels, Belgium-based Nigerian academia, noted that the country has no reason to suffer fuel scarcity if the government had fulfilled its election promises of revitalizing the refineries across the country.

“Nigeria needs functional refineries to stop importation and stabilise fuel price. Sadly, it has not happened yet despite over 20 years of sustained democracy.

“In 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 to this 2023 general elections, the politicians are still promising to revitalise the refineries that are moribund. Why deceive the people, a fraction of what the politicians steal in an administration can build three refineries,” he lamented.

According to the international researcher, Nigeria has enough crude oil deposits that it can afford to sell fuel at N50 per litre and become a major exporter of finished products to other African countries if it has at least three functional refineries.

“What we do is penny wise, pound foolish because if we have many functional refineries, all other African countries will depend on us for their fuel importation because it will be cheaper for them and huge foreign revenue, jobs and stability for us,” he decried, nothing that relying on Dangote Refinery is a huge mistake because it is one-man business and monopolistic.

Toeing same line with Onikoyi, Chikwe Azuonye, a Nigerian-Canadian consultant surgeon, who was in the country during the festive season, noted that the government could have solved the fuel scarcity and subsidy issues without making noise and punishing Nigerians if they had encouraged many investors in the downstream petroleum industry long ago.

“I have a friend who came with some American investors during Obasanjo’s second tenure administration to build a refinery under PPP, but the non-passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill as at that time hindered that investment. They tried again during Diezani Allison-Madueke and hit the rock. That refinery is working in Angola today, though not as big as Dangote’s,” the senior surgeon said.

Read also: Video: Nigeria’s petrol scarcity, when will it end?

For many, the Federal Government’s inaction over the issue, even as Nigerians suffer shows complacency and compromise with the fuel marketers, who always hold the government as ransom with subsidy payment.

“Why will the Federal Government not keep mute over the fuel scarcity issue? Some marketers are fronting for NNPC and the people in government,” Julius Obringa, an Eleme, River State indigene, whose father worked at the Eleme Refinery and Petrochemical Company, said.

He argued further that if one steals so much money from a public fund, he or she will not care if fuel is N1,000 per litre because he can buy as many litres as he wants.

“But what about the poor, your gateman, your cook and driver, who cannot fuel their I-better-pass-my-neighbour generator?” he asked.

For him, the Federal Government’s annoying silence on the issue is wickedness and man’s inhumanity to man, and that is why voters have to stand up this time to make better decisions or stand to buy fuel at N1000 per litre soon.

“They are all waiting for Dangote Refinery. But that man is a businessman and his refinery will not serve the poor despite no importation cost because monopoly will happen,” he said.

On the quantity of fuel consumption, Obringa noted that Nigerians don’t consume as much as being claimed by the NNPC, which he accused of causing the problem because of the corruption and nepotism in the state-own oil company’s system.

“Government said NNPC is now fully commercial, but there is no difference. The corruption and insincerity in the oil sector are so much that they will hunt back at the leaders at some point when Nigerians cannot bear it,” he concluded.

On President Buhari, they said he was done with government since his first term as Nigerians have seen nothing but sufferings, debt pilling, insecurity and nepotism in his administrations than any of the previous governments since 1960.

Many entrepreneurs and businesses are worst hit by the fuel scarcity; as they have to buy fuel at exorbitant prices or at black market to power their generators to keep their businesses afloat.

Many entrepreneurs say the fuel crisis came at the wrong time when there was a power disruption, especially in Lagos.

Jhon Odey, a supermarket owner, said the lingering fuel scarcity has made him spend a large chunk of his profit on buying fuel at the black market to stay in business since it started last year.

“I have spent an extra N200, 000 or even more to buy fuel, compared to what I spend normally since last year when it started.

“It would be difficult for a supermarket to operate without electricity, because people need to see what they would buy.

“This is killing business, how do we cope?”, Odey asked.

Meanwhile, other Nigerians blamed the current situation on the lack of accountability of president Buhari, stressing that the continued silence of the president who is the Petroleum Minister was a serious concern.

“In other countries, the President should have addressed Nigerians and apologised for the situation or resigned from office.

“President Buhari’s continued silence even when he is also the Petroleum Minister is worrying and should not be,” Tope Musowo, public policy analyst said.

Tunde Daramola, politician and public affairs commentator, said the lingering fuel scarcity was an indication that the current administration had failed Nigerians, wondering why the government failed to fulfil its promise of repairing the refineries.

“One would have thought Buhari would keep to his promise of repairing the refineries, but it was all lies to deceive Nigerians.

“Why are they all talking about ending fuel subsidies and no one talking about the refineries? It is sad to see this linger for this long, Nigerians have suffered enough, “Daramola said.

In recent days many Nigerians have wondered why there is seemingly a conspiracy of silence among the civic society, political class and labour unions about the continued fuel crisis in the country.

Nigerians, especially the youths have taken to social media to vent their frustration at the exorbitant cost of transportation.

They say with the current situation the needed leadership change must be made in the 2023 polls, reminding some of the presidential aspirants the role they played in sabotaging previous administration attempts at increasing the prices of petrol in Nigeria in the past.

According to Sunny Odu, a lawyer on twitter, “That’s why some people are right to say that 2023 election is very significant in Nigeria’s history. It is the last exercise before some people who still have hope in this country lose every hope completely; especially if either Tinubu or Atiku wins.

“But before then, I will never stop reminding Nigerians that we wouldn’t be talking about fuel subsidy and fuel scarcity today if not for Tinubu’s malicious and wicked opposition politics in 2012 when Jonathan removed fuel subsidy.

“He gathered his urchins to Ojota and everywhere in Lagos to disrupt movement and businesses until Jonathan gave in.

“It’s over 10 years already, and we would have outgrown every effect that subsidy removal would have brought. Today, that same Tinubu is using subsidy removal as one his campaign promises and people are cheering him on and you say thunder will not fire them”.

Effects on transport, cost of living

The persistent scarcity of petrol in major cities in Nigeria resulting in long vehicular queues in petrol stations, and the soaring pump price of petrol are now impacting negatively the cost of interstate and intra-state transportation.

According to BusinessDay Sunday findings, many petrol stations especially independent marketers are presently dispensing fuel above the Federal Government’s approved pump price of N185 per liter.

In Lagos, for instance, only a few major marketers are selling fuel at the official pump price while other independent marketers sell at N250, N270, and N300 per liter depending on the petrol station.

This development has forced commercial bus drivers and transport companies to inflict the transportation cost to detriment of the commuters.

Within the Lagos metropolis, commuters are forced to pay more in transport fares as commercial drivers increase transport costs by between 50 percent and 100 percent at peak periods.

Presently, a journey that used to cost a passenger between N200 and N250 per drop is now costing between N400 and N500 while a journey that used to cost a passenger between N100 and N150 is now costing the same passenger between N200 and N300 per drop.

“Today, I bought fuel at N300 per liter in a petrol station in the Ijegun area of Lagos suburban and I have to increase the transport fare to N400 per passenger from Ikotun to Cele Express in order to recover the money spent in buying fuel,” said a danfo driver, who identified himself as Rasheed.

Rasheed said he was forced to buy fuel at a such an exorbitant price due to the long queue of vehicles at the other two nearby petrol stations that were selling at N250 per liter.

According to him, queuing up to buy fuel at one of the two petrol stations will mean forfeiting his transportation business for a whole day when he has a daily delivery of about N7,000 to make to the vehicle owner.

“We are now spending a lot of money on a daily basis on transportation in Lagos,” Francisca Eromosele, a Lagos-based medical practitioner.

Francisca, who said that she used to budget N1,500 per day on transportation from her residence in Okota in Lagos to her office in the Victoria Island area in Lagos, said that she now spends close to N3,000 every day on transportation.

According to her, transportation is now eating deep into her monthly pay and leaving her with little to cater to her needs.

Aside intra state transportation, passengers embarking on interstate trips, especially from city centers such as Lagos and Abuja to their destinations in the hinterlands are also paying more due to the scarcity of fuel and high fuel pump prices.

A visit to the departure terminals of some of the popular interstate transporters shows that travellers, who used to pay between N11,500 to N12,500 per trip are now paying between N16,500 and N17, 000 on a one-way trip.

For instance, God is Good (GIG) is presently charging about N16,900 on a journey from Lagos to Aba in Abia State while the GUO Transport Company is presently collecting the sum of N16,500 and N17,000 per passenger on a trip from Lagos to Owerri in Imo State and Aba in Abia State on either Sienna or bus.

Ogochukwu David, a driver with the GUO Transport Company, told BusinessDay Sunday that the high interstate transportation fare can be blamed on the scarcity of petrol in the country.

Read also:Oil companies lose N803bn to sabotaged pipelines

He said the scarcity of fuel is taking a toll on motorists especially interstate transporters that need to fill their car tanks twice before getting to their destinations, and that the long queue at the petrol stations is also killing man-hours.

Kelechi Udoka, a private motorist, operating the Lagos-Onitsha route told our correspondent that the fuel pump prices have continued to determine cost of transportation and the queues in filling stations are affecting turnovers for many transporters.

“As it is now, the queues are just too much because very few filling stations are selling at the normal fuel pump price at the moment. We just have the likes of Total, Mobile and NNPC selling at normal price, but the queues at these fuel stations are so much.

“Most times, NNPC don’t even sell. Mobile and Total have been consistent, especially the Total filling stations. Total has become the hope of the masses. Every other fuel station sells between N205 to N300 per litre,” he said.

Udoka said most times, it takes over five hours to get fuel at these stations selling at normal prices. “On Thursday, before I could get fuel, I stayed in the queue for hours. You see people who sell black markets coming with as much as five to seven Jerry cans to buy fuel and these stations sell to them. This makes it difficult for motorists to get fuel,” Udoka said.

He hinted that in Lagos, fuel price is cheaper compared to the Eastern parts of the country. “As you go towards the Eastern part of Nigeria, it gets worse. The further you go from Lagos, the pump prices increase. Few days ago, I bought fuel in Owerri for N400 per litre,” he said.

Babatunde Peters, another motorist that operates Lagos-Sagamu route told BDSunday that before now, he charged N1,300 from Mile 2 to Shagamu but now the price has risen to N2,000 and may rise further if the price of fuel continues to increase.

“We have no choice but to pass on the costs to our passengers. Because of fuel prices, the cost of transportation has skyrocketed. Passengers are lamenting but there is nothing we can do. We can’t make losses. Market forces determine transport fares,” Peters said.

Peter said because of the long queues in Filling Stations, he spends three to four hours to get fuel to fill his tank and this has affected the turnaround time for his business.

“The turnaround time for us is also an issue. I travel the Lagos-Shagamu route about two or three times daily but in the last few days, I have only been able to do one trip daily because of the number or hours I spend at the fuel station.

“We queue in fuel stations for hours to get fuel and before you know it, the whole day is gone. This is impacting negatively on my business. We have fewer vehicles on the road these days because motorists can’t meet up with turnaround time,” he added.

Seye Adenike who sells Tie-dye fabric materials said he buys the products from Sagamu and transports it to Lagos. She said the cost of transporting her products has doubled in the last two weeks, which will impact on the cost of the products.

“I can’t sell my fabrics at the price I sold before. The cost of transport has to be added to the cost for the materials. This way, I won’t make losses,” Adenike said.

‘Government is insensitive’

Nigerians who spoke with BusinessDay described as insensitive government’s recent increase of pump price of petrol, saying it was consistent with the high-handedness with which the Buhari administration has gone about governance in the last seven years.

They also wondered why a government that wants to win another election in less than two months from now, would be taking anti-people decisions.

“I thought that a sitting government would do everything within its powers to please the people during election period, but the APC government is as insensitive as ever. Perhaps, it goes to support the insinuation in certain quarters that President Buhari does not want Tinubu to win the election; he wants Nigerians to be sufficiently angry at the APC to ensure that people do not vote for Tinubu. Look at the timing for the cashless policy also; something tells me that somebody is working against somebody,” a concerned Nigerian said, craving anonymity.