The Petroleum Products Marketing Company, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had, on Wednesday, increased the price at which Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) is sold to marketers at the depots to N151.56 per litre from N138.62 per litre but later reduced it to N147.67.

As a reflection of this sudden hike in price of petrol by the Federal Government, fuel marketers across the country adjusted their pump prices on Thursday to between N158 and N162 per litre of premium motor spirit (PMS), warning Nigerians that a further increase in global crude oil prices would push the pump price of PMS higher.

It would be recalled that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, in a statement on May 15, said deregulation was approved on March 19 this year.

“But as you all know, PMS and other petroleum products are very strategic commodities, so you cannot allow the prices of these commodities to be determined wholly by the marketers,” he added.

On the other hand, the Executive Secretary, PPPRA, Abdulkadir Saidu, in June said, “For the avoidance of doubt, it is instructive to state that no private individual or group has the mandate to fix prices of petroleum products, however, the statutory regulatory body is saddled with the responsibility of advising guiding prices.”

But the PPPRA did not issue any guiding prices in August and September and has remained silent since then. The spokesperson of the agency, Kimchi Apollo, however, stated on Thursday that he would get information on the development and revert. He is yet to do so.

The National Operations Controller, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr Mike Osatuyi, claimed that the increase in petrol pump prices was a reflection of the global oil prices.

“In July, the crude oil price was around $43 per barrel. But rose to about $44-$45 in August. Last Monday, it increased to $46. If the crude oil price falls to $40, petrol prices will come down. But if it goes up to $50, we should be expecting petrol price to rise to about N163 per litre if the exchange rate remains the same,” he said.

Earlier on Thursday, the Chairman, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr Adetunji Oyebanji, said that pump prices would have to be adjusted to reflect realities of the increase of ex-depot prices by PPMC.

“We welcome government’s action in allowing the market to determine prices, as we believe it will prevent the return of subsidies, while allowing operators the opportunity to recover their costs. This will, in the long run, encourage investment and create jobs,” he added.

Public Opposition Greeted the Sudden Hike in Petrol Prices

In a statement titled, ‘Killing the dead,’ and signed by its president, Quadri Olaleye, and the Secretary-General, Musa-Lawal Ozigi, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) condemned the increase in petrol price and electricity tariff in the country saying: “Like the book by George Orwell, titled ‘1884’, the government and its agencies have resorted to doing the opposite of what they were set up to do.”

It said increasing petrol prices and electricity tariffs, among others, “at a time people are losing jobs, businesses are not moving in the light of COVID-19, is, to say the least, wicked.

“Government, instead of providing welfare, is killing the people systematically.

The union said, “In droves, Nigerians flee the shores of this country. Just two days ago, we protested the hike in electricity tariff and sadly, yesterday, they slammed us with fuel [price] hike at a time when countries like Ghana and Canada are giving out palliatives to cushion the effects of coronavirus pandemic. It is difficult to cope in this circumstance.

“Do we still wonder why unemployment and insecurity have increased? This is disgustingly shameful. We urge the government to listen to the voice of reason and reverse the [petrol] price immediately.

“Stop pushing Nigerians to the wall. This is too daring. The congress is calling a meeting of its organs to take decisions on this obnoxious move. The dead are dying again; stop killing the dead!”

Over the sudden increase in electricity tariff and petrol prices, the Senate leadership kept sealed lips on Thursday over the sudden about 48 hours after the relevant agencies effected the upward review.

The Senate had in its resolution which was promptly sent to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), in July, prevailed on the National Electricity Regulatory Commission and the distribution companies to suspend the planned tariff hike till the first quarter of next year. But NERC ignored the resolution and approved the increase in electricity tariff from N22 per kilowatt-hour to N66 per kWh, with effect from September 1. Effort is still being made to get the official reaction from the Senate.

Meanwhile, indications emerged on Thursday that some senators were planning to protest the fuel price hike as well as increase in electricity tariff. They were also said to be canvassing an emergency reconvening of plenary, ahead of their September 15 resumption date, to discuss the issue.

A senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Thursday that some of his colleagues were planning a protest through a press conference to reject the hike. However, the Senate spokesperson said he was not aware of the planned reconvening of plenary.

“I’m currently in Imo State for an APC assignment. I’m out of touch. I can’t confirm whether or not an emergency sitting will be called by the Senate since I’m not in town and not in touch,” he said.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Sports, Obinna Ogba, stated on Thursday that the price hike indicated that the Buhari regime was insensitive to the plight of Nigerians.

He said, “The increases in electricity tariff and fuel price at a time the economy was yet to recover from the deadly effects of COVID-19 showed that the government is highly insensitive.

“The country and indeed the whole world is facing serious problem right now because of the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, these increases are not good at all. It is adding salt to injury.”

On Thursday, a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Timi Frank, urged the leadership of the organised labour in Nigeria to mobilise and shut down the country in reaction to astronomical hike in fuel price and electricity tariff.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti State on Thursday condemned the hike in petrol price without consideration for the poor masses, saying it was indicative that the Buhari-led All Progressives Congress government was worse than military regime.

The factional PDP State Chairman, Bisi Kolawole, who spoke through the faction’s Publicity Secretary, Raphael Adeyanju, in Ado Ekiti, said, “It is only a government that is sadistic and thinks less of its citizens’ welfare that would bring such a harsh policy under a debilitating economy caused by coronavirus pandemic.

“This is an eye opener for all Nigerians that the APC government was a mistake. It should be voted out in 2023, because no power is greater than the will of the people.”

ActionAid Nigeria, a humanitarian non-governmental organisation, said the increase in petrol price could further heighten insecurity in the nation and further explosion of crisis.

It said in a statement, “ActionAid Nigeria totally condemns the hike in fuel prices. We are not out of COVID-19, a lot of citizens are losing their jobs, people are getting poorer, more responsibility with school closure, young people roaming the streets unemployed and fuel hike at this time is shocking.

“We are dealing with too many increases at the same time and this is introducing so much inflation into our lives. Governance is about the people. Instead of dealing with insecurity, we are taking actions that will further heighten insecurity.”

It added that as the inflation goes up and more people are plunged into poverty, there would be more conflict in the society.

The Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, however, backed the decision to hike electricity tariff and fuel price.

Abiodun, in an interview with State House correspondents after a meeting he had with the President on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said, “First, you want to enjoy lower prices when the prices of crude are low and then not want to pay for a slight increase when there is an increase in price of crude.

“The price of crude is directly proportional to the price of refined products. So, I believe that is what is happening at the moment.”

On electricity tariff, he said Nigerians must decide what they want.

“We all complain that we are not generating enough electricity and we all complain about the fact that we don’t have the right infrastructure to transmit electricity, we complain about the fact that the distribution companies do not seem to be efficient.

“The problem is because, perhaps, the pricing is not right. If you want people to invest in production of gas, in gas floatation, which our turbines and our power plants rely on, we must ensure that the entire value chain is profitable.”