Outrage over proposed petrol price hike

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…Finance Minister faults Senate

…Says supplementary budget will cover N5,000 palliative

…Buhari insensitive to Nigerians’ plights, NLC should bury its head in shame — Former PDP S/W Publicity Secretary

Uthman Salami, Abimbola Abatta, Joel Oladele, Alao Matthew

Outrage has trailed the recent announcement by the federal government that Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) could sell as high as N320 and N340 from February 2022.

Earlier, the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Malam Mele Kyari, had disclosed that the petrol price would increase consequent on the Federal Government’s plan to remove subsidy.

This is just as the Finance Ministry and the Senate  locked horns following the proposed supplementary budget to provide N5,000 transport allowance to 40 million poor Nigerians.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, had on Tuesday disclosed that the Federal Government’s is set to disburse N5000 to 40 million poorest Nigerians as transport grants to mitigate the impact of the planned removal of fuel subsidy.

However, the Senator representing Lagos West and Chairman Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Solomon Adeola Olamilekan, had on Wednesday dismissed the Finance Minister’s announcement, noting that the Senate was not aware of such provision in the 2022 budget.

Supplementary budget will cover N5000 palliative — Finance Ministry

While reacting to the Senate stance over the non-inclusion of the stipend in the 2022 Appropriation budget, the acting Director of Information, Ministry of Finance, Budget and  National Development, Mr Oshundun Olajide outrightly disagreed, noting that budget is a continuous process.

Speaking with our correspondent through a phone chat, Mr. Olajide said even though the transportation pittance was not included in the 2022 fiscal budget, it would be added in a supplementary budget of 2022

Mr Olajide said, “Budget is a continuous thing. We can spend money that is not budgeted. Even if it is not in the current budget, when the time comes, a new presentation will be made, which we call supplementary.

“There can be a supplementary budget. The moment it is discussed and approved, there can be a supplementary budget. The national assembly will automatically add it. When it has been discussed at the FEC level, it becomes a policy of government. Even if it is not in the budget for now, the moment the policy is accepted, adopted and sent to the national assembly, supplementary budget follows.

“Supplementary budget will also tell the National Assembly the sources of funding where the money will come from.”

On the measures to be taken to prevent government officials from cornering the proposed monetary palliatives, he said, “It is not the ministry of finance that disciplines erring public officers.

“If there are proofs that government officials embezzle money or misappropriate fund, we have the EFCC and ICPC that people can go to and make reports anonymously or otherwise. And they will do the needful. So, it is not the responsibility of the ministry of finance to investigate  or take anybody to court. It is not our duty or responsibility,” he added.

Buhari insensitive to Nigerians’ plights, NLC should bury its head in shame – Former PDP S/W Publicity Secretary

On his part, the immediate past zonal Publicity Secretary, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), South West, Ayo Fadaka, expressed displeasure at the proposed fuel subsidy removal, noting that the federal government is insensitive to the plights of Nigerians.

Maintaining that the present government is a government of the oppressors who drive people into abject penury, Fadaka said it is high time Nigerians reacted to their oppressors.

He also slammed the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), saying, “Gone are those days when we had active labour movements in Nigeria. The caricature that seems to represent the labour movement should bury its head in shame for standing arms akimbo and watch this come on Nigerians.”

His words, “The Buhari administration is funny. Funny in the sense that it is planning to remove the fuel subsidy that they once told us had been totally removed some few years back and again planning to begin to bribe Nigerians. It is sad that the government does not seem to realise that it continues to put Nigerians through very harsh and hard times.

“Today, Nigerians have been driven into abject poverty, Nigerians can no longer feed effectively, Nigerians are hungry. Instead of government to be thinking of how to ameliorate this situation, the only route it has chosen to travel on is the route of adding to the perilous burden that it has put on Nigerians.

“I think it is time that Nigerians  must begin to think about how to react. Silently, they have borne this pain, silently they have carried this burden and silently, they are watching. The traditional bastions of opposition have either betrayed the people, or have totally abandoned the people.

“I will waste no time to call on civil society organisations to rise to the defense of people. It is time that every Nigerian must either belong to a civil society organisation or form one because the government we have today is the government of the oppressors that drive people into abject penury.

“The student union movement that should be against this kind of thing does not seem to get itself any longer. The student union movement today only prides itself on the verbal of ‘gbosas’ it can shout and no longer conscious of the responsibilities. It has to a society it is hoping to inherit.

“There must be a reorientation and students union leaders today, rather than for many of them to sit down in school and read, you see a lot of plate number NANS on luxurious cars plying our roads up and down. You now begin to imagine what class of student union officers Nigerian Students have today?

“So, I call on Nigerian Students to begin to rediscover themselves and put proper Students in charge of their many unions and begin to work in the interest of their future that is persistently been mortgaged.”

Earlier, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had kicked against the proposed increase in petrol price, noting that “this will open a wide door to unintended social consequences such as degeneration of the current insecurity crises and possibly citizens’ revolt.”

NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who described the removal of fuel subsidy as a “penny wise-pound foolish gamble,” called on the FG to make arrangement with contiguous refineries not far from Nigeria to swap crude oil with refined petroleum products.

Wabba also tasked the FG to accelerate work on the rehabilitation of Nigeria’s four major refineries and establish empirical data on the quantity of refined petroleum products consumed daily by Nigerians.

He had declared that “the contemplation by government to increase the price of petrol by more than 200% is a perfect recipe for an aggravated pile of hyper-inflation and astronomical increase in the price of goods and services.

“This will open a wide door to unintended social consequences such as degeneration of the current insecurity crises and possibly citizens’ revolt.

“Finally, we wish to warn that the bait by government to pay 40 million Nigerians N5,000 as palliative to cushion the effect of astronomical increase in the price of petrol is comical, to say the least.

“It is clear that the palliative offered by government will not cure the cancer that will befall the mass of our people who suffer the double jeopardy of hype-inflation while their salaries remain fixed.”

Nigerians react

While reacting to the proposed fuel hike, a Civil Engineer, Mr Tayo Odebiyi, urged the government to rethink its decision, noting that all fingers are not equal.

Odebiyi said, “This is annoying. We are still battling with the price of gas, and the government has neither made any positive changes nor adhered to our cries. Who knows what the price will be next year? We don’t even understand why everything should be so hard on Nigerians.

“This is a yardstick for inflation because most of products need petroleum, especially in the transportation of goods. How can you be in an economy where the prices of goods are not stable?

“The government should think of the poor when making their decisions. All fingers are not equal. So, I will implore the government to think before making decisions.”

A businessman who identified himself as Kazeem Otugade, said the federal government should focus on how to build functioning refineries.

According to Otugade, “This administration is bad. The government’s ways of making decisions can be funny at times. A few weeks ago, it was announced that inflation dropped which still does not have an effect on gasoline and other liquid product. Now, subsidy will be removed from  PMS too.

“Nigerians are humans too. How can you wake up and tell a poor individual who couldn’t afford daily meal that things will get worse tomorrow? Nigeria is a blessed nation where we have surplus of all this.

“If it is the cost of refining, the government should stop exporting our natural liquid product out of the country and focus on how we can build our own refinery or make the ones on ground active. This is what our government can do to ease the pains of the citizens.

“We thought this is the era of change, but things keep getting worse. Make our refinery work back. At least two will make a positive change. This will ease the price of Liquid Natural Gas (LPG ), Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and other liquid products of exploration.”