Speculations are rife regarding a possible increase in the pump price of petroleum products, especially Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol. This became heightened after the meeting of former Group Managing Directors (GMDs) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). One of the outcomes of that meeting was that they criticised the capping of price of fuel at N145. Re-echoing that position, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) warned of a threat to product availability in the country if the cap was not lifted. The association is angling for a total deregulation and insisted that price moderation is not healthy for the petroleum industry. To them, price of petrol was driven by economic variables which cannot be altered for a long time due to foreign exchange challenges. Market force, they persist in their argument, should drive price regardless of the attendant social dislocations.
The Senate, reacting to the speculation, warned that increasing fuel pump price beyond N145 will translate to more hardship on Nigerians. That legislative arm urged the Federal Government to ignore the recommendation and called to question the moral standpoint on which the former GMDs of NNPC are advising considering the role they played in the management or even mismanagement of the oil industry that crippled not just the refineries but also aided the misapplication of the revenue that accrued from the petroleum resources.
We hope that President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration are not listening to these suggestions to increase the pump price of fuel soon after an earlier one in June. The ripple effects of that increase have not quite settled as consumers are struggling to cope with their inflationary spirals. These include the increase in prices of almost all consumables across all sectors of the economy.
Perhaps, it is pertinent at this point to let the apostles of price increase know that with the comatose state of the nation’s rail system, virtually all other means of transportation are dependent on petroleum products. Regrettably, the airlines are dropping out of air space due to high operating costs and low patronage instigated by the seemingly unbearable cost of aviation fuel.
In our opinion, any suggestion towards an increase of fuel price smacks of insensitivity giving the harrowing pains Nigerians are going through now in the face of the down turn in the economy the authorities have acknowledged to be in recession. Only those with sadistic propensities will contemplate an addition to the burden Nigerians bear as they strive to eke out a living in the present circumstances.
From the time a minister of Petroleum argued that the price of a litre of petrol was cheaper than the price of a bottle of Coca-Cola till date, it has been proved that unit price of fuel is not the only problem of the industry. The corruption in the system perpetrated by these former GMDs of NNPC now turned advisers while in office is one reason Nigerians have not been able to enjoy the benefits of their God- given resource. We recall that one of these so called GMDs insulted the decency of Nigerians when he incurred N250 million in one month as hotel bill and called it chicken feed. Or for that matter, a former minister of petroleum ordering a plane load of flowers from Europe at the expense of the ministry just to satisfy her weird taste. It is such rascality that is hurting the industry certainly not the pump price of fuel. These same GMDs while in office spent billions of dollars in Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the refineries just as they told the rest of us that it was cheaper to import than to refine fuel locally. In that pretext, 450, 000 barrels of crude were misappropriated daily by these self-styled advisers in the guise of refining them abroad to meet local consumption.
We just hope that President Buhari is not listening to these enemies of progress. Instead of adding to their hardship which an increase in pump price of fuel will bring about, what Nigerians require now are palliatives to assuage their sufferings.