Following the concurrent increment in the prices of premium motor spirit (PMS) and electricity tariff by the federal government, energy experts and stakeholders across board have taken opposing stance on the rationale behind the hike in prices.
Some energy experts who spoke with LEADERSHIP on the issue said the federal government has taken a bold step by ending the subsidy regime with a view to channeling state revenues to the appropriate areas in order to close the deficit in infrastructure. Nigeria is currently the seventh country with the cheapest cost of petrol in the world and the first in Africa.
The federal government had said it was removing subsidy on petroleum resources to fully deregulate the sector and mobilise funds for implementation of government infrastructure projects.
The government also said it approved the increase in electricity tariff to have a cost reflective tariff.
The aim, it said, is to end the government intervention in the electricity sector, even as it revealed that over the last few years, the government has spent about N1.7 trillion supplementing electricity tariff.
Those who criticised the increment said it is an anti-masses policy designed to further impoverish Ni-gerians who were barely surviving.
But some of the experts who spoke with our correspondents in support of the federal government said delaying the total deregulation of the sector or wasting scarce resources on unsustainable subsidy regime simply amounts to postponing the evil day.
Apex Northern sociocultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) averred that the increase in elec-tricity tariff and price of petroleum was justifiable but ill timed.
Its national publicity secretary, Emmanuel Yawe, made the remark in reaction to the avalanche of op-position to the ‘total’ removal of subsidies on fuel, resulting in over N10 increase in prices, at a time electricity tariff was being raised.
Yawe said, “All the federal government needs to do is to be more sensitive to the feelings of the peo-ple. The increase in prices of electricity and fuel was justifiable but ill timed.”
Also in a chat with LEADERSHIP in Port Harcourt, Convener of Unity House Foundation (UHF), a think-tank, Kingsley Wenenda Wali, said although the action of the federal government was hard, painful, and unpopular, it is necessary.
He said it remains a tragedy to understand that Nigeria was still importing finished petroleum prod-ucts.
“This government has taken a step only leaders can take,” he said, adding that it was a “very hard, painful, unpopular but necessary decision.”
Immediate past secretary-general of the ACF, Mr Anthony Sani, called on Nigerians to take the deregu-lation of the downstream sector in good faith, stating that the present hardship will be temporal.
But expressing divergent views, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum said the implication is that the gov-ernment is insensitive to the plight of the people.
President of the Forum, Shetima Yerima, noted that every responsible government subsidises one thing or the other for its citizenry.
He said, “I don’t know why Nigeria’s case is a reverse case, at the point where things are not right, at the time people are completely down in terms of means of livelihood coupled with this COVID-19 pan-demic when governments across the globe are looking for ways of making life easy for their people, Nigeria is tightening the noose on the neck of its citizens.”
In Lagos, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) described the increase in the prices of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and electricity as an attempt to push Nigerians to the wall.
They said the federal government was sitting on a time bomb.
Kicking against the move, the OPC in a statement by its publicity secretary, Yinka Oguntimehin, said the federal government had done the worst with such inhuman policy that is capable of destroying the trust of the people.
However, Yoruba Youth Socio-cultural Association noted that subsidy regime could never be sustaina-ble with the current economic reality.
The association’s national chairman, Comrade Olalekan Hammed, said the fact remains that the Nige-rian government was always insincere with policy implementation.
On its part, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) described as insensitive, the decision of the federal gov-ernment to remove subsidy on petroleum products.
PANDEF national publicity secretary, Ken Robinson, who disclosed this in a chat with LEADERSHIP in Port Harcourt yesterday, said the action which led to the latest increase in the pump price of fuel in the country will definitely adversely impact citizens’ livelihood.
He said, “PANDEF considers these actions of the federal government as insensitive; and are definitely going to adversely impact Citizens’ livelihood. If the subsidy regime is unsustainable as being touted by the government, then fix the nation’s refineries.”
Aliyu Buba Amshi, Yobe State coordinator for Initiative for social and Economic Inclusivity of Under-privileged Persons (ISEIVP) joined voices to lament fuel increase, saying it is a confirmation that the policies of the Buhari administration are founded on deceit and insincerity.
The sole administrator, Borno State Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (BOC-CIMA), Alhaji Ahmed Ashemi said subsidy regime had been terribly bedevilled by a lot of corrupt prac-tices and fraud.
Ashemi noted that since inception of subsidy regime, people have been claiming subsidy funds inter-vention for even products that have not been imported.
For publicity secretary, Middlebelt Forum, Dr Isuwa Dogo, the removal of subsidy means the price of fuel may increase by four times within three months.
“Now, the problem is that if there is any hike in the price of anything in the country, it goes up more than expected and it will never come down again,” he said.
Also, the spokesman of Middle Belt Youth Arise, Barr John Okpe, called for the immediate reversal of the prices of fuel and electricity to their former rates.
Okpe told our correspondent in Jos, Plateau State, that “the only solution to the federal government’s decision to remove fuel subsidy is the immediate restoration of the subsidy.”
He said that despite the abuse of fuel subsidy by some Nigerians, its implementation has brought some succour and relief to the ordinary citizens.