Kyari, fuel price and the Nigerian life

It was lamentation galore for the NNPC Group Managing Director, Mele Kyari, when he spoke last Thursday at the weekly presidential ministerial media briefing alongside Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva.

The NNPC boss had moaned that his organization was bearing between N100billion and N120 billion monthly on underwriting the difference between the international market price at which the corporation imports PMS and the pump price of N162 per litre. He added that given the current market situation, a litre of PMS ought to be sold for between N211 and N234.

Kyari had also said, “As we speak today, the difference is being carried in the books of the NNPC and I can confirm to you that the NNPC may no longer be in the position to carry that burden because we can no longer afford to carry it in our books.”

Though Mallam Mele Kyari tried to present NNPC as a victim of the Nigerian circumstances, I refuse to buy that proposition. Rather, I see him as being complicit in the elite’s conspiracy against Nigeria and Nigerians. I explain this presently.

The Federal Government walked into the current subsidy brouhaha with its eyes wide open. The problem is an avoidable situation which the myopic approach to governance in the country made inevitable.

In 2016, the Federal Government had said it would discontinue payment of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), known as petrol. While announcing this decision, then Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, had said: “In order to increase and stabilise the supply of the product, any Nigerian entity is now free to import the product, subject to existing quality specifications and other guidelines issued by regulatory agencies.”

He had added that “Pursuant to this, PPPRA has informed me that it will be announcing a new price band effective today, 11th May, 2016 and that the new price for PMS will not be above N145 per litre.

“We expect that this new policy will lead to improved supply and competition and eventually drive down pump prices, as we have experienced with diesel. In addition, this will also lead to increased product availability and encourage investments in refineries and other parts of the downstream sector. It will also prevent diversion of petroleum products and set a stable environment for the downstream sector in Nigeria.”

That should have provided the government the opportunity to completely hands off the issue of fixing fuel prices, and leave that to market forces. But the government failed to achieve that major milestone; it lost the opportunity to completely inter the demon of subsidy when it allowed petrol to still be sold at N145 per liter despite the fall of the prices of crude oil in the world market and the crash of dollar exchange rate from N520/dollar to N305 at that time.

The government lacks both the confidence and courage to pass the full weight of high crude oil price to Nigerians because it failed to avail Nigerians of the benefit of low crude oil prices. It also failed to justify the removal of the subsidy which it embarked upon in 2016 as there is nothing to show for the exercise. The government had promised to deploy the savings from the exercise to improving infrastructure and life in the country generally. But it is so difficult for the government to point to anything it did with the savings it said would accrue from the subsidy removal. So, it is a double loss for Nigerians who have had to pay more for PMS over a period of time and still do not have what is supposed to be the fruit of the sacrifice.

When leaders are inconsistent, rather than solve problems, they compound same. By refusing to abide by its own laws and failing to allow Nigerians benefit from low oil prices, the government has lost the moral right to pass on the effect of current high prices of crude oil to the populace. Although the government can bully the people and force its way on the people by creating artificial scarcity which would leave the people with no other choice than to buy PMS at higher prices, it is a strategy that can only pitch the people against the government.

The PMS price hike announced by the PPPRA early in the month, which was later reversed, and the whining by the NNPC GMD are mere tactics to prep Nigerians for the imminence of fuel price hike. The price increase coming at a time when there are more poor people in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world, when inflation has eroded the value of the Nigerian currency and the worth of the average Nigerian, is indicative of what the government thinks of the governed in this country. The government’s thought about Nigerian citizens is progressively destructive. This is why what most Nigerians have to show for their citizenship is hunger, diseases, poverty and death. What a life!

When leaders are uncaring, life becomes unworthy!

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