Government: No Fuel Price Hike

 Government: No Fuel Price Hike

Kachikwu, Baru: nothing like that
The Federal Government has no plan to increase fuel price, despite the dwindling fortune of the naira, two officials said yesterday.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Ibe Kachikwu and Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Maikanti Baru doused the tension building up following the suggestion by former NNPC Group Managing Directors (GMDs) at the weekend.
Baru and the ex- NNPC GMDs, after what was tagged a strategic meeting on sustenance of availability of fuel amid the forex crisis, said the N145 petrol pump price cap would have to be lifted to avoid acute scarcity.
The group noted that allowing the pump price to remain at that peg might lead to a crisis, including a resurgence of huge subsidy which could cripple the economy further.
Kachikwu and Baru spoke separately with reporters at the State House after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
Baru, who was the first to come out of the meeting, said “there is nothing like that”.
Kachikwu, who came out 15 minutes later directed reporters to speak with Baru and when told that Baru had declined comments said there was no memo before the Federal Government asking for a review of the price.
Last month, oil marketers pushed for the liftig of the N145 petrol price cap because of the scarcity of foreign exchange to finance import.
The Federal Government on May 11 began the liberalisation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry when petrol price increased from N86 and N86.5 per litre to a N145 cap. Importation of products was liberalised. The policy effectively ended the long queues. Some marketers sell the product below N140 per litre.
The chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, also yesterday took a swipe at Baru and his predecessors over their call for further increase in the pump price of petroleum products.
Senator Abdullahi (Niger North) cautioned the Federal Government against heeding the call, especially when Nigerians are groaning under severe economic hardship.
He described the oil chiefs as “enemies of Nigerians and the government”.
The lawmaker, who said that he was speaking in his personal capacity, noted that it was obvious that the ex- NNPC GMDs contributed to bringing the country where it is today.
“The NNPC as an institution was expected to be the life wire of this nation. As we have all known, refineries that we have in Nigeria have not been functional because if they had been functional and if that institution had been up and doing in tandem with its peers in other countries that have similar resource endowment like ours under the directorship of these former GMDs, we wouldn’t have been in this mess.
“All the problems we are having is as result of what all these people who have assembled now to be the wise men and to tell us what should be done…
They do not have the moral standpoint to even advise us on what to do because they had a hand in it. I cannot see how you can solve a problem under the same condition that created it. They are more or less acting as enemies of the people and even the government they are advising.
“As far as I am concerned, maybe they were sent to destroy this government and as far as I am concerned we would not allow them to do that”
Abdullahi noted that President Muhammadu Buhari and his economic team were doing their best to turn things around for better.
He insisted that if supported by Nigerians, the government would succeed to turn things around for the good of the country.
But the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) said it will resist any attempt by the government to increase the petrol price, adding that the NNPC management is not fit to manage the oil sector.
In a statement signed by its National President, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama and Acting General Secretary Simeso Amachree, the congress said the statement by ex-NNPC chiefs calling for an increase in the price of petrol from N145 was an act of provocation of Nigerian workers.
The TUC said it was sad the call came when the Federal Government is yet to fulfil its promises and agreement reached with organised labour during the protest against the last hike in May.
It said: “In case the management of the NNPC has forgotten, the economy is in crisis and life has become very difficult for the common man who now can hardly afford two meals per day. The present minimum wage can longer purchase a bag of rice.
“Businesses are shutting down, leading to millions of job losses, which of course have accentuated increased cases of crime and other vices. If all the members of the NNPC team can offer as recipe to curtail this scourge of economic downturn is to hike the price of petroleum products, then they are not fit to manage the sector and should throw in the towel.
“If the country had other sources of forex or produces most of what it imports, the economy would not be what it is now. What stops the government from building more refineries and diversifying the economy?
“The Federal Government should maintain some stability of forex, taking into cognisance the fact that Nigeria is an import-dependent country. The implication of refining outside the country is enormous: if you are refining outside you must pay for cost of transportation, insurance and port charges etc. We just cannot continue to tow the same line.
“The economy is already on its knees, and it is our thinking that the priority of government now should be how to salvage the situation through other creative and resourceful avenues, such as: downwardly reviewing the cost of governance, creating friendly business environment and jobs, diversifying the economy, setting up an economic team that would creatively fashion out modalities to navigate the stormy waters of recession.
“If persons in government feel our pains as it claims to do, then the news that people are already exchanging their children for bags of rice should prick their conscience.
”The Congress will resist further hike in the price of petrol if that is what it will take to get the government into thinking out of the box. We do hope it doesn’t get to that.
“We urge the government to fulfil its promises for which it set up the joint Governemnt-Labour Committee to determine a new more economically realistic national minimum wage and proffer ways by which pains of the last increment can be ameliorated.”


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