Anger, frustration, and despondency were the situation yesterday, as Nigerians woke up to yet another steep increase in the price of Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise known as petrol.
From Lagos, Ogun, and Edo in the South West and South-South to Niger, Borno and Zamfara in the north, it was all tales of woe by motorists and commuters.
While the price in Lagos shot up from N488 per litre at petrol stations owned by Nigeria National Petroleum Company, Limited, NNPL, to N568, it rose as high as N617 per litre in Abuja and another northern state from N540.
The Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPCL, Mele Kyari, blamed market forces for the increase, while the Borno State chapter of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, expressed concern over the latest increment.
It noted that the living standards of the people would nosedive, especially with the government not providing the necessary palliatives to cushion the effects of subsidy removal.
While the Nigeria Employers Consultation Association, NECA, in its immediate reaction said local refining of crude oil remained the only way out for Nigeria, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, contended that the latest increase in the price of petrol would further impoverish the people.
Checks by Vanguard yesterday indicated that each operator is allowed to change price, based on its cost elements, under the present deregulation.
It also showed that the dwindling value of the naira has put pressure on fuel importers, including NNPC Limited, as well as major and independent marketers.
The National Operations Controller of IPMAN, Mike Osatuyi, said: “It is not about the NNPC Limited, it is about the market fundamentals. Every marketer stands alone with its different cost elements.
‘’The low value of the naira is currently impacting the market., it is now more than N800 to a dollar. This is why the market is responding this way. It has to spread because as operators, our price depends on our cost.
“Even though some importers have been able to import the product, it cannot be cheap because it is based on the current market fundamentals, especially foreign exchange. The public should also know that importers source their foreign exchange from the banks at the current rate.’’
Students, commuters express frustration as fuel prices soar
Meanwhile, as marketers were adjusting their pumps to reflect the new price, students and commuters in Lagos expressed their grievances over yet another increase, as transport fares soared astronomically yesterday.
A student of Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo,said the transportation fare from her hostel to the school spiked from N100 to N200.
“Our exams are next week, and I wonder how the government expects us to cope. LASU does not have enough hostels, so most of us have to stay off-campus, which means we have to bear the burden of paying N400 for transportation to and fro.”
Similarly, tricycle taxi drivers, commonly known as “Keke” drivers, also shared their challenges due to the fuel price hike.
One of the riders lamented that the surge in fuel costs has forced many of his colleagues to park their vehicles.
He said, “Those of us who want to work can’t leave the bus stop unless our vehicles are filled with passengers. Before, we could still operate with fewer passengers, but not anymore.
‘’ Moreover, as we are grappling with the fuel price increase today, there are already talks about an imminent increase in the levies imposed on us.”
Besides, some commuters were seen heading back home early yesterday morning as the transportation costs exceeded their budget.
One of them voiced their frustration, saying “everything in the country is currently on the high side, but salaries remain stagnant.”
Long queues resurface in Ondo
The situation was not different in Ondo State, as long queues resurfaced in petrol stations across Akure and other towns in the state.
Many petrol stations that dispensed the product as of Monday evening, hurriedly shut their gates to motorists.
Filling stations across the state sold the product for between N650 and N700 per litre, as
motorists in Akure metropolis said the new increase was uncalled for and wicked.
Speaking with Vanguard, some of the motorists expressed worries over the unending hardship the present administration was inflicting on the masses.
A motorist, Sanni Akande, said there seemed no difference between the last administration and the new one.
“We thought things would get better after the horrible experience Nigerians went through under Muhammadu Buhari.
“But what has been happening since President Bola Tinubu took over has been devastating. It’s like he came to inflict more hardship on Nigerians.’’
He appealed to the government to consider the plight of the masses.
Fuel situation in Niger State
A similar situation played in Niger and other states in the North, as commuters resorted to trekking to their destinations.
Most of the filling stations which were hitherto dispensing fuel till early yesterday morning in Minna and other towns in the state morning shut their gates to all motorists.
At the NNPC Mega Station along bypass, Minna the state capital, the new price of N617 was been conspicuously displayed and the product sold at the new price.
Other few filling stations which dispensed the product at press time include Matrix at Kpakungu which sold for N617, Oando at City Gate Roundabout which also sold for N617 and Ashafa which sold the product for N620.
The spillover of the new price affected public transportation, with Okada and Keke NAPEP (Marwa) increasing their fares beyond the affordability of the average commuter..
The sudden change is now the subject of discussion in all parts of the state capital, Minna, with all condemning it as it has further made life unbearable for most Nigerians.
Market forces driving up petrol prices, NNPCL CEO, Kyari
Reacting to the price increase yesterday, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari, blamed market forces for the hike.
Fielding questions from State House correspondents after having what he described as a public meeting with the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on the sudden increase of petroleum pump price, the NNPCL boss said: “I don’t have the details this moment. We have the marketing wing of our company. They adjust prices, depending on the market realities.
‘’This is really what is happening; this is the meaning of making sure the market regulates itself so that prices will go up and sometimes come down also. This is what we have seen and in reality, this is what the market works. “
Asked if the market forces he was talking about meant that the supply at the moment was not enough, he said: “There is no supply issue. When you go to the market, you buy the product; you come to the market you sell it at the prevailing market prices. Nothing to do with supply.
‘’We don’t have supply issues. There is a robust supply. We have over 32 days of supply in the country.”
On the assurances to Nigerians that the situation was being addressed, Kyari said: “Yes, what I know is that the market forces will regulate the market. Prices will go down sometimes; sometimes it will go up.
“But there will be stability of supply and I’m also assuring Nigerians that this is the best way to go forward, so we can adjust prices when market forces come to play.
“I don’t have the details at this moment, but I know that our marketing wing acts just like every other company in this business. I know that a number of companies have imported petroleum products today. So, many of them are on line.
“I’m sure my colleague would confirm this. Market forces have started to play; people have started having confidence in the market. Private sector people are importing products, but there is no way they can recover their cost if they cannot take market reflective cost.”
On his part, the Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Farouk Ahmed, said the price increase stemmed from rising crude prices. c
He cited changes in freight prices alongside other ancillary costs importers incur during distribution.
Ahmed said: “So, when you say market forces are working, basically, what it is that you buy; you consider the price of crude going up.
“A couple of weeks ago, the price of crude was hovering around $70/barrel. Now it’s hovering around $80/barrel. So, the crude price also drives the product price.
‘’You know, because the importers are importing, they are basing it on the cost of importation plus the freight and other cost elements in terms of local distribution.
c “As a regulator, I told you back in May that we are not going to be setting prices. The market will determine itself and as you saw back in early June when prices came out, it was based on the cost of importation plus other logistics of distribution and, of course, the profit margin by the importer.
“This market is deregulated; it is open to all participants. As I mentioned also yesterday when I was in Lagos, we have about 56 marketing companies that applied and obtained licenses to import.
“Out of those, 10 of them have indicated to supply within the third quarter, which is July, August, September. Already, we received some cargoes from these markers: Prudent Energy, AYM Shafa and Emadeb.
“Emadeb Cargo is arriving tomorrow (today), so this is just an encouragement to see that the market is liberated and everyone is free to import, so long as you are working within the framework, especially in terms of quality.
“But to pricing, as a regulator, we are not going to put a cap on the price because we are not part of those importing. We are not a marketing company; we are just a regulator.”
IPMAN expresses concern over fresh increment in PMS pump price
But the chairman of the Borno State chapter of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Alhaji Mohammed Kuluwu, expressed concern over the latest price increase.
He opined that, with this latest increase, Nigerians’ well-being and standard of living were being threatened by the government which had failed to provide the needed palliatives before removing the fuel subsidy
He also described the planned Federal Government’s N8,000 palliative to cushion the effect of the removal of fuel subsidy on 12 million Nigerian households as a failed policy.
Kuluwu said: “The jerk up of the price of PMS is ill-timed and anti-democratic, as Nigerians have not been finding it easy to cope with the economy after President Bola Ahmed Tinubu earlier in May this year announced the removal of fuel subsidy which shot the price of fuel increase from N187 per litre to about N500.
“Instead of the federal government waking up from its slumber and addressing the continual devaluation of the naira against the US Dollar, which now stands at over N800/$1, it is busy increasing the pump price of PMS. Unless our naira appreciates against the dollar, PMS prices will continue to rise.
“This is because, the dwindling value of the naira has put pressures on fuel importers, including the NNPC Limited, as well as major and independent marketers, forcing them to jerk up prices of the product in order to sustain their businesses.
“Although many importers have been able to import the product, it can never be cheap because it is based on current market prices, especially foreign exchange.’’
NLC rejects new pump price, says it’s provocative
Reacting to the development, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, rejected the new price regime, describing it as provocative and designed to worsen the poverty level and hardship Nigerians were going through.
NLC in a statement by the President, Joe Ajaero, said: “We woke up this morning (yesterday) to the news that NNPCL has increased the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, from the hitherto draconian N500/litre to N617, despite the suffering and hardship Nigerians have had to go through as a result of the original hike on May 29, 2023, as part of President Bola Tinubu’s inaugural gift to Nigerians.
‘’An 18 per cent increase in the price of PMS at this time of great difficulties for our people is sadistic and totally unacceptable. horrendous and smacks off a triumphalism by this government against the masses of this country. It looks like a feeling by those in government that the people have become a conquered people that they can treat anyhow without repercussions and this demonstrates why it has taken pleasure in inflicting more and more pain and sorrow on the people.
“We strongly condemn this latest unilateral increase and warn the government to desist from trying the patience of Nigerians. What the government has done is capable of pushing Nigerian people to the edge of the precipice and triggering a raging fire that may overwhelm whatsoever mechanisms the government thinks it has put in place as safeguards.
“It seriously looks like the government is consciously pushing the nation to the brink by this deliberate fanning of the embers of restiveness among the populace. There is no other way to understand what is going on but to assume that the drivers of this hike may be intentionally trying to set our nation on fire by courting or pushing the people to take to the streets in anger.
“If that is their intention, we are afraid that they are almost there and we are worried that this may endanger democracy and put our nation in peril. It is our responsibility to raise the alarm over what those who occupy the levers of power are doing to Nigerians and what the consequences may be.
“NLC is amazed that a government that pledged to allow the dictates of social dialogue to guide its actions and policies will turn around to undermine the same principles of social dialogue which demands that when conversations are undertaken over an issue, the parties stay the action and allow the status quo to be maintained. This is to allow for the process to run smoothly and unhindered.
“We, therefore, do not understand why the government that has initiated a social dialogue around the petroleum product price hike will turn around in the midst of the conversation to increase the price of the same product without recourse to the process already set in motion.
‘’We perceive that the government may not trust or has lost confidence in its intentions for setting up the Presidential Steering Committee and its five sub-committees. You cannot probate and approbate at the same time.
‘’It is either government makes up its mind and allows its own very process that it initiated work conclusively to its logical end or comes out clean and tells Nigerians that it never believed in the process.
“Once again, the action of the government is forcing us to constructively review our engagement with it on this vexatious, so-called petroleum subsidy withdrawal. We urge the government to quickly take steps to salvage the lives of Nigerians that are currently nudging towards the periphery of existence. ‘’The first step must be to return to the old price of N540, so that the people can breathe, then take further steps to allow the steering committee it set up to come up with frameworks and workable solutions to resolving the issues around the price hike.
‘’We shall as soon as possible work in concert with our sister labour centre and other civil society organisations to seek ways to assist government return to sane dialogue and reasonable actions for workers and people of Nigeria.
‘’Our organs would be called soon to deliberate on this one hike too many, so that necessary actions would be taken to defend the rights and privileges of Nigerian workers and masses.”
Local refining is way out — NECA
On its part, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, asked the Federal Government to concentrate efforts on local refining to address the increasing cost of imported refined petroleum products in the country.
Speaking at its 66th Annual General Meeting, AGM, in Lagos, the President of NECA, Mr Taiwo Adeniyi, urged the government to immediately review the current status of the four national refineries and establish modalities for privatization.
He said: “We aligned with the recent removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, PMS. The Association believes that subsidy is riddled with untold corrupt practices and has become cancerous to the economy.
‘’We hope that the removal of the subsidy would entrench competition in the marketing of PMS and facilitate stability in the pricing of PMS in the medium to long run.
“In this difficult situation, we note with concern the Federal Government’s proposed palliative loan to the tune of US$800 million. We are wary of the set of measures and actions government intends to take for the palliative implementation, with the aim of cushioning the impact of subsidy removal on Nigerians. “The last fuel subsidy removal palliative was implemented in Nigeria in 2012 when the government then announced a palliative of N161 billion.
The government had proposed palliatives such as a cash transfer programme, reduction of tax rates, mass transit buses and the creation of more jobs.
“However, the implementation was ineffective as it was marred by corruption and mismanagement.
Many Nigerians did not benefit from the palliative. Government should design and implement the current palliative to be representative of all vulnerable Nigerians across states of the federation and actually assuage the vagaries of the effect of the current high price of fuel in the country.’’