As Nigerians protest against the recent hike in the pump price of petrol from between N158 and N162 per litre to N168 and N170, per litre, the minister of state for petroleum resources, Mr. Timipre Sylva has said that diesel and kerosene are even more important to the ordinary citizens than petrol, which, according to him is mostly used by the elite.
The minister stated this while addressing journalist after his routine briefing of President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.
He said Nigerians will get used to high fuel price as they have become used to the cost of kerosene and diesel.
He explained that trucks that move food produce from one part of the country to another use diesel while kerosene also used by most of the Nigerian masses has since been deregulated.
“Look at it, a situation where diesel has been deregulated long ago, a situation where kerosene has been deregulated long ago, and these are the fuels the poorest people in Nigeria interact with more. Why do I say that?
“If you want to transport food from the north to the south, it will be by trucks that are run by diesel, not with petrol. Those trucks that transport food from the north to the south are usually run by diesel.
“Kerosene is the preferred fuel at the lowest level of our society. These have been deregulated long ago. So, what is the problem with deregulating petrol, which is mostly used by the elite?
“Let us be fair to this country, let us be fair to the poor people in this country.
“If we have deregulated what they were using, then there is actually no reason why we should continue to subsidise petrol. I feel so. That’s my personal feeling,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said the increase in petrol price has worsened the level of anguish in the country.
It noted that the increase in the pump price of petrol was “against the spirit and content” of what organised labour agreed with government at the last negotiations over the last fuel price increase.
The NLC president, Mr. Ayuba Wabba who stated this in a statement entitled ‘The NLC condemns and rejects the recent increase in the price of petrol,’ said the hike has “cast in very bad light our utmost good faith with regards to government explanations that it lacks funds to continue bankrolling the so-called subsidy payments as such would sooner than later cripple the entire economy, throw the country into severe economic crisis and cause loss of jobs in millions.”
He said “Nigerians cannot be made to bleed endlessly for the failures of successive government to properly manage our refineries, ensure value for money for the numerous turn around maintenance (TAM), which were poorly and barely executed.”
The organisation also asked the government to account for the several TAM of the refineries it had undertaken.
He said there is a “horrifying lack of interest in prosecuting public officials and private business people who have profited from the rot in our petroleum sector and the collective misery they have imposed on the general population.
Ayuba added: “We need to see big-time petroleum smugglers arraigned in the court of law and made to pay for their crimes against the Nigerian people. Government has the resources available to it to ensure this economic justice to Nigerians.
“The question in the minds of many Nigerians is whether the government is willing to go against major financiers of the major political parties known to the public as the architects of the current national woe.”
“The truth is that we would not have been in this precarious situation if the government had been alive to its responsibilities.
“The question in the minds of many Nigerians is if the government is willing to go headlong against major financiers of the major political parties known to the public as the architects of the current national woe.
“Organised Labour will not accept a fait accompli of the monopoly of Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector or the emergence of a cartel of oligarchs whose end game is mass pauperisation.”
Wabba announced that organised labour will be receiving updates from its affiliates in the petroleum industry adding that such information would determine its next action.
“In line with our recent agreement with the government, we will be receiving updates in the next few days from our unions in the petroleum sector which have been given the mandate to keep surveillance on government promise to overhaul our public refineries.
“We will also receive updates from our representatives in the electricity review committee. The updates we receive will determine whether the government has kept to its side of the bargain which is to take serious steps to recover and reposition our public refineries.
“The outcome of this engagement will determine our response in the coming days. But while we are at that, we condemn the recent price increase and we call for its reversal with immediate effect,” he said.