…Says govt colluding with IMF, marketers to punish Nigerians
Oscarline Onwuemenyi 12 February 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has blamed the convoluted management of the oil subsidy regime, including for petrol and kerosene, as reasons Nigerians are suffering, and not the subsidy itself.
Mr. Ayuba Wabba
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, who spoke in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja, denounced the politics around petroleum subsidy as monumental corruption that was put together by government officials.
He said, “Frankly speaking, I doubt whether there is still an existing subsidy with the current market price of crude oil, because the price nosedived, as such, our conclusion is that we’re not sure that what they did was even removal of subsidy.
“What they did was outright price adjustment because the template which they displayed on their website after 24 hours that template was actually withdrawn. The template would have allowed us to be able to interrogate what parameters were used to do the price adjustment.”
He added, however, that “the truth is that with the current global price of crude oil, we should even be paying lower than what they have come up with at the moment. So, it’s clear that it is just a price increase and what we have kept on saying is that there is still a lot of element of corruption in the system even in Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC) itself.
“So what we’re calling subsidy in Nigeria, is actually corruption and why I say so is because if you look at the current price, Nigerians are suppose to pay less but what they did instead is that we’re now paying more due to corrupt practices. They have transferred the burden now to the larger Nigerian citizens.”
According to the NLC boss, “So I can say clearly that I’m not sure with the current fall in global oil price, Nigerians are supposed to pay lower. In many countries, people are paying lower, what they are trying to call subsidy now is because of the fact that one we’re basing our argument on importation.
“This importation will be in dollars and they have already devalued our currency. So it’s just this element of corruption that they are transferring to all of us and therefore one of the processes of adjusting the price of kerosene is not transparently done because there is no template.
“If you go to their website now, you will find out that there is no template, so what basis have they used that we can actually interrogate to see whether there is even any subsidy or not. The one they did for Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS), where they removed 50 kobo, if you look at the template carefully it’s one of the components that they removed and that is what they call removal of subsidy.”
Wabba therefore contended that what the Federal Government did with the removal of subsidy for kerosene “is like testing the waters.”
He said, “I believe the price increase is in agreement with the prescription of the International Monetary Fund which favours price modulation system. So, I won’t be surprised that once the price of product goes beyond $46 to the barrel, we are sure that what they would do is to adjust the price and transfer the burden to Nigerians. What we’re therefore saying is that instead of transferring this component of corruption to Nigerians why not make the process transparent?
“I believe that if there is a transparent process in place, Nigerians should be paying less under the current dispensation. There is continuous funding of crude oil import in many parts of the world. But because of inherent corruption in the system, which we discovered in the aftermath of the 2012 subsidy scam, clearly we now know that both the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, the PPMC and some oil marketers cannot isolate themselves from the mess we’re in right now. So those are issues that I think should form public opinion in responding to this issue.”
He added that, “What they want to do now is that without even sanitising the system, they want to put this entire component and add it up such that consumers will continue to pay more. For me, I think that is a bitter-pill they want Nigerians to continue to swallow. But I believe the most decent thing to do is to ensure that they system is cleaned up. All we’re saying is that let us know what is the landing cost of a litre of petroleum and then we can begin to work and see how best this challenge can also be addressed.”
Wabba decried the recent price hike of kerosene as already a fait accompli, noting that organised labour is still studying the situation and would come up with a strategy to challenge the authorities on the issue.
“Our response today clearly is the fact that we don’t believe that the issue of subsidy on kerosene still exists with the current pricing. Having said that, we believe with the current price of oil globally, Nigerians are supposed to pay less. What they merely did was to adjust price upwards without any template, if there is template let them make it available so that Nigerians can be able to see.
“Therefore, our response is that Nigerians and all of us have agreed that we’re going on intensive mobilisation to sensitise Nigerians on this ill policy, which the government is trying to use as bait. We believe this is obviously trying to shift the goal post of transparently operating the system,” he said.
Wabba explained that the “economics of fuel importation as we have now is to satisfy the interest of those marketers and those importers. If you look at the policy carefully, it’s protecting their interest not protecting the interest of the larger consumers. And for me, it is more worrisome that policies of government which should be in favour of the poor and the most vulnerable who cannot afford to even pay more is favouring a few clique in the society”.