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Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, has admonished Nigerians to be ready to bear the pains of increased petrol pump price as crude oil price climbs above $60 per barrel.
Speaking at the official launch of Nigerian Upstream Cost Optimisation Programme in Abuja yesterday, Sylva said with no provision of subsidy in the 2021 budget, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, cannot continue to bear the cost of under-recovery.
At present, the pump price of petrol ranges from N160 –N165, the price band set when crude traded just above $43 per barrel four months ago.
President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, in a swift reaction yesterday, warned that Nigerians and businesses in the country would not be able to cope with another hike in the pump price of petrol.
He said: “I am not sure Nigerians would be ready to bear any more pain at this time because of the fact that a lot of factors have affected the economic, social and even the well being of Nigerians.
“So, any additional pain at this point in time certainly will not be taken lightly. As you are aware, the NLC said it would have to discuss even the issue of technical report on the September 2020 increase which we could not adopt at the last meeting of the National Executive Council. Certainly, it’s a thing that we cannot swallow.”
Also reacting, President, Trade Unions Congress of Nigeria, TUC, Quadri Olaleye, said: “The question is why is government always quick to tell us about the rise in the price of crude in the international market and the need to increase the price of PMS here when it always takes them weeks, if not months, to implement agreements reached with Organised Labour? It all points to one thing: they are insensitive to the plight of the poor people of this country.
“In every move and statement by government officials, you could see and feel their care-free attitude and indifference to our plight. It appears they are not disturbed by the poverty of Nigerians and the unemployment/insecurity situation that their obnoxious policies have created in the country. There is nothing honourable about what the minister has said.
“Nigeria is among the six oil producing countries in the world. Reports have it that our oil is one of the best, giving us an edge over others. Unfortunately, we have not taken advantage of that. We have four refineries that are not functional.
“Why are they not functional and why is government closing its eyes to it? Their refusal to attend to them is the reason the country is subjected to the vagaries and volatility of the price of crude in the international market.
The TUC, and indeed, organised labour, is trying seriously to avert a major industrial crisis. We have tightened our belts so hard, to the extent that we are finding it difficult to breathe but government seems not to care. We are appealing to government to have a change of heart and put on a human face.”
Increase necessary – Petroleum Minister
However, the minister insisted that the increase was necessary, saying while government revenue has improved by the rise in crude oil price, money released therefrom would not be frittered away in subsidy payment.
He said: “Since we are optimizing everything, NNPC needs to also think about optimization of product cost because as we all know, oil prices are where they are today, $60.
“As desirable as this is, this has serious consequences as well on product prices. So we want to take the pleasure and we should as a country be ready to take the pain. Today the NNPC is taking a big hit from this. We all know that there is no provision in the budget for subsidy.
“So, somewhere down the line, I believe the NNPC cannot continue to take this blow. There is no way because there is no provision for it. As a country, let us take the benefits of the higher crude oil prices and I hope we will also be ready to take a little pain on the side of higher product prices.”