The Nigeria Labour Congress [NLC] is outraged by the continuing incidences of fuel scarcity resulting in skyrocketing prices and long queues spreading to different parts of the country. We note that this is happening despite assurances from government and its agencies that there is enough fuel being distributed around the country and that citizens need not go into panic buying.
That the situation has not visibly improved after more than 72 hours of such assurance means that the marketers and other groups that have held the country hostage over the years for their unearned profiteering from the petroleum sector are still determined to continue as if it is business as usual.
It is completely unacceptable to us that Nigerians are forced to go through the perennial hardship especially towards the end of the year, and now have to cough out between N130 – N300 per litre of petrol in different parts of the country, instead of the official N87 per litre price. This for us shows a clear determination of the unpatriotic operators in the petroleum sector working to circumvent government regulation through blackmail and other unorthodox methods.
Government needs to urgently address the issue of hoarding by marketers and others who have continued to canvass for so-called deregulation in which government would hands-off regulating prices of petroleum products. Given that petroleum products continue to be the artery of our economy, indeed our existence, it is naïve and foolhardy to expect that government will hands-off the downstream sector and allow for those whose sole purpose is profit-making to take over full control of determining the prices of these critical products.
The Congress once again commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his stand against the removal of subsidy. The on-going scarcity, for us, is a deliberate strategy by the cabal in the oil industry to force the hands of government to remove subsidy and therefore work against the interest of the Nigerian masses. They have done this and succeeded in the past, most particularly in the governments of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, through blackmail and deliberate hoarding of petroleum products.
We call on government through the regulatory agencies like the Department of Petroleum Resource (DPR) to impose punitive sanctions on the perpetrators of this artificial scarcity.
On our part as Congress, we are prepared to partner with the relevant regulatory and enforcement agencies to enforce the N87 per litre price regime. We call on the various state governors who also share the responsibility of providing succor to Nigerians to join in enforcing the official price of products in their domains.
At a time when Nigeria is struggling to find new buyers for our primary product – crude oil, as a result of either new or alternative energy finds or cheaper crude oil from war-torn areas, our government must work out a plan to over time be in a position to refine all our crude oil in the country, to add value therein before exporting. This would yield more foreign exchange for the nation, against the current trading in the primary product which the country has engaged in since oil was discovered in commercial quantity back in 1956.
Government needs to plan the establishment of more refineries in Nigeria and on the West African coast to take full control of the refined product market in the sub-region, and also plan towards moving into other African markets that demand refined products.
The Buhari Government must take prompt action to stop the suffering of our people. He must show that no group or cartel – no matter how powerful – can arm-twist government’s hands to do its bidding against the wider interest of the Nigerian people.
The economics of an oil producing country depending on importation of refined products for its domestic consumption clearly does not make any rational sense. This is the simple truth that we all must come to terms with.
Not only is continuing importation of petroleum products putting incredible pressure on our foreign exchange requirements, it exports jobs out of the country; and ultimately frustrates Nigerians taking real control of our destiny in the oil industry, a struggle which Nigerians have been fighting for since oil was discovered on our shores.
We will however not allow any group to distract us from our struggle to have control over the operations of the sector, especially as it relates to full sufficiency in refining our petroleum products.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni