Some leaders of the 2012 demonstrations against petrol subsidy removal say they are ready to return to the streets if Nigerians are willing to peacefully protest the recent hikes in the price of petrol and electricity.
They have been expressing their grievances on Twitter with hashtags such as #EnoughIsEnough, #OccupyNigeria2 and other popular hashtags during the 2012 protests that forced the then Government of Goodluck Jonathan to stop the complete removal of fuel subsidy.
Many Nigerians have wondered why President Muhammadu Buhari, who joined the street protest in 2012, has been increasing the pump price of petrol since he came into office.
“People are suffering the brunt of the Government’s policies. If they decide to protest, I will join,” said President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Yerima Shettima. “It appears that the government of the day doesn’t have respect for the citizens.”
Shettima said the Government was insensitive by increasing the prices of electricity and fuel during a pandemic.
“Government must be inclusive; Government must be seen to carry its citizens along. It appears they do not have any medium of consulting before making certain decisions. It is wrong for them to make any tariff increase that will compound the problem of Nigerians. Nigerians are suffering at this time.”
As the coronavirus restricted movement and upended lives across the world, the price of a barrel of crude oil dropped from $55.66 in February to $32.01 in March.
Consequently, the landing cost of refined petrol in Nigeria fell below the retail price, meaning that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) did not have to subsidise the product at N145 per litre which had been the official pump price.
Then the Federal Government announced on March 19 that it would start providing market reflective prices for the product every month.
When crude oil price started rebounding into the lower $40 bracket in June, the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) adjusted the PMS pump price accordingly, bringing it up to a maximum of N143.80 on July 1.
The price of a barrel of crude oil averaged $43.20 in July, leading to another petrol increase.
The PPRA, however, failed to provide its monthly price advisory in August, leaving the NNPC and other private retailers to set their prices.
The price of crude oil went up to $44.74 per barrel in August, causing retailers to sell the pump price of a litre of petrol for N161.
The increase in electricity tariff, on the other hand, resulted from a $750m loan from the World Bank which Nigeria obtained as part of the measures to reduce revenue shortfalls in the country’s power supply system.
The power sector recovery programme, which the loan funds, made distribution companies start adjusting their tariffs based on service delivery which led to the present increment.
Yinka Odumakin, a leader of Afenifere, Yoruba social-cultural group, said Nigerians have a choice between “dying” under the policies of the Buhari administration, or “surviving” by doing the same thing the president did before he took over from Goodluck Jonathan.
“This government has made it a capital offence to stage protests against it,” he said. “They have used a lot of propaganda to deceive Nigerians that they are fighting corruption and anybody protesting against them is corruption fighting back.”
Odumakin said the All Progressives Congress leaders had failed to fulfil the promises they made in 2015.
He recalled that they said petrol should sell for as low as N40 when they were the opposition party.
Nigeria exports crude oil but imports the refined products as the existing Nigerian refineries have been poorly managed with little or no output.
In a bid to increase the local refining capacity, the Buhari administration awarded 65 licenses for the construction of modular refineries in 2015. It has since given additional permits.
The presidency is expecting that six of these mini refineries, with a combined capacity of 30,000 barrels per day, would be in operation in 2021. This is in addition to Dangote’s 650,000 barrel per day refinery and another 100,000 barrel per day refinery by British Petroleum that is being constructed.
But even if Nigeria becomes a net exporter of petrol by 2021 as one of the presidential spokespersons, Tolu Ogunlesi, predicted, the price might not be as low as Nigerians expect, except the federal Government sells crude oil to the refineries at a subsidised price.