The Green Women for Change commends Nigerians for their patience and perseverance throughout the recent fuel crisis all over the country. We appreciate also all efforts on the part of the government, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC particularly the managing director and Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu towards finding a solution to the long queues at the gas stations.
GWC has noted and studied the recent policy statement of the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum on the continuing scarcity of refined petroleum products and the inability of independent marketers to import the products owing to unavailability of foreign exchange. As a panacea, the statement opened the importation door to all Nigerian entities who are able to source foreign exchange from sources other than the Central Bank of Nigeria. It also allows such importers to sell a litre of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) at a price not exceeding #145 per litre, well above the pre-existing #87 per litre. This has effectively deregulated the downstream sector of the oil industry and indirectly ended the obnoxious and controversial fuel subsidy regime.
GWC appreciates and supports all government policies aimed at ameliorating the suffering of the masses and uplifting the living standards of Nigerians in general while standing up against any policy that is inimical to these goals. We are therefore pained at the immediate harsh impact of this fuel price increase on Nigerians. We are however comforted knowing that this new policy will finally bring to an end the persistent petroleum products shortages all over the country that has encouraged the growth of a black market. High cost and unavailability of petroleum products is a major problem that confronted successive administrations in the country. Petroleum products subsidy has since assumed a life of its own and become a very emotive subject among the populace. In the past five to ten years however, there has been an unspoken consensus among Nigerians that the subsidy regime has become a massive scam which the country can ill afford going forward. What had been lacking before now is a strong political leadership with sufficient goodwill and integrity to engender the support of the populace.
There is no doubt that the economic reality in Nigeria is dire at the moment. Inflation and unemployment is high. When we add this to the expected multiplier effect of the increase in the price of fuel, the brunt will be almost too much for the common man to bear. These notwithstanding, it is our considered opinion that it is a necessary pain and there cannot be a better time to do this than now.
There is an urgent need to free the subsidy funds and use same for infrastructural development that will benefit the masses more. We are assured also that competition and efficiency following deregulation will ultimately bring about a fall in the price of petroleum products. We are convinced also that deregulation will encourage and hasten the establishment of modular and regular refineries by investors thereby increasing local refining and ultimately eliminate importation. This will further reduce the price of refined products. We therefore believe that this #145 per litre will not last for a long time.
GWC therefore disagrees with and condemns the planned protest and or strike action by Organized Labour under the aegis of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC). It is our view that such action will be futile and further hurt the economy and the masses of this great country. In place of the planned protest, we urge Labour to aggressively pursue and negotiate with the government an upward review of the national minimum wage for workers. This will more effectively cushion the effects of the attendant inflation than any so-called palliatives. We commend the National
Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG), Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the organized private sector led by the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) for supporting subsidy removal and disassociating themselves from the planned strike action by NLC/TUC.
Finally, we appeal to politicians on both sides of the aisle to desist from making political capital of the pains of the common man. In criticizing or supporting the new policy, let the focus always be on what is in the best interest of Nigeria. Nigeria is our country and most of us have no other country to call our own. Its survival and sustained growth is therefore our joint responsibility.