The Gimmicks Of Fuel Price Increase
On 31st August 2005, the government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in its egocentric manner, jerked up the pump price of fuel from its official price of N54 to N65. With this increment, it becomes the ninth time in six years that fuel prices are hiked. This increase of over 20% is not only surprising but amazing considering that this increment is coming at a time when poverty and hunger are ravishing Nigerians.
REASON GIVEN FOR THE INCREASE
Paradoxically, the only reason given for the current increase is that at the former price of N54, the government was losing much money on subsidy and the importers will be importing the product at a loss. What a shame and lame excuse for a seemingly confused and visionless government. For a country reaping unprecedented revenues from crude oil sales internationally, what stops it from rehabilitating our refineries or even build new ones? The major reason for their refusal to repair or build new refineries is the attempt to liberalise the down-stream sector of the oil industry. By so doing, the prices of petroleum products will have to be increased in order to usher in fabulous profit for the capitalist investors, who happens to be government officials and their cohorts.
One would have expected the so-called economic advisers of Obasanjo to remind him how much US government spends in agricultural subsidy alone in the US per month. By increasing pump price of fuel, the Obasanjo’s capitalist government has continued to implement its pro-rich, anti-poor policies not simply because it is devoid of creative ideas on how to implement pro-masses policies. On the contrary, the implementation of pro-rich, anti-poor policies constitute the best ways through which the selfish interests of the capitalist vampires nationally and internationally can be preserved.
No matter how "brilliant", "patriotic" rational a suggestion may seem, within the framework of capitalist, deregulatory logic, incessant fuel price hike and other anti-poor policies are inevitable and unavoidable realities.
EFFECT ON THE MASSES
Despite the availability of inexhaustible natural and human resources, over 80% of Nigeria’s population live below United Nations defined poverty level i.e. living on less than N140 per day. What this brutally reveals is the utter incapacity of capitalism to both develop the economy as well as the living standard of the masses.
This Government hasn’t done much with the revenue accruing from the sales of our crude oil. Our hospitals are dilapidated and empty of drugs and equipment, our agric sector is still in shambles despite the lip service being paid to the sector, majority of our roads are bad, Water and power supply are more epileptic now than ever. To crown it all, they are now selling the few functioning public enterprises to foreigners and the few rich among us. With all these, they still talk of poverty alleviation. Poor man still dey suffer!
Any need to remind our so-called world bank economists that building new refineries, huge investment in Agricultural and Educational sector will not only create jobs but will revitalise and empower our economy since we can export refined products instead of crude. But these so-called world bank economists have refused to advise the government accordingly and instead have continued to implement the IMF/World Bank agenda, which is aimed at exterminating the middle class, leaving only THE RICH AND THE POOR.
This brings to the fore: what has happened to the country's four refineries? This is a question the present administration has refused to answer.
To the chairman of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Committee (PPPRC), Rasheed Gbadamosi, the inefficiency of NNPC is a reason why the four refineries were unable to operate at full capacity. What Gbadamosi is yet to tell us is that between the working masses and the federal government, who controls and who is to be held responsible for the wreckage and sabotage of the refineries? It is unacceptable to make the working masses pay for the criminal tendencies of the ruling class.
The same Obasanjo government said it had sunk about N89 billion ($700m) into the refineries for turnaround maintenance.
Till this moment, the federal government has not explained to the masses what happened to the N89 billion. Who was this project contracted to and to what extent has the work being done? What is really happening is that the refineries do not work because if the refineries operate at full capacity, where are the profits to be made by the capitalist investors who want to import and make big profits at the expense of the working masses.
THE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCE
For the past six years, the cost of goods and services have risen by more than 200%. Nigerians are becoming more miserable and poor because of the indescribable and unimaginable hardship brought upon the working class by the Obasanjo led government. Each time the government increases the pump prices, it has a multiplier effect on every other good and service.
Currently, the price of kerosene is N32 but it is being sold at N87 per litre in Lagos and it is not even available at all in many other towns and cities. Same goes for fuel that sells for N65 in places like Abuja and Lagos but is being sold at over N70 in far North.
Today, the dollar exchanges for N145 as against N86 in 1999 when this regime came to power. That is the reason why 70% of 140 million in Nigeria live below poverty line. This implies that 70% live on less than $1 (N145) on a daily basis.
That is why it is simply crazy for President Obasanjo to say that the only way to move this country forward is to increase the prices of petroleum products once again. This is nothing but another attempt to guarantee big profits for the capitalist investors at the expense of the working people.
One cannot but imagine the brain-picking this government is playing with Nigerians. This is a government complaining about spending money on fuel subsidy, yet they are planning to spend N7Bn on their ostensible (palliative?) measures. Why not use this money on subsidizing fuel (if at all that is necessary) than using it for buying Buses and Motorcycle for states in the name of palliatives. Will the cars and motorcycles not require fuel to operate?
THE WAY OUT
The Society is not ruined by the wickedness of the wicked, but by the weakness of the weak (Amical Cabra 1974).
Nigerians should stand up for their right. It is entrenched in our constitution that the government must ensure at all times that we be provided and catered for. This, Obasanjo has refused and fail to do in defiance of our constitution which he swore to uphold. Enough of this abuse and insult by a government who lacks sensitivity to the plight of the masses. If we fail to resist this increment, by December 2005, we are going to be dazed by another increment.
Nigerians should also know that the wealth of this nation is not created in Aso-Rock, national and state houses of assembly, boardrooms, etc. Rather, the wealth is created in the factories, mines, workshops, etc. And it is only the working class who are in the best position to democratically control and manage the resources and wealth for the benefit of all and sundry.
The government should sincerely and immediately start the rehabilitation and building of our refineries (not the arrangee rehabilitation or construction) to enable us refine and meet our local requirement of fuel products. In addition, there should be proper auditing of NNPC activities from 1999 to date so as to fish out those cabals who have been milking Nigeria dry, after all Nigeria is currently fighting corruption.
This piece will not be complete without reminding our members of National Assembly that they have FAILED Nigerians. Nigerians elected you all to be our mouthpiece, but you people have ended up conniving with our adversary and are punishing us. Let your consciences judge you all!
Perhaps, I should add here that with this type of misrule by our leaders, all stakeholders in this entity called Nigeria should not overlook that worrisome but overlooked prediction by US intelligence that Nigeria stands the risk of disintegration in the near future.
I will end with the following quote:
"Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss." (Proverbs 22:15-17 NRSV 1989, 1995)