BY EMEKA EJERE
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Nigerian Senate, on Wednesday faulted the federal government’s plan to pay N5,000 each to 40 million Nigerians to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal.
While the NLC described the proposed N5,000 palliative as comical and will translate to far more than the money government claims to spend currently on fuel subsidy, the Senate said there was no provision for it in the 2022 budget currently before the National Assembly.
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari, had on Tuesday announced at a World Bank event in Abuja that petrol would sell for between N320 and N340 per litre from February 2022.
The current pump price of petrol at filling stations is between N162 and N165/litre, although the product is mostly sold at the upper N165/litre rate due to recent challenges in the downstream oil sector.
The N165/litre price is basically because the product is being subsidised by the federal government through the NNPC. The NNPC, being the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria for the past four years, has been subsidising the commodity and has been incurring humongous cost as subsidy.
This development had severely depleted the oil firm’s remittances to the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, hence, reducing the monthly allocations to the three tiers of government consistently.
If the latest revelation of the NNPC boss that subsidy on petrol would end in February and the price jerked up to N340/litre is anything to go by, then Nigerians would spend about N18.7bn daily for the over 55 million litres of petrol consumed each day across the country, findings have shown.
Users of petrol would spend about N561bn for the average of 30 days in a month, while in the 12-month period, consumers would pay about N6.732tn.
In its most recently published monthly operational and financial report, which was for April 2021, the NNPC put the daily petrol consumption in Nigeria at 55.79 million litres.
“To ensure continuous increased PMS supply and effective distribution across the country, a total of 1.67 billion litres of PMS translating to 55.79 million litres per day were supplied for the month in the downstream sector,” the oil firm stated.
Working with 55 million litres daily consumption figure and the current price of N165/litre, consumers of petrol are estimated to be currently paying N9.075bn daily and about N277.25bn monthly.
By increasing the cost of petrol to N340/litre and matching it against the 55 million daily consumption rate, Nigerians would be paying N18.7bn daily for PMS, while their monthly spending would be N561bn.
This means that the annual fuel consumption bill of Nigerians will be in the region of N6.732tn.
From the foregoing, it implies that Nigerians would pay an additional amount of about N283.75bn every month on petrol when the new N340/litre price for PMS comes into effect.
Therefore within a period of 12 months, Nigerians would spend about N3.4tn extra on the current N3.3tn for the purchase of petrol should the Federal Government halt the subsidy regime.
But the government promised on Tuesday that it had plans to cushion the economic effect of the planned subsidy removal, as it announced plans to replace fuel subsidy with a N5,000 monthly transportation subsidy to the poor.
According to her, a monthly transport subsidy in the form of cash transfer of N5,000 will be given to between 30 and 40 million Nigerians.
NLC kicks, says it’s foolish gamble
The NLC in a statement on Wednesday by its President, Ayuba Wabba, rejected the planned fuel subsidy removal, which it said is cloudy, describing it as a ‘penny wise pound foolish gamble,’ and a recipe for aggravated hyper-inflation.
In the statement titled, ‘Nigerian workers refuse to take the bait,” the congress said, “The contemplation by government to increase the price of petrol by more than 200 per cent is a perfect recipe for an aggravated pile of hyper-inflation and astronomical increase in the price of goods and services.
“This will open a wide door to unintended social consequences such as degeneration of the current insecurity crises and possibly citizens’ revolt. This is not an outcome that any sane Nigeria wishes for.”
Wabba said the discussion between the federal government and the World Bank is a monologue, adding that the NLC would continue to insist on its rejection of deregulation based on import-driven model.
The NLC President said it was difficult to convince Nigerian workers why the country is the only nation among the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries that could not produce its own refined petroleum products and thus adopts the neo-liberal import production model of refined petroleum products.
He added, “We wish to reiterate our persuasion that the only benefit of deregulation based on import-driven model is that Nigerian consumers will infinitely continue to pay high prices for refined petroleum products.
“This situation will definitely be compounded by the astronomical devaluation of the naira which currently goes for N560 to US dollars in the parallel market. Thus, any attempt to compare the price of petrol in Nigeria to other countries would be set on a faulty premise as it would be akin to comparing apples to mangoes.”
“We wish to warn that the bait by government to pay 40 million Nigerians N5,000 as palliative to cushion the effect of astronomical increase in the price of petrol is comical, to say the least.
“The total amount involved in this queer initiative is far more than the money government claims to spend currently on fuel subsidy. Apart from our concerns on the transparency of the disbursement given previous experiences with such schemes, we are wondering if government is not trying to rob Nigerians to pay Nigerians? Why pay me N5000 and then subject me to perpetual suffering
“Clearly, government thoughts on the so-called removal of fuel subsidy is cloudy and appears to be a “penny wise-pound foolish” gamble. It is clear that the palliative offered by government will not cure the cancer that will befall the mass of our people who suffer the double jeopardy of hype-inflation while their salaries remain fixed.”
The Senate also faulted plans by the federal government to pay N5,000 to 40 million Nigerians as transportation expenses.
Speaking with journalists on Wednesday after submission of its committee budget proposal, Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Olamilekan Adeola, said that there was no provision for N5,000 monthly grant for 40 million Nigerians for transportation allowance in the 2022 budget currently before the National Assembly.
According to him, before the Executive can embark on such intervention, the proposal must come to National Assembly because it is going to cost N2.4 trillion.
“What are the criteria that would be used to determine beneficiaries of the transportation allowance?”, he queried.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr Zainab Ahmed, has revealed that with zero remittance from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company to the federation, the federal government can no longer sustain petroleum subsidy costs which are currently about N250bn monthly.
Ahmed was briefing State House Correspondents on Wednesday after the week’s Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by the President MuhammaduBuhari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.