By Udora Orizu
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives yesterday said the recent increase in the pump price of petrol as well as the electricity tariff has shown that President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is highly irresponsive to the suffering of the Nigerian masses.
The caucus leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, reached the resolution at its 18th virtual meeting, where it reviewed issues of national interest particularly, the recent increases in fuel price, electricity tariff, stamp duties and the implementation of 7.5 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) by the federal government.
Chinda noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has no doubt inflicted great hardship globall,y and a government that has the interest of its people at heart ought to know that the best response to the current economic uncertainties exacerbated by the pandemic is to stimulate its economy by introducing some waivers and encouraging small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and skills development.
He said Nigerians have gotten to the end of their tenders and would resist further draconian and non-people oriented policies, as the federal government has consistently flouted the contract of good governance entered with the people as enshrined in chapter 2 of the constitution.
The lawmaker lamented that the recent increase in pump price would be the third hike since the advent of this administration, calling on President Buhari to as a matter of urgency reverse the increases to meet the yearnings of Nigerians and realities of the moment.
According to him, “Most, if not all, responsive governments have devised innovative people-oriented interventions as well as opening new frontiers to reducing tax burdens on their citizens in order to stimulate their economies and cushion the unfortunate effect of the pandemic. Conversely, the Nigerian Government led by President Buhari has found this inauspicious time to implement what can only be described as strangle-hold economic policies on the lives of perceived helpless Nigerian citizens.
“More disturbing is the fact that the review in electricity tariffs and fuel prices is not commensurate with an increase in salary or income of the people. From an inherited pump price of N85 per litre, they have systematically increased it to an exorbitant, strangulating cost of N162 per litre. All these have been achieved without consultation or engagement with the Nigerian people, at whose pleasure he serves.
“Recall that in 2015, when this government took over the mantle of leadership, cost of crude oil was 93.17 to 48.66 USD; pump price of fuel in Nigeria was N85 per litre and about N500 billion was said to be paid as subsidy annually. In 2020, crude oil sells for $39.68, while the pump price of fuel is N162. Ordinarily, lower cost of crude oil should entail lower cost of fuel. At every increase, Nigerians are told that subsidy payment has been removed and that price of fuel will be determined by market forces. Paradoxically, in 2020, the government budgeted N450 billion for subsidy, whilst PPRA gave a realistic estimate of N750.81 billion to be spent by NNPC as subsidy in 2020, higher than N500 billion even with almost 95 percent increase in pump price.
Speaking further, Chinda recalled that
Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, in his attempt to defend the increase in pump price of petrol, said despite the recent increase in the price of fuel to N162 per litre, petrol price in Nigeria remains the lowest in the west/central African sub-region.
‘’What Mohammed conveniently left out is the “general rule that richer countries have higher price for gasoline, while poorer countries and countries that produce and export oil have significantly lower prices. The difference in prices across countries is due to various taxes and subsidies they decide to impose. The minister didn’t take into consideration the fact that most of these other countries with higher cost have functional and reliable systems in place like public transportation, power and social security for its citizens; their standard of living and minimum wage are far above Nigeria’s; constant and affordable power supply, and their citizens do not depend on alternative power generation like Nigerians do with generators,” the lawmaker said.
On the issue of insecurity, the caucus leaders said despite comforting words belted by President Buhari to Nigerians during the 2015 election campaigns, six years after he took over the leadership of the country, insecurity is at an all-time high, with insurgent activities, banditry and herdsmen attacks, which were localised in the North-east and kidnapping in the South-south, have all today assumed a national dimension and prevalent in every part of the country.