On 1 January, the federal governemnet finally removed the controvercial subsidy on motor fuel, announcing that the pump price of Petrol (Premium Motor Spirit, PMS) across the country, will now be N141 per litre, as against the erstwhile N65 per litre. The increase, a hike of over 100 per cent, is drawing angry protests, especially from labour and civil society groups.
A statement by the government’s Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) said the removal followed “extensive consultation with stakeholders across the nation”, and was undertaken in accordance with the powers conferred on the agency by the law establishing it, the PPPRA Act 2004.
It said: “By this announcement, the downstream sub-sector of the petroleum industry is hereby deregulated for PMS. Service providers in the sector are now to procure products and sell same in accordance with the indicative benchmark price to be published fortnightly and posted on the PPPRA website”.
The statement, signed by the agency’s Executive Secretary, Reginald Stanley, informed petroleum products marketers that “no one will be paid subsidy on PMS discharges after 1st January 2012”. It added that: “In the coming weeks, the PPPRA will engage stakeholders in further consultation to ensure the continuation of this exercise in a hitch-free manner”.
Early reactions from labour and civil society leaders have been of anger and dismay. The Joint Action Front (JAF), the umbrella body for pro-labour civil society groups in the country, has denounced the government’s action and called for mass protests that would force President Goodluck Jonathan to rescind the decision.
In a statement titled “NIGERIANS, ARISE NOW TO RESIST THE WICKED HIKE IN FUEL PRICES”, and signed by JAF’s Chairman and Secretary, Dr. Dipo Fashina and Comrade Abiodun Aremu respectively, JAF said: “We strongly condemn the Jonathan presidency for this wicked hike in prices and its decision to inflict unnecessary suffering and punishment on Nigerians”.
It urged citizens not to buy petrol above N65 per litre and to shut any filling station that sells above that price.
In anticipation of the government’s action, JAF had, at a media briefing on 21 December 2011, called on citizens to prepare for a “mass action”. In the wake of the PPPRA’s announcement, the group said the government’s action had reinforced its own resolve to forge ahead with the planned nationwide protest, scheduled to start in Lagos on 3 January.