Fears of an impending fuel price hike in Nigeria, raised last week by President Goodluck Jonathan, have been doused by the same President, providing much relief to the citizens who have been bracing up for the increase and its bandwagon effect.
Speaking at his third Media Chat programme Sunday night, President Jonathan said the government had made provision for fuel subsidy in the 2013 budget, hence there will be no price increase based on subsidy withdrawal.
Last week, President Jonathan jolted the nation when he said the current subsidy regime could not be sustained, a statement Nigerians construed as a hint of an impending fuel price increase.
The statement triggered angry reactions from organised labour and civil society organisations, who threatened fire and brimstone should the government raise petrol price.
“The statement by the President claiming that only the removal of fuel subsidy will allow for domestic refining of fuel is highly disturbing. More so, coming at this time of the year, when many see the current fuel scarcity being experienced in most parts of the country as being artificially created.
“With the wave of revelations regarding monumental corruption in the petroleum industry, it will be unimaginable to contemplate any other thing than focusing on ridding the industry of the endemic corruption that has become so pervasive in the industry,” said Abdulwaheed Omar, President of the umbrella Nigeria Labour Congress.
President Jonathan however said he was misunderstood, to the relief of his compatriots.
The issue of fuel price is very sensitive in Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producing nation where citizens believe they are entitled to cheap fuel. Also, fuel price hikes have always resulted in higher prices of goods and services.
The government suddenly raised the price of petrol 1 Jan. 2012, triggering a massive, nationwide strike that paralysed social and economic activities until the government backed down, to some extend.
The increase, from 65 naira (US$0.40) a litre to 140 naira (US$0.90), was only scaled down to 97 naira (US$0.60) per litre following the strike.