There was widespread anger by Nigerians, on Tuesday, following the hike in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and other oil marketers across the country.

In Abuja and Ondo State, for instance, the cost of petrol jumped from about N537/litre to between N617 and N630/litre, forcing the cost of transportation to skyrocket within hours, and leaving thousands of passengers stranded in many cities.

The Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and many other citizens lambasted the President Bola Tinubu-led Federal Government for being so tough on citizens by allowing the continued hike in the price of petrol.

Although the NNPCL and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, both Federal Government entities, explained that market forces caused the hike in petrol price, since the commodity had been fully deregulated, Nigerians expressed frustrations over the continued sharp increase in the cost of the product.

It was observed that petrol price was raised from N537/litre to N617/litre at some filling stations operated by the NNPCL in Abuja on Tuesday.

Independent oil marketers confirmed the increase in the cost of the commodity, as they stated that any shift in price by NNPCL stations was an indication of a rise in the pump price of PMS.

“This is because NNPCL is still the major importer of petrol into Nigeria currently, though other marketers are gradually importing the commodity. The price this (Tuesday) morning at some NNPCL stations is N617/litre,” the Secretary, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Abuja-Suleja, Mohammed Shuaibu, told one of our correspondents.

Tinubu had during his inaugural address on May 29, announced that subsidy on petrol had ended, a development that led to the jump in the price of the commodity from N198/litre to over N500/litre on May 30, 2023.

Since the withdrawal of subsidy on petrol and the floating of the naira against the dollar, marketers had continued to explain that the cost of PMS could rise to as high as N700/litre.

Similarly, the rise in the cost of crude oil in the international market has also triggered further hike in petrol price, as crude is the product from which PMS and other refined petroleum products are produced.

In Abuja, on Tuesday morning, motorists besieged filling stations that were still dispensing at N540/litre, but as the news of the hike in price by NNPCL stations filtered in, many independent outlets shut their stations.

Others immediately commenced the adjustment of their pumps to reflect the new price.

NLC kicks

The Nigeria Labour Congress on threatened to take “matters into its own hands” following the decision by the NNPCL to hike petrol price and the Federal Government’s plan to distribute N8,000 monthly to 12 million poor households in the country.

The NLC in a statement issued by its National President, Joe Ajaero, accused the Tinubu-led government of taking from the poor to pay the rich and unleashing suffering, hardship and sorrow upon Nigerians.

It said it had restrained itself from making further comments publicly on the vexatious issues around the recent but unfortunate unilateral hike in the price of petrol, which was in the guise of “the so-called subsidy withdrawal.”

The statement read in part, “However, the government of Nigeria seems to have been misled into believing that resorting to impunity and imperiousness in governance in a democracy is a beneficial option as it pursues its stated and unstated objectives.

“It is this belief that we are sure has continued shaping the actions of this government since its inauguration on May 29, 2023, to continue inflicting mindless and heartless pains on the populace one after the other without the decency of embracing the tenets of democracy which requires wide and deep stakeholder consultations on weighty matters of state.”

The NLC stated that Nigerians would remember that the Federal Government had called for dialogue in the aftermath of its disastrous forlorn trajectory in the astronomical increase in petroleum product price “and our subsequent call for a nationwide industrial action.”

It said, “We were also witnesses to the actions of the Federal Government in procuring an unholy injunction from the courts which were served us in Gestapo style by trucks laden with fully armed soldiers and policemen.

“In all of these provocations, we remained committed to the principles of the rule of law, good conscience and democracy so that we can continue to be the moral compass for leaders in the public space. This explained our decision to suspend action on the proposed strike.”

The labour union, however, stated that rather than reciprocate the goodwill of Nigerian workers, the Federal Government insisted on threading the path of dictatorship and seeking to impoverish the people further by taking steps that could only be described as robbing the people of Nigeria to pay and feed the rich.

It said, “It is on this basis that the NLC strongly condemns the decision of the Tinubu-led administration to seek the approval of the National Assembly to obtain another tranche of external loans worth N500bn from the World Bank for the purposes of carrying out a phantom palliative measure to cushion the effect of its poorly thought-out hike in the price of PMS.

“Remember that the $800m which was already proposed before the devaluation of the naira by this government was worth about N400bn then but is now worth about N650bn after devaluation. It is from this, it proposes to bring out N500bn for distribution.

“The proposal to pay N8,000 to each of the so-called 12 million poorest Nigerian households for a period of six months insults our collective intelligence and makes a mockery of our patience and abiding faith in social dialogue which the government may have alluded to albeit pretentiously.”

The NLC pointed out that the “further proposal to pay National Assembly members the sum of N70bn and the Judiciary N36bn is the most insensitive, reckless and brazen diversion of our collective patrimony into the pockets of public officers whose sworn responsibility it is to protect our nation’s treasury.”

The union said this might amount to hush money and outright bribery of the other arms of government to acquiesce the aberration.

“It is unconscionable that a government that has foisted so much hardship on the people within nearly two months of coming into office will make a proposal that clearly rewards the rich in public office to the detriment of the poor.

“What this means all this while is that the government is seeking ways of robbing the very poor Nigerians so that the rich can become richer. There is no other way to explain the proposal to pay a misery sum of N8,000 to each of the mysterious poorest 12 million households for six months which amounts to N48,000 and pay just 469 national legislators N70bn or about N149m each, while the Judiciary that has about 72 Appeal Court Judges, 33 National Industrial Court Judges, 75 Federal High Court Judges and 21 Supreme Court Judges and a total of about 201 Judges receives a total of N35bn or N174m each.

“If these other two arms are projected to receive this, what members of the executive council will receive is better left to the imagination of Nigerians; perhaps, the balance of N150bn will go to them. These proposals are not just unacceptable to Nigerian workers but are also dictatorial thus undemocratic,” the association stated.

It said the union would not want to waste the time of Nigerians especially workers on committees that had already been programmed to fail thus ignored.

“NLC would not want to continue to be part of the usual charade of committees with outcomes that are never implemented. We would not want to waste the time of Nigerians especially workers on committees that have already been programmed to fail thus ignored. We do not want to provide a cover for the government to get away with the hardship it has imposed on the people. We do not want to legitimise impunity,” it stated.

Speaking on the next line of action, the congress said, “As a result, if the government does not want to stop these fortuitous actions that it is pursuing in the name of palliatives, we will be forced to constructively review our engagement with the government on this vexatious issue and take matters in our own hands.”

‘Tinubu has deviated’

The Trade Union Congress also blasted the Federal Government over the hike in the price of fuel.

TUC’s National Vice President, Tommy Etim, said the country was now headed towards economic chaos.

He said, “We are entering one chance. It is unfortunate that the government is insensitive to the plight of the commoners and the poorest of the poor.  You can see that fuel which is essential to the movement of goods and services, including the informal businesses, have continued to fluctuate in price.

“For NNPC to wake up and increase the fuel price again, you need to ask what the increase is all about? Since they claimed that subsidy has been removed, why is the NNPC still regulating prices of fuel? The presidential committee that is considering palliatives is still meeting. As I speak to you, the sub-committees have not even met at all, I know this because I am a member of one.

“We have not concluded that, no template yet for implementation of proposals to be raised; but all that we are seeing is Tinubu going to the National Assembly, talking about distribution of N8,000 to 12 million households. What is the credibility of the social register? Nigeria is undergoing dimensional poverty and with the inflation rate, we are praying that we will not be like Zimbabwe. Look at the naira, this calls for urgent attention.”

He said the wages of workers had remained static, adding that “when Tinubu came in we were optimistic and we felt that he started well but he has started to deviate. He needs to remember the poorest of the poor who voted him into office.

“Look at the prices of food. Garri is now a luxury. People can’t afford garri again. Government has refused to think outside the box. At this point, we are seriously doubting if the proposal of the committee will be implemented.”

‘Blame market forces’

Commenting on the hike in petrol price, the Group Chief Executive Officer, NNPCL, Mele Kyari, attributed it to market forces.

Addressing journalists after a closed-door meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima at the State House, Abuja, Kyari said, “They are just prices depending on the market realities. This is the meaning of making sure that the market regulates itself. Prices will go up and sometimes they will come down also.”

He debunked notions that the price increase was due to a shortfall in petrol supply.

“No, there is no supply issue. It is not a supply issue. When you go to the market, you buy the product, you come to the market and sell it at its prevailing market price. It has nothing to do with supply. We don’t have supply issues.

“We have a robust supply. We’ve had over 32 days of supply in the country. That’s not a problem,” he explained.

On his part, the Chief Executive Officer, NMDPRA, Farouk Ahmed, attributed the price hike to global crude oil price increase.

He also mentioned that the changes in freight costs and other miscellaneous expenses that importers encountered during distribution contributed to petrol price changes.

Ahmed said, “Basically, what we are seeing is the effect of market forces. You can see that crude oil prices have been on the rise. Just a week ago, crude oil prices hovered around $70/barrel, but now it has surpassed $80/barrel. So naturally, these prices also influence the cost of the product.”

Netizens kick

Nigerians on social media also kicked against the adjustment in the pump price of petrol.

They bemoaned the price hike, lamenting that the situation would further impoverish the citizens

“NNPC fuel price is now N617 /litre. I hope you are enjoying the renewed shege?” a popular tweep, Nefferetti with Twitter handle @firstladyship wrote.

@PoojaMedia wrote, “President Tinubu needs to address the nation NOW. Hunger is walking on the streets of Nigeria.”

Another user, @trending_medic, said, “Fuel at N617/litre and dollar hitting N835/$. Thank God it’s only Obidients that will suffer it.”

@OfficialUdiBoy wrote, “Fuel has gone up to N617, renewed hope has turned to renewed shege. E go touch everybody until we get the mandate back.”

On his part, @YemieFash said, “The same petrol that was N190/litre two months ago is N617/litre. Is this the renewed hope?.”

“Not up to a month and Tinubu times are this hard!! No way in hell I am buying fuel for N617. Once my phone goes off now na till NEPA bring light next,” @KhaleedSZN wrote.

@SodiqTade wrote, “Dear Tinubu Boys, A litre of fuel is now selling for N617, almost two months after the removal of subsidy by Tinubu. Do you still think the N8,000 per household will cushion the possible effects of this new price? It seems Nigerians have entered one chance with this mandate.”

@Shayor19 said, “N617/litre and we are going to just adapt and move on like nothing happened? We are gradually missing Buhari right now.”

On his part, @sirvicbrown, wrote, “When Tinubu said he was going to continue from where Buhari stopped, many of us didn’t really understand. Am sure it is clear now?”

Also contributing, @The_D1amond said, “The economy is not funny anymore… This is proof that it’s not getting better anytime soon. The government is against us, the economy is also against us. If you know what’s best for you, start investing in online skills that would help you earn in dollars.”

Petrol hits N600/litre

One of our correspondents observed that though some fuel stations sold at N600/litre on Tuesday, most outlets of NNPCL along Ikotun, Akonwonjo, Cement axis of Lagos State were still selling for N568/litre.

There were long queues around NNPC outlets because they were selling cheaper than others.

An outlet belonging to God’s Decision located along Ikotun in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos, was selling at N600 /litre.

‘Higher inflation looms’

Reacting to the development, the President, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Laoye Jaiyeole, said, “It is already leading to inflation. It is a tough time, no doubt, but what is critical is for us to begin to act quickly. Let me tell you something, in 2015 before the first inflation in 2016, we saw this coming and at NESG we gave them three scenarios.

“We asked that there are difficult decisions the nation needs to take and we didn’t take them, we ran away from them, maybe if we had taken those decisions it may not be as bad as this. Now the tough choices are being taken and I must confess they are tough.

“Giving succor to those that are less privileged is one, but you know we cannot continue to share money, we have to boost production. By boosting production it means we are going to ask ourselves what we are going to do about food and the productive sector. How do we ensure that we have electricity?”

He stated that if Nigeria starts refining crude oil, it would reduce the pressure on the exchange rate.

Bayelsa State was also hit by the sudden hike in the pump price of petrol as some independent oil marketers operating in the state increased the cost of the product from N515 to N595/litre.

Checks showed that filling stations operated by the NNPCL and PADOS along the Sani Abacha Expressway and the Isaac Boro Expressway in Yenagoa had started selling fuel at N595/litre.

However, Rainoil facilities located along the Mbiama-Yenagoa Road and the Isaac Boro Expressway increased their pump price of the product to N591/litre, while SOBAZ re-adjusted their meter to reflect N590/litre.

It was observed that some of the independent sales outlets did not open for business.

The PUNCH gathered that the petrol stations sold the product at N515/litre as of Monday and Tuesday morning before news of the current increase in pump price filtered into town.

A filling station attendant at one of the facilities, who did not want his name mentioned, said that they received instructions from their head office to re-adjust the meter to reflect the new price.

Marketers project N700/litre

Meanwhile, oil marketers insisted that petrol price would hit N700/litre once fresh products being imported by independent firms start arriving Nigeria

The National Controller, Operations, Independent Marketers Association of NIgeria, Mike Osatuyi, reaffirmed this on Tuesday.

According to him, Lagos residents should prepare to buy petrol for as high as N600/N620/litre, while those living up North could pay as high as N700/litre.

Osatuyi’s insistence came on the heels of a recent report by The PUNCH, where he predicted that the price would reach N700/litre.

His prediction was, however, greeted with uproar, with many labour unions describing the prediction as “insensitive”, and a ploy by marketers to hike petrol price.

Osatuyi, however, stood by his words, as he stated that with crude oil price already attaining $82/litre at the international market, and the exchange rate around N800/$, the pump price would definitely attain around N700/litre.

“The new stock will arrive any moment from the third week in July. But you know crude is now around $82/barrel, and the exchange rate is around N800. So, the new price would be determined by these two factors,” he said.

Abuja motorists lament

Motorists in the Federal Capital Territory, on Tuesday, decried the hike in petrol price, as transporters increased their fares following the new pump price.

It was observed that the transport fare from Lokogoma Bus-Stop to town increased from N300 to N400, while the fare from Galadimawa Junction to Lokogoma increased from N150 to N250.

Similarly, the cost from Airport Junction to Wuse increased from N300 to N400, while the fare to Lugbe from Airport Junction jumped from N300 to N400.

Danladi Usman, an FCT resident, said, “Many of us may not be coming out all the time again because how do we calculate the transport and our profit? Some of us also deliver money to the owners of the vehicles at the end of the day so it is going to be difficult.”

Petrol sells N630/litre

Some filling stations in Ondo State increased their pump prices to between N620 and N630/litre.

The marketers jerked up the price from the previous N500, N510 and N520/litre to between N620 and N630/litre after the NNPCL raised its price.

Long queues returned to some filling stations which were selling the product at the old price of N530/litre. Also, many stations which were operating before Tuesday were under locked.

A petrol station manager, who identified himself simply as Taiwo, said his station did not open for operation on Tuesday as the owner of the filling station was yet to decide on the price to sell the product.

“We are yet to sell because we don’t know how much to sell it and it will be very difficult to lift the product with this recent outrageous pump price. Our station owner is yet to decide on how much we will be selling it,” he said.

CSOs complain

The Coordinator, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, Chido Onumah, faulted the government’s lack of control over the NNPCL as regards the pump price of petrol.

“The government seems not to be in control. We have a new government that is clearly not in charge and just leaving things at the hands of whether you say market forces, or buccaneer businessmen, or government forces like the NNPC that is completely out of control”.

He also lamented the effects of the hike on salary earners, noting that the situation was “becoming a nightmare for Nigerians”, as they were suffering more in the two months since the inauguration of the Tinubu administration, than in the last eight years of the previous administration.

Residents in the FCT continued to express their dissatisfaction, questioning and expressing surprise at the upward review in the price of petrol.

“It is surprising that this morning fuel price has been reviewed upward again. We want the government to make an explanation on this, “ a motorist at the A.A. Rano filling station at Jabi, Abuja, Kingsley Fregene, stated.