Dangote fuel may not be available in July, as Nigerians lament ‘unbearable suffering’
Nigerians trek to and from work for long distances
Dangote refinery may not produce fuel by end of July
NNPCL tongue-in-cheek about repairs of refineries
NLC accuse Tinubu government of deliberately impoverishing the masses
‘N8,000 palliative for 12 million households, an insult’
By Daniel Adaji
The recent increase of fuel price from N540 to N617 per litre, has worsened the living condition of many Nigerians, even as the promise by the President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, that refined products shall flow from his highly celebrated refinery by July, 2023 is becoming an illusion.
Dangote had, before the end of the Muhammadu Buhari administration in May, 2023, promised to provide constant availability of high-quality fuels for the transportation sector and raw materials for the manufacturing industries.
It is about 10 days to the end of the month and no fuel is in the market from the refinery yet.
“This is just the beginning of a great journey, a milestone in a new and exciting trajectory for the downstream sector of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. It is our firm commitment that we will replicate in this sector what we have achieved in the cement and fertiliser markets, where Nigeria transited from being the largest importer of these products to a net exporter. Your excellencies, distinguished guests, our first product will be in the market before the end of July or beginning of August this year,” Mr Dangote said.
It is about 10 days to the end of the month and no fuel is in the market from the refinery yet
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited NNPCL, Mele Kyari also promised that the Port Harcourt refinery, which was initially scheduled to commence operations in December 2022 would commence operations before the end of the first quarter of 2023. For the revamp of the refineries, government approved $1.5 billion for the comprehensive repair, so as to reduce or halt fuel import and associated high cost.
Kyari had said, “The promise was to start the fuel plant, which is the 60,000 barrels per day (bpd) component of this activity by the last quarter of 2022, but it is not practical. So, we will start it off in the first quarter of 2023, otherwise, every other process is ongoing.”
It had been four months since the end of the first quarter yet no sign that the refinery will produce petroleum product.
Less than two months after the fuel price was increased to N540/liter (over 200% increases), the NNPCL again announced another increase to N617/litre, this time 14% increase.
Citizens have suffered untold hardship since the increase in petrol pump price took effect on 30 May 2023 and the recent increase implies more suffering as many who could barely cope with the previous increase now find it more difficult to survive.
The Insight observed that many Nigerians have returned to mass trekking as witnessed during the cash crunch. For instance, at the Berger junction where many FCT residents board vehicles to their homes after work, commuters were seen either trekking or stopping vehicles to ask for lift or reduced prices to their locations.
Madam Ujunwa Martins who was on her way to the fuel station around Lugbe axis of the FCT said, she had budgeted to buy fuel at N540/litre until she tuned in to a radio station and heard callers complaining of the price rise.
“I was on my way to the filling station this money to buy fuel at N540/litre but entering into the station, I tune in to a radio programme and then I realized that the fuel price had again gone up. I would have quarreled with the pump attendant if I had not heard it on radio,” she said.
Taxi operators and other transporters within the city have immediately jerked up the price of transport fares by a 100%. For instance, Lugbe to Berger used to be N200 now N400 to N500. For someone who earns an average of N30,000 in a month, it would mean spending about 50 percent of their income on transportation alone.
Some car owners who were compelled to board city buses (commonly referred to as El-Rufai Bus) complained about the discomfort they experience since boarding the transport system.
The Insight observed on one of those buses that passengers had to stand for close to three hours from Bwari to Wuse or Berger. While each of the buses could take up to 45 passengers on the sits, others who must go with the vehicle had to stand. It was learnt that passengers go to the park as early as 5 am in order to meet up with the buses.
A commuter on board was heard saying he had to park his vehicle to join the city bus because he could not afford to fuel his car to work anymore.
“Imagine filling my car tank with N7,000 worth of fuel, but the fuel can’t bring me back home. It’s better to park the car for now and manage this public transport until hopefully things get better,” he said.
While passengers were complaining, the drivers, too, did not stop to air their voices on the impact of the price hike on their work and family.
A driver, Aliyu Abdullahi, told The Insight that life had not been easy since the petrol price increase. He lamented that before the increase, he could save about N5,000 in the early hours of the day when people went to work and at the close of work, but since the recent hike, he could barely save N3,000.
“This is not easy at all. To tell you the truth, this money in my hand is all I have made since I started work today. I have not eaten out of it yet and my family is also waiting for me to bring money for food back home. If I remove N1,000 from this money to eat while working, I won’t have enough to buy fuel to continue work. In fact I only manage to put little fuel in this car so that I can work. Before now, I’m able to save at least N5,000 from my ride but things have changed now as even to save N3,000 is difficult,” he said.
The social media is also flooded with lamentations by Nigerians. For instance, on Twitter, some asked if it still made sense to spend N2,000 daily to go and earn same amount daily, as wage or salary at the end of the month.
“Now we spend more than N2,000 as transport to go earn daily N2,000. No be witchcraft be that?” a Twitter use had said.
Reacting in the comment session, another uses Sukunami Tobi-John said;
“It is terrible enough. But we must go beyond emotional mining to address this national question. It is imperative that we brace up. We’re in a cusp. Short term pains often terminate in hedonism. Our energy should be invested in holding our leaders accountable,” he said.
The Nigeria Labour Congress has also chided the government on the recent price increase of petrol in the country.
The president of the NLC, comrade Joe Ajaero in a statement said they were initially restrained from making public comment on the “Vexatious issues around the recent but unfortunate unilateral hike in the price of PMS in the guise of the so-called subsidy withdrawal, which has unleashed predictably as we had earlier warned unimaginable and unprecedented hardship, sorrow, anguish and suffering upon Nigerian workers and masses.”
He said while the Labour movement’s patience was anchored on their strong and abiding faith in the outcomes of the processes of social dialogue and its mechanisms, especially within a democratic setting, “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 the 29th day of May, 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 consultation on weighty matters of state.
“As it stands, rather than reciprocate the goodwill of Nigerian workers, the federal government has insisted on threading the path of dictatorship and seeking to impoverish the people further by taking steps that can only be described as robbing the people of Nigeria to pay and feed the rich.
This is not easy at all
“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 N500b 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 prices of Premium Motor Spirit. Remember that the U$800m, which was already proposed before the devaluation of the Naira by this government was worth about N400b then but is now worth about N650b after devaluation. It is from this, it proposes to bring out N500b 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,” he said.