AMID concerns that the Nigerian government is considering a National Economic Council (NEC) committee report that recommended hiking the pump price of premium motor spirit (PMS) to N302 per litre from February, a former military Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar has warned that higher fuel prices will have a devastating effect on Nigerians.
The hike of the PMS pump price to N302 per litre is a recommendation of an adhoc committee of the NEC which was set up in line with the Nigerian government’s plan to fully deregulate the petroleum industry through the removal of subsidies.
The NEC committee, chaired by Kaduna State Governor Nasir El Rufai, interfaced with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on appropriate pricing of PMS in Nigeria.
The committee’s report was reportedly presented in November 2021 and is to be deliberated on by the NEC at a meeting scheduled for January 20 at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo heads the NEC, which has the 36 governors as members.
The current pump price for PMS is between N162/N165 per litre and the NEC committee stated that removal of subsidy, which would take the pump price to about N302 per litre, would enable the country to recover N3 trillion in revenues that would have been invested in paying for subsidies.
According to the NEC committee, subsidy was reducing transfers into the federation account by about N250 billion per month and could result in deductions of NGN3 trillion in 2022 if PMS subsidies were not eliminated.
However, Abdulsalami, who oversaw the process that returned Nigeria to civilian rule when he handed over to Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, has warned the Nigerian government against the consequences of imposing higher petroleum prices on Nigerians.
Speaking at the 19th Daily Trust Dialogue in Abuja, organised by Daily Trust Newspaper with the theme ‘2023: The Politics, Economy and Insecurity’ on January 20, Abdulsalami said higher fuel prices would push more Nigerians into poverty.
Nearly half of Nigeria’s population are extremely poor.
The former head of state observed that the prices of food items were already rising beyond the reach of millions of Nigerians.
The situation will be worsened by higher fuel prices, he warned.
“There is a continuous rise in the prices of food items beyond the reach of many Nigerians.
“On top of all these, fuel prices are expected to rise significantly in the coming months as announced last November.
“We all know that when this happens, it will push many millions of Nigerians into poverty,” Abdulsalami said.
The former military ruler added that insecurity had worsened economic conditions in the country.
He observed that insecurity had disrupted the value chains across the country and “negatively impacted the ability of Nigeria to produce, process, and distribute.”
Governor of Borno State Babagana Zulum, in his remarks at the event, spoke of the need to tackle insecurity and corruption in public office.
Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar also spoke of the need to address the security challenges in the country.
The Sultan, in the same vein, said all well-meaning Nigerians must come together to find solutions to the country’s problems.
According to him, politics and national development were too important to be left to politicians alone.
Spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) Hakeem Baba-Ahmed called for the restructuring of the country.
Ahmed, who also expressed reservations at the competence of most people in public office, particularly state governors, said there was a need to address the problems with the federal system of government.