The government of president Muhammadu Buhari has again justified the recent decision to increase the pump price of petrol.
As a result of that decision fuel now sells across the country as high as N162 in filling stations.
Mr. Buhari had in his Independence Day address to Nigerians defended the hike as fair, comparing the price of petroleum products to other oil-producing countries.
“It makes no sense for fuel to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia which sells at N168 per litre,” the president had infamously said.
That illogical outburst had enraged Nigerians.
But instead of showing empathy to the feelings of majority of Nigerians, Buhari’s media aide, Garba Shehu, while speaking in an interview on Channels Television on Friday, poured more salt to the injury with his irrational defence of his boss,
Shehu said not many Nigerians own cars and generating sets which requires them to purchase fuel and therefore, it would be unfair to ask such persons to contribute to subsidising the cost of fuel.
He said, “In the case of oil, we have stopped subsidy in the interest of Nigerians; that we’re also joining the global market system, so, that Nigerians will be beneficiaries when global oil prices are down, but when they’re up, we also have to share in that.
“Therefore, it is important that we know what happens elsewhere. And it is not only Saudi Arabia that Mr. President cited. People say that Saudi Arabia has all these social support systems… talk about those neighbouring countries — Chad, Niger, Ghana — all of them producing oil. And they’re selling oil at twice as much as is being offered to Nigerians at this time. So, why can’t we also reflect on that?
“We belong to a global market system; we are buying most of our refined products from the international market. How many Nigerians have cars anyway? How many of them run generators in their homes that they need this fuel for? Is it fair that the farmer and the herder and all of these low-level people in our society, that taxpayer money is taken from them and be subsidising the lifestyle of our city urban dwellers? The president is just trying to be as practical on this matter as possible.”
You don’t need to be an economist to know that even the poor, who don’t own cars and generators, will also bear the brunt of the increase in the price of fuel – by way of increase in price of goods and services, especially transport costs.