Queues Build At Fuel Stations
THE inability of government and the Labour movement to arrive at a definite date for the full deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry may be responsible for the long queues at fuel stations across the country.
In Abuja yesterday, long queues dotted most petrol filling stations that had fuel, even as motorists embarked on panic buying so as not to be caught unawares as was the case on January 1, when the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) suddenly jerked up fuel price from N65 to N141 per litre.
The argument then was that, since government was yet to begin the implementation of the 2012 budget, there was no justification for introducing full deregulation of the downstream sector. Indeed, this line of argument was the strong point that Labour relied upon to fault government’s intention.
Motorists, who besieged filling stations, anticipate an increase as the implementation of the 2012 budget is due to begin today — April 1.
But there have been no official reaction from the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the PPPRA on the actual date that the anticipated full deregulation will commence.
The long queues may not go as long as there is no definite pronouncement from government on the actual date the deregulation of the downstream sector is most likely to begin.
Speaking with The Guardian from Holland on telephone, President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Peter Esele, said the inclusion of more than N800 billion to the 2012 budget sent a clear message that the Federal Government may have chosen to continue funding the fuel subsidy regime.
“Nobody has told me that full deregulation will begin this April. We are not doing anything for now because there is nothing to show that government is about implementing full deregulation. The Federal Government included more than N800 billion in the 2012 budget after the strike and protests that greeted the January increment. With that, we believe that government will continue to fund the subsidy well beyond the April this year.”
Another Labour leader said workers would resist any price increment this time around, adding that government had not engaged them in any form of discussion on plans to begin full implementation of the deregulation policy.
“We are yet to get any invitation to dialogue with government over deregulation policy. At any rate, we cannot say that government will not increase the price because we were not consulted when the price was increased in January.
“Even though there was strike and series of protests, those were not purely organised by us and we did not have control over it. What we brought to the protests was leadership and not ownership. The people owned the process and fought the battles themselves.
“Nobody should simply say that the protests were about fuel price increment only. The mass protests were about misrule, corruption in government, and insensitivity of government officials to the plights of the people and infrastructure decay. I want to believe that the Labour movement will be ready for any increment this month of April.”