Nigerians may have to brace themselves for further hikes in the price of petroleum products as President Muhammadu Buhari has said the present level of prices is no longer sustainable.
Speaking Thursday morning in his address to the nation marking the country’s 60th year anniversary, the president went as far as making comparisons between Nigeria and its neighbours, which are oil-producing and yet sell petrol above N320 per litre, twice the price in Nigeria.
Buhari said, “Fellow Nigerians, in addition to public health challenges of working to contain the spread of the Coronavirus, we have suffered a significant drop in our foreign exchange earnings and internal revenues due to 40 per cent drop in oil prices and steep drop in economic activities, leading to a 60 per cent drop in government revenue.
“Our government is grappling with the dual challenge of saving lives and livelihoods in face of drastically reduced resources.”
He said, “In this regard, sustaining the level of petroleum prices is no longer possible. The government, since coming into office has recognized the economic argument for adjusting the price of petroleum.
“But the social argument about the knock-on effect of any adjustment weighed heavily with the government.”
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Buhari said, “Accordingly, in the last three years, we have introduced unprecedented measures in support of the economy and to the weakest members of our society in the shape of: Tradermoni, Farmermoni, School Feeding Programme, Job creation efforts and Agricultural intervention programmes.”
The president said, “No government in the past did what we are doing with such scarce resources. We have managed to keep things going in spite of the disproportionate spending on security.
“Those in the previous Governments from 1999 – 2015 who presided over the near destruction of the country have now the impudence to attempt to criticize our efforts.”
In the circumstances, he said a responsible government must face realities and take tough decisions.
He said, “Petroleum prices in Nigeria are to be adjusted. We sell now at N161 per litre. A comparison with our neighbours will illustrate the point; Chad which is an oil producing country charges N362 per litre. Niger, also an oil producing country sells 1 litre at N346. In Ghana, another oil producing country, petroleum pump price is N326 per litre..:
Further afield, he said, “Egypt charges N211 per litre. Saudi Arabia charges N168 per litre. It makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia.”
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To achieve the great country we desire, Buhari said, “we need to solidify our strength, increase our commitment and encourage ourselves to do that which is right and proper even when no one is watching.”
He said, “Let us collectively resolve to continue our journey beyond the sixty years on the clear understanding that as a nation we are greater together than being smaller units of nationalities. By the special grace of God we shall come through any transient challenges.
“It is my sincere hope that by the end of this anniversary on September 30th 2021, we will all be proud of taking this individual and collective self-assessment for the progress of our great Nation.”