In 2016, crude oil price crashed to $28 per barrel in the international market. In spite of that, Nigeria’s local crude oil price multiplied astronomically from N86 to about N500 per litre – an increase of about 486.1 percent. Usually, excess production of crude oil from countries like Saudi Arabia, China, USA and Iran is expected to crash the oil price. But prices in Nigeria never drop, even when demands are low. We know that some activities of vandalism by militant groups may affect availability of Fuel products and trigger prices during scarcity. But between 2011 and 2014 when oil was sold around $100 per barrel, there were increases in poverty, maternal mortality, unemployment, and environmental challenges. The excess monies realised did not reflect in the life of citizens.
It is on record that successive Nigerian governments have amassed about N100 trillion from 58 years of oil exploration.Since the discovery of oil in the 1950s, price of petrol in the country has continued to go up from one administration to the other, starting from 1972 to this present administration. In the past 44 years successive Nigerian Government has increased petrol price about 20 times, and only reduced 5 times, with a multiple re-increase rate of 18 – 361% on those five occasions averaging a biennial increase of fuel products in the country.
These successive administrations have routinely introduced palliative measures or commitment of intervention funds to ameliorate the economic effect caused by indiscriminate fuel prize increase. Some claimed to have invested several trillions of naira in agriculture, transportation, electricity, employment, roads, portable drinking water, etc. Yet, inadequate mechanism seem to have prevented these investments from ameliorating the sufferings of the people. Instead, monies budgeted for economic benefits are re-looted and unaccounted for. Many business owners have packed up their businesses due to non-availability and unbearable increase of fuel product and absence of electricity.
What has played out over the years is the mismanagement of revenues by public office holders, lack of accountability and transparency on the huge returns derived from the oil sector. Certain individuals in some of these governments have enriched themselves more with huge revenues from the sector, without promoting the growth of key sectors. Sectors like agriculture, electricity, solid mineral, and others that should act as a catalyst for economic growth and beneficial to majority of the people have been abandoned.
I verily believe that successive government excuse to discontinue fuel subsidy is an attempt to stop the endemic corruption and fraudulent activities perpetrated by oil marketers in the Petroleum sector. There have been reports of fraudulent supply of petroleum products by oil marketers, amounting to over N30trn in just a few years. Yet, those in authority have failed to prevent the loopholes which create opportunity for looting. In some cases, the petroleum sector was converted to a cash cow for governments to finance their political causes. Regulatory agencies that should be the watch dog of the petroleum sector, through the enactment of decent legislation, have been hijacked by politicians and now play roles that makes corruption to be lucrative. Domestic and international legislations that should safeguard, improve and enhance adequate productive of the sector are absent.
According to a recent Vanguard newspaper report, there are still controversies surrounding a new bill seeking to include N5 charge on fuel purchase by the NASS. There are claims and counter claims that it is an attempt to further increase petroleum prize from N145 to N150 barely a year after petroleum product was increased from N86 to N145 at 124.7% increase. Senator Marafa, Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) cast doubt on the Federal Government claim that the fuel subsidy has been removed. He insisted that there are ongoing allegations of secret subsidy payments being made to oil marketers to import fuel. Price of petrol has remained inconsistent due to the lack of commitment by politicians to fulfil their political promises made to Nigerians on the outright removal of subsidy, and establishment of a strong regulatory body to ensure the affordability and stability of pump prices.
The 2017 International Monetary Fund Economic World Outlook Data Base unequivocally placed Nigeria’ economy as first in Africa and twenty – eight in the world, placing South Africa thirty-fifth, among 191 countries. With a GDP of $400.621billion, topping South Africa at $317.567 billion. Yet, unemployment rate doubled from 6% in 2006 to 12.1% in 2016 leaving about 70% youths unemployed. Over 115million (63.1%) out of about 182million people in Nigeria are still living below poverty line. Nigeria’s economic attributes is a contradiction to the low standard of living, poor health and environmental status, being faced by its citizens. With high rate of crime and political instability, a large number of youths is migrating from the shores of Nigeria to seek greener pastures elsewhere, daily.
Government should ensure adequate economic plans to eradicate poverty and provide accountability of how public funds are expended. The burden of the oil price is a bane to development and continues to have its toll on the poor people and the economy.
Written by Charles Iyare, Human Rights Dept, ANEEJ,