oppostion mounts oil hike

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Guardian

August 29, 3005

Opposition to fuel price increase
mounts

From Collins Olayinka (Abuja), Julius Alabi (Akure), Hendrix
Oliomogbe (Benin), Iyabo Lawal (Ibadan) and Robert Odoemene (Lagos)

PUBLIC anger against the latest hike in fuel
prices by the Federal Government continued in most parts of the country
yesterday.

Political parties, religious bodies, the civil society groups and some
prominent Nigerians called for a rejection of the new petroleum products prices.

In fact, some Christian denominations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)
took the matter to God, whom they asked to intervene and end the hardship in the
country.

But Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) said that the time for Nigerians
to take their destiny in their hands had come.

He described the Federal Government’s decision as the “most ungodly and
criminally insulting act against Nigerians.” Fawehinmi therefore asked the
citizens to act appropriately by rising against the new prices.

The Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG) led by Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti,
regarded the action as insensitive and designed to further emasculate the
impoverished people of Nigeria.

Similarly, the Joint Action Forum (JAF), which also condemned the approval
given by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to the Nigerian National Petroleum
Corporation (NNPC) to jerk up the pump price of fuel products, lamented that
since the inception of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, Nigerians
had lost their sleep over frequent raise in fuels prices.

To the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Oyo State, the citizenry must wake up
and take their fate in their hands by staging a mass protest against the action.

In a statement yesterday, Fawehinmi said that Obasanjo gloated over the debt
relief of $18 billion. “Obasanjo has been beaming with smiles from ear to ear
since the price of crude oil has been skyrocketing at the international market
and Nigeria has been collecting unprecedentedly high revenues from the sales of
our crude oil. Today, Sunday, August 28, 2005, it is $68 per barrel of crude oil
as against $20 per barrel of crude oil in January 2002, that is more than 100
per cent increase. Everyday the Federal Government makes at least $100 million
from the sale of our crude oil abroad. Our foreign reserves have been bulging.
The Federal Government is astronomically rich.

“Why should Nigerians be made to suffer for the buoyancy of our economy
through increased revenue to the government? After all, 2005 budget was
predicated on $30 per barrel but today it is $68 per barrel of crude oil more
than 100 per cent increase,” he said.

The Nigerian situation, Fawehinmi said, is very odd.

He likened it to a tenant who owed the landlord three years rent, whose
salary was suddenly increased by his employer from N10,000 per month to N50,000
monthly.

The landlord, he said, forgave him the debt of three years rent, but the
tenant was so overjoyed that he called his wife and his two children and told
them that he would now reduce the food allowance of the family by 50 per cent.
“Is that not madness?” Fawehinmi asked.

“By the latest increase in petroleum products prices, Obasanjo has defied and
defiled the constitution he swore to defend, observe and uphold.

“If we do not react by mass protest against the move, we would lose our moral
authority to oppose his next gamble: Third term bid as a monstrous dictator.”

Ransome-Kuti said that “even with the cloak of deregulation around it, it is
pertinent to conclude that the so called debt relief comes with a heavy price
tag and those at the helm of affairs have lost touch with reality.

“The yardstick for measuring the success or otherwise of government policies
should be its consequent effect(s) on the welfare of masses. In this particular
instance, it is negative. The ripple effect of fuel price increase will be
evident in all sectors of the economy-transport, education, agric and health.”

JAF said it received the news of the new fuel prices with utmost dismay.
“Since the inception of President Obasanjo’s second coming in 1999 in civilian
garb, the masses of this country have had their sleep stolen by incessant
increase in the price of this product that touches the very essence of every
Nigerian.

“It is rather ironic that the more the revenue Nigeria gets from oil in the
world market, the worse the treatment meted out to the people by the government
… If the latest price increase is anything to go by, there is no end in sight
to the suffering of the masses until the ‘omniscient’ tin god at the helm of
affairs is dislodged. It is apparent that Chief Obasanjo has lost touch with the
reality of the people’s living conditions.”

The statement issued by JAF Vice Chairman, Taiwo Otilolaye, said as a member
of the Labour -Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), the coalition would meet today
to take far reaching decisions on the matter.

The AD in a statement made available to reporters in Ibadan and signed by Mr.
Tunji Adeoye, chairman of the Ibadan City caucus, lamented that most Nigerians
now live below the poverty level as a result of the government’s anti-people
policies and programmes.

The party recalled that at the inception of President Obasanjo’s
administration in 1999, a litre of petrol was sold for N22, which has now risen
to between N65 and N70 thus marginalising the ordinary Nigerians out of the
dividends of democracy.

Said he: “Where is the share of the common man if he cannot feed himself and
members of his family as a result of the outrageous, socio-economic policies of
the present administration of President Obasanjo? A large percentage of the
people have lost their means of livelihood through the insensitive actions of
the government, which has refused to settle the retirement benefits of thousands
of those who lost their jobs.”

Also, the Vice President of the Nigerian Civil Service Union (South-West),
Bayo Ogunmola has declared the readiness of workers in the zone to join other
Nigerians to resist the new fuel price increase.

Ogunmola told The Guardian in Akure, the Ondo State capital at the weekend
that workers in the South-West were ready to fight for an affordable price
regime.

He spoke shortly after their zonal meeting at the weekend. According to him,
the increase had started bringing untold hardship on the masses as transport
fares and prices of commodities had skyrocketed.

In Anambra State, the traders, workers and civil society groups have rejected
the N65 price per litre. They called on the Federal Government to revert to the
old price in the interest of the suffering masses.

The Anambra State Labour Congress Chairman, Mr. Godwin Ibekwe, told
journalists in Onitsha at the weekend that the increase was unrealistic and
unacceptable and was waiting to join the reaction of the national body.

He said that it has already started mobilising its members to support the
actions of the national body, stressing that the implications of the price
increase were very grave.

Traders in Anambra State condemned the fuel price hike, which they said would
lead to increases in fares and the prices of goods.

“This increase is unpopular and shows government’s insensitivity to the
plight of the governed,” the President of the Anambra State Amalgamated Traders
Association (ASMATA), Mr. Sylvester Odife said.

He added that already, traders and the masses were battling to cope with the
painful economic programmes of the government, which had resulted in the ban of
many imported goods without adequate alternative.

Also, the state branch of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) has decried
the increase in fuel price.

Mr. Emeka Umeagbalasi, chairman of the CLO, said that the government was
trying to be mischievous by regularly increasing the pump price of fuel.

According to him, the questions asked in the past had not been answered as to
the reasons behind the increases and whether it was necessary now considering
the deplorable standard of living.

Christians in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja yesterday besieged their
various churches to pray for God’s intervention in what some of them called
“arbitrary fuel rice increase.”

At the Christ Apostolic Church located at Area 1, Garki, worshippers started
arriving at the premises as early as 7.30 a.m.

One of the worshippers, Stephen Ajayi, an engineer, decried the latest
increase in fuel prices. He said the situation in the country now called for a
special attention.

His words: “To me, I have not seen anything good in it. As a building
engineer, I went to the depot yesterday (Saturday) and found that the price of
cement had gone up. I tell you, the increase is already affecting the prices of
goods and services.”

At the Anglican Church, Wuse District, Zone 5, some worshippers who spoke to
The Guardian said it has become imperative to go to God in prayers over the
seemingly unending upward review in the prices of petroleum products.

Mrs. Dorcas Eze, a housewife, said it has not been easy in her home as
regards monthly housekeep allowance.

But in the midst of the rising anger in the land, the Chairman, Federal
Capital City Zone of the Christ Apostolic Church, Pastor Femi Adejubu called on
Christians to put their trust in the Lord in time of trouble.

“I call on all Christians to look unto God and remain law-abiding. On our
part, we are praying and we will continue to pray for the well-being of the
country and the peace of the Lord to keep on reigning in our land,” he
admonished.

It was a terrible time for motorists in Benin, the Edo State capital at the
weekend following the fuel price increase. Most fuel retail outlets simply
refused to sell.

At other filing stations where the products were available, long queues and
chaotic scenes, which brought back sad memories of the dark, old days were the
order of the day. Some chose to simply abandon their vehicles at the retail
outlets after running out of fuel in their tanks.

The busy Akpakapava Street characterised by the large number of retail
outlets was deserted due to the absence of fuel, which suddenly turned to an
essential commodity because of the renewed scarcity.

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