As Nigerians now buy a litre of petrol at N212 it becomes fundamental to interrogate the action that led to the 2012 uprising where Nigerians poured out on the streets when the government of Mr. Goodluck Jonathan, former Nigerian president increased price of petrol from N65 to N141 per litre.
The civil society organizations, organized labour union and Nigerians held days of protest on the streets of major towns in Nigeria demanding the petrol increase be reverted to N65 per a litre, an action that forced the Jonathan government to reduce the price of petrol to N97 per litre.
In 2012, when the civil society organizations and organized labour rejected the petrol price increase, their demands were very clear, (1) repair, fix the refineries and stop the importation of refined crude (2) address the corruption in the oil sector and unbundle the NNPC (3) Nigerians are poor and cannot afford to have a huge financial burden that government wants to put on them as a result of petrol increase (4) address waste in government.
These were some of the core demands placed by the civil society organizations and the organized labour before they will support petrol increase.
The Goodluck Jonathan administration must accept that Nigerians have a right to benefit from their God-given resources. After all the Nigerian government has an agreement with OPEC to allocate 445,000 barrels a day for local refining and consumption.
The Nigerian government develops a time-bound program for re-establishing the capacity to process and sell crude allocations to Nigerians at a cheap rate. Nigerians have entitlements that cannot be ignored or disregarded.
That the Goodluck Jonathan Administration must accept basic democratic principles, the views of citizens must not only be accepted but must be the basis for all policy development and implementation.
However, the reality is that the Muhammadu Buhari government has not addressed the same demand placed by the civil society organization and organized labour in 2012.
The refineries have not been fixed; Nigeria still continues to import refined crude, corruption in the NNPC still on the increase, the corporation yet to be unbundled. Yet the Buhari government had increase petrol over five times with N212 per litre being the latest.
Mr. Jibrin Ibrahim, a professor of political science and former director of Centre for Democracy and Development, one of the major actors in the 2012 protest that held the Jonathan government accountable and rejected petrol price increase on tweeted “Things are tough for the commoner as fuel and electricity charges rise as inflation gallops. The new normal is that Nigeria is broke and we need to start paying real rates for our consumption as the capacity to subsidize has collapsed”.
I am sorry to disagree with him, in 2012, I worked under Jibrin Ibrahim, his arguments then were clear and apt, he told the government of Jonathan, fix refineries, put in place local production and equitable distribution of petrol product so Nigerians can afford the price, remove government spending which amounted to waste and address corruption in NNPC.
Jibrin’s argument that the government is broke is not a new argument in Nigeria, the major argument of Jonathan’s government in 2012 why it wanted to remove subsidy and increase petrol was that the government was broke.
We cannot justify the petrol price increase on Nigeria’s brokenness, the government ought to fix the refineries, ensure local production of the product, and equitable distribution, which was the argument of Jibrin, Labour and other Nigerians in 2012.
Until the Buhari government fixes the refineries and stops the importation of refined crude, it has no moral ground to remove petrol subsidy and increase the petrol price. This was the argument against Jonathan’s government in 2012 and under Buhari, nothing has changed.
Audu Liberty Oseni
Coordinator, Media Advocacy West Africa Foundation (MAWA-Foundation)