In recent months in Nigeria, the pump price of petroleum has been changed several times. The last one occurred surreptitiously with the marketers’ usual method of creating scarcity to prompt panic buying by motorists and later the pump price was raised from the official price of N580 to the widespread price of N650 to N700 per litre in some cases.
Unfortunately, this is coming at a time that the government especially the state governments are not doing much to address or assuage the dangerous and precarious economic crisis to which common citizens of the country have had to contend with in recent times particularly since the unprecedent removal of fuel subsidy and the merging of the existing two parallel foreign exchange markets in the country.
Therefore, since then beyond the direct price increases in the pump price of petroleum it has ultimately resulted in spiral increases in virtually all consumer commodities prices in the country. Indeed, the scenarios and ugly development presented has bestowed untold hardship on ordinary Nigerians and has become very worrisome to many Nigerians including this columnist. This is particularly so because of its far-reaching consequences especially the ability of ordinary Nigerians to survive the very hard times.
One has begun to question and interrogate the essence of politics with oil price increases as well as the suffering of Nigerians since the current Federal Government unilaterally and without due consideration of its debilitating consequences on the people they were elected to govern and secure their welfare. Also, one has been examining the role of politics in context of our dear country, Nigeria. Was it instituted and nurtured to deliberately inflict pains and irreparable damage on the lives of the people? This and many other retrogressive tendencies and actions of privileged Nigerians have again motivated us to look at the issue today.?
From the above, one was tempted to look at the meaning of politics and interrogate with current oil pricing in Nigeria without engaging the people that will ultimately be affected by the far reaching contentious decisions and actions. The term politics has been used to describe the actions or activities concerned with achieving using power in a country or society. It is confined to that which concerns the state, it involves a whole host of other activities, actors and spaces. Through a variety of state institutions, governments make and enforce laws that govern the conduct of those within their jurisdiction. Thus, politics, whether broadly or narrowly defined, is all about critically engaging with or challenging the status quo – the present state of affairs. In sum, politics essentially concern the activities of state or government engaging her citizens for ultimate development goal of securing consensus in decision to promote welfare and the state.
Indeed, the essence of politics is to better the lots of the people. With the current disposition of government and happenings in the country where the majority that are poor are being subjected to more hardship by inflicting more pains, no thanks to the recent upward increase in the pump prices of petroleum that increased virtually the price of all other products in the country, as it is, one can safely state that the current increases were not a product of engagement of the authority with the people and hence negate the principles of politics. This essentially revealed the deficiencies and inadequacies in the political arrangement of Nigeria that has been causing tension and crisis in her polity over the years. A manifestation of the fact that the Nigerian state is skewed in favour of the upper privileged class of Nigerians that have been feeding fat on the poor majority of the citizens of the country. Of course, this is not good and a dangerous trend that portends grave consequences for the peace and progress of the entire country.
The issue of whether or not to adjust upward the prices of petroleum products in Nigeria has become an issue of intense discussion in recent times. Of course, the disability of the increases that have taken place in recent years is not the focus of our discussion. What is paramount to us is the mode and deceit that have accomplished the process of the reviews over the years. Indeed we are not out here to justify the current increases or otherwise, but essentially to raise issue, moral issues that concern governance and welfare of the people that seems to be suffering seriously in recent times due to increases in petroleum products prices often instigated by extraneous influences including those from World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The recent upward review was done underground through the marketers, though it appears it was carried out without the approval of the government it also did not receive comment or action from the government. This is against the general norms of modern politics that support and require engagement from the people far reaching decisions such as review of petroleum products prices. A tacit support for and approval of the marketer’s actions. In any case is it possible by the marketers to unilaterally raise pump price of petroleum product without castigations from government? I don’t think this is possible and since the recent increases, there has not been query or sanctions from the authority and agencies created to moderate or control the prices of goods and services in the country.
However, impunity by private business to adjust their prices is a common phenomenon in Nigeria and therefore because of poor governance structure, incompetence and corruption on the part of government agents such arbitrary actions could take place in the country. Indeed, from what is happening with pump price of petroleum where the price has been changing every week or day, it does appear that the citizens were deceived by creating artificial scarcity so that the price of the product will be increased without knowledge and there will be no protests and or demonstration from the public.
That was actually played out. Thus, scarcity of the product was created which instigated panic buying and consequently the procurement of it at any available price above the official price. As this wicked script is playing out, the marketers on the pretext of non-availability of the products surreptitiously raised it sequentially from the official rate of N580 to N590, N620, N625 to as high and N700 per litre in some remote towns and villages.
On a final note, since the goal of the Nigerian government had been to adopt appropriate pricing for petroleum products, in order to avoid hoarding, artificial scarcity, smuggling, diversion, low level investment and product adulteration of the essential commodity has its consequences. One of them is that it can create a gulf between the government and the governed. It is capable of entrenching despotic dictatorial government that can engender discord and crisis capable of insulating the people from their leaders. It could erode legitimacy of government actions and decisions. This sort of politics is not good in a society contending with insecurity and other crisis including those associated with electioneering process and outcomes.
Therefore, to better improve politics and governance in the country, the government could do well to engage the people and must be prepared to address the consequences of hard decisions like the one surrounding hike in petroleum price that have impacted negatively on Nigerians. The need to begin to involve the citizens more in decision making is imperative and need to be embraced, imbibed in the future to forestall crisis. The back door increase in the pump price of petroleum is not a good political decision and should not be encouraged in our society.