NIGERIA REMOVES FUEL SUBSIDY, PROMPTS MIXED REACTIONS
Nigeria’s government has announced the removal of a fuel subsidy, meaning that petrol prices are to rise by 66 percent, in a decision that has provoked mixed responses.
The cost of petrol will rise from 86.5 naira ($0.43) to 145 naira ($0.73) per litre after the subsidy—which costs the Nigerian government $2.7 million per day, according to the BBC—was removed. The Nigerian Petroleum Ministry said in a statement that there was no provision for the subsidy in the 2016 budget—which was finally approved by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday after first being proposed in December 2015—and that the slight rebound in the cost of oil had forced the government’s hand.
Nigeria is experiencing a severe fuel shortage, with consumers queuing for hours outside gas stations and often paying way over the new price for black-market products. The West African country, the continent’s biggest oil producer, has been unable to meet demand due to several factors, including increased attacks on oil pipelines in the Niger Delta that have forced the evacuation and shutdown of some facilities. “We share the pains of Nigerians but…the inherited difficulties of the past and the challenges of current times imply that we must take difficult decisions on these sorts of critical national issues,” said Petroleum Minister Emmanuel Kachikwuin a statement on Wednesday.
A similar decision to remove the subsidy in January 2012 by former President Goodluck Jonathanprompted nationwide protests by consumers and strikes by labor unions, with at least 10 people being killed in violent demonstrations. One of the unions that went on strike in 2012, the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), rejected the “unilateral” increase, which it said represents the “height of insensitivity and impunity and shall be resisted by the NLC and its civil society allies,” Nigeria’s Premium Times reported on Wednesday.
But some Nigerians on social media expressed the view that the removal of the subsidy was a necessary step towards relieving the fuel shortage. Others, such as Nigerian senator Ben Murray-Bruce—a member of the opposition People’s Democratic Party—took the opportunity to poke fun at the Buhari administration.