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Mobs storm petrol stations after new president’s announcement that fuel subsidy ‘is gone’

6 June 2023
Reading time: 6 minutes

The price of fuel in Maiduguri in Borno State has gone through the roof – and marketers, travelling salesmen, drivers, passengers and residents are feeling the pinch.

Ever since newly elected President Bola Tinubu announced that his administration was suspending the fuel subsidy, the price of petrol has skyrocketed, with citizens waiting sometimes for hours in queues that wind around the block.

Within hours of hearing about the suspension, filling stations pushed up the price of fuel, some almost tripling it. Others simply stopped selling it, deciding to wait for the suspension to kick in and then sell fuel at the agreed higher price.

One of the problems seemed to be that when Tinubu made the announcement, he did not stipulate when it would take place. This resulted in mobs immediately rushing to the pumps because they knew the suspension would push up the price of petrol.

Frantic “panic buying” of petrol began as citizens tried to stock up before the prices spiked.

Tinubu’s administration – in an effort to pacify citizens – soon corrected the blunder and stated the subsidy would take place only on July 1.

The fuel price was expected to jump from the official pump price of ₦185 to between ₦350 and ₦550.

The United Nations said this was expected to have widespread economic consequences in the country where 133 million people live in multidimensional poverty.

Trade unions – which were in talks with Tinubu – said the announcement had brought nothing but “tears and sorrow” for the nation, adding that it was an insensitive and ill-timed decision.

They said this was particularly so because it followed the recent financial crisis caused by the introduction of new currency into the market, which resulted in long queues at banks and automated teller machines (ATMs) as Nigerians tried desperately to exchange their old currency for the new banknotes.

In rural areas, especially, citizens panicked because they could not exchange their money as there were no banks or ATMs in those areas and everyone had always used cash for transactions.

Although most citizens understood that the fuel subsidy was unsustainable, they said the suspension was too abrupt and should have been phased out.

Journalists at the president’s inauguration said they had been given copies of Tinubu’s speech and that the suspension did not appear in the copy. Tinubu’s announcement seemed to be made “off the cuff” and he had “ad-libbed” it, they said.

One reporter pointed out that the subsidy was more than the healthcare and education budget combined.

Residents of Maiduguri expressed dismay over the skyrocketing hike in fuel prices, saying that it would have a hugely negative effect on their cost of living.

Ya Ngujja Abba Modu told RNI that the increase in the fuel price would seriously affect poor people many of whom relied on tricycle drivers – the keke napep – for transportation. She said the price of fares had risen from ₦100 to ₦150 or ₦200.

“We are living a difficult life already and now the prices of transportation, food and non-food items have all increased because of the hike in the fuel price.”

Fatima Modu said: “The rise in fuel prices has a direct and negative effect on poor people like us, who have to struggle every day to get something to eat for our little children and family. The government and all other concerned authorities need to find a lasting solution to this problem.”

The keke napep riders and commercial car drivers said the high cost of fuel prices was affecting their business activities because there was a low turnout of passengers, meaning lower profits.

Baba Gana Bukar, a keke napep rider, said: “We are now buying fuel at the cost of ₦550 per litre and sometimes it is even higher. If you buy two litres of fuel at a cost of ₦1,100, it is hard to get even ₦1,000 as a profit. The number of passengers has fallen because many residents cannot afford to pay the newly increased fare, which is ₦150 or ₦200 naira.”

Another keke napep rider, Mohammed Konto, said some of his colleagues had simply parked their tricycles and had left the job because of the poor passenger turnout.

“We used to make a good profit before but now we are not getting anywhere near as many passengers and sometimes we can’t even get enough money to put food on our tables because the cost of food items in the market has soared, too.”

Abdullahi Audu, a commercial car driver said that there had been a huge drop in the number of passengers at the terminus, adding that there used to be passengers queueing early in the morning but now they were lucky to get just a few passengers during the whole day.

Mamman Ibrahim, also a commercial car driver, said the announcement by the new president was too abrupt. He believed the government should have phased out the suspension of the fuel subsidy instead of just announcing that it was now “gone”.

Mohammed Hussaini said he and his three colleagues often used a commercial car driver to take them from Maiduguri to Kano.

“Before the fuel hike, transportation cost us ₦7,500. Now, it costs almost ₦12,000. That’s a huge hike in price.”

Usman Abdullahi transports bags of items for traders at the Monday Market.

“Before we used to transport each bag at a cost of ₦800 but now we have to pay ₦2,000 for each bag to be transported. This has obviously resulted in a hike in the prices of goods and services at the market.”

Laminu Bukar agreed, saying the fuel hike had affected the prices of food and this was having a devastating effect on poor people.

“I used to sell food such as rice, cooking oil and maize, among other foodstuff. The high cost of fuel has really affected both our customers and business activities because the products we used to sell at a cost of ₦500 naira is now selling between ₦1,000 naira to ₦1,200. The prices of supplying and transporting food has increased because now we have to pay about ₦1,000 naira for each bag of rice or other food items to be transported.”


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