By Suleiman Umaru
Aware that the Ayuba Wabba, led, Nigerian Lbour Congress, NLC, has planned to called out the workers on January 27 and February 2, 2022, to protest against the proposed increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, petrol, even when the 2023 general elections is just 17 months away, appears to have President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General , to have had a rethink.
The Katsina state born Nigerian President and his kitchen Cabinet, appear to have known that if Wabba, is allowed to take advantage of the proposed fuel pump increase to drag out the worker to the street on protest , it would be a bad advertisement on the ruling All Progressive Congress that he had intervened to save the situation. But Femi Adesina, Special Assistan to the President on Media and Publicity would not agree.
Temipre Syva, former governor of Bayelsa, home state of former President Good luck Jonathan,and now minister of Petroleum Resources, had said , that the government had proposed to extend the fuel subsidy removal by another 18 months, which is beyond the 2023, general elections. The minister had said that’’ the extension would give the industry stkakeholders time to ensure that the implementation is carries in a manner that ensures all necessary modalities are put in place to cushion the effect of the petrol subsidy removal’’.
The Nigerian government was working on the provisions of the PIB, which had been assented into Law, by the Katsina born Nigerian President. Note that there was a six-month provision on the PIB that will expire in February 2022. There are indications that the Nigerian President may take the assented Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, to the National Assembly for Amendment to avoid been dragged to Court by aggrieved individuals., which may not tell good of the government.The government’s decision to suspend the fuel pump price hike by 18 months, may have encouraged the Organised Labour ‘’to suspend its planned nation-wide protest’’.
Adesina, Media Aide to the President who had appeared on Channels Televions Breakfast Sunrise Programme, recently, body language had shown that that the retired Army is not happy that his plan to remove petrol subsidy did not work out. In an emotional language, he had said that ‘’Nigeria will have to pay a price’ as the government will continue to borrow externally’. He noted that billions of dollars would have been saved and which could have been diverted to other critical areas of the economy and spheres of life but no longer the case.
Last alone, the Ahmad Lawan led Senate had approved some loan requests of the government This included the approval of $6.1 billion, as well as the $16,230,077,718 and #1,020,000,000 loan requests in July and November, respectively.
The Media Aide blamed the drop in the nation’s Forex generation to the fluctuation in the international oil market since 2019, due to the Asian country of China emerged coronavirus, popular, COVID 19. He noted that the country’s crude oil price dropped to as low as $30 per barrel but later rose above $80 per barrel.
Sylva, the minister of state, Petroleum Resources, disclosed that the proposed increase in pump price of petrol has to be suspended ‘’to enable the government unveil the alternatives to the people’’. Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President, had said that the governement is working hard ‘’to provide the necessary infrastructure that will facilitate the conversion of petrol-powered vehicles to autogas vehicles’’.
Justice Derefaka, who is the Program Manager for both the Nigeria Gas Flare Commercialisation Program and the Autogas, part of the National Gas Expansion project had said that the government is not resting on its oars ‘’to enthrone gas as the go-to fuel transportation, electricity, cooking and other uses that would support the country’s domestic economy.
The twelve pilot states for the autogas project for now, according to informed sources are Lagos, the natio’s Commercial nerve centre, Ogun, Bauchi, Gombe, Abuja, the Fedral Capital Territory, FCT, Niger, Katsina, Sokoto, Eboyi, Enugu, Delta and Bayelsa.
As a prelude to ensuring the introduction of the autogas to the economy, the government was said to have set up the Autogas and Natural Gas vehicles Committee, ANGV, in February 2020, with a mandate ‘’to promote the expansion of autogas as an alternative to power vehicles in Nigeria as obtained in the Asian countries of China, Japan, South Korea, , Thailand, India and the European countries of Italy, Blgaria, Lithunia, Ntherlands, Portugal, Poland , Rusia, Serbia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine.
Other countries using the auto gas includede the United Kigngdom, UK, and the North American countries of the United states, US, Mexico, and Canada, among others.
Given the importance attached to the autogas project by the Buhari Administration may have informed why it has earmarked a N250 billion intervention facility for it. The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, was sad to have mapped out the maximum loan an obligator can access under the intervention fund at N10 billion. The former Bayelsa state governor, had said that ‘’it will begin the conversion of petrol-powered vehicles to autogas in March, 2022, after a recent meeting with the oil marketers.
He had told those that care to listen that ‘’the deployment of autogas was one of such key alternatives’ to petrol that Nigerians must embrace’’. Last December, the government had rolled out the autogas programme called the Natural Gas Epansion Programme. Suffice it to say that, going by the minister’s estimate, vehicle owners in the country will pay between N200,000.00 and N250,000.00 to convert their petrol –powered vehicles to autogas. There are indications that vehicle owners will have ‘’different payment plans to convert their cars to autogas.
The minister had repeatedly said that that the Autogas programme involves the conversion of fuel-powered vehicles , generators from petrol to gas, further stressing that that ‘’it is aimed at deepening domestic usage of natural gas in its various forms’’.
Already, one European firm, THLD International Logistic Limited, was said to have started constructing a top level factory where LPG trailers, bobtail, skid tank, cylinders, autogas tanks would be built to enable Nigerians convert their petrol powered vehicles to autogas on over 21 plots of land in Otta, Ogun, Olusegun Obsanjo’s home state.
Signs that the conversion of the petrol-powered vehicles to autogas may not be as cheap as Osinbajo , the Vice President had made Nigerians to believe is evidenced by the $2.18 approved for domestic supply obligation , DSO. Although, the minister of state, had tried to make Nigerians believe that the government had approved the downward review of gas for DSO by 32 Cents from the $2.18/MBtu , but many still believe that it was done ostensibly to encourage Nigerians to embrace the autogas alternative o petro and take them o a position of no return.
Wabba, the NLC president had revealed that the Technical Committee recommended to the government at the close of February 2021, that gas price should be sold below $1.50 per MBtu but the government gave approval for it to be sold above the figure, fueling speculations making the rounds that autogas price per litre would also be sold above the price promised by the government.
Note that between 2020 and now, the government had been on the autogas project but nothing appears to have come out of it. It was anticipated that 12 million vehicles plying Nigerian roads would be running on CNG and LPG as part of the measures ‘’to mitigate the tension over the proposed hike in the pump price of petrol. It is instructive to note that the plan is yet to take off despite the commitment of the country’s scarce resources for the conversion’’.
There is no gain saying the fact that 13 months, after the launch of the auto gas Initiative, ‘’ the ‘’infrastructure, high cost of gas, lack of proper planning, the country’s prevailing harsh economic realities, and safety concerns’’ , have continued to sabotage the governmen’st autogas plan’’.
It is instructive to note that the price of gas has gone up by over 200% since the autogas Initiative was launched in the countr . Even the infrastructure to convert the fuel-powered vehicles to autogas has exponentially gone up as well just as the import skirts had soared alongside foreign exchange, resulting in free fall of the naira.
Osinbajo, Sylva, and Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, batptised Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, going by the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, which had been assented into Law, by the retired Army General, had described the autogas plan as a’’ very good policy’’.
The Nigerian Vice President, had said that ‘’the autogas will curb carbon dioxide emission in line with the global environmental expectations and the nation’s Commitment to the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2015 and the insistence of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, on a limit of no more than 1.5 degree centigrade greenhouse emission.
At present, Nigeria, has 263 trillion cubic of gas in its proven reserves which is more than enough to meet the local demand.
The Nigerian may shown that it was not his mind to have bowed to pressure to suspend the increase in the pump price of petrol for the next 18 months, stressing that Nigeria may have to continue to borrow from the World Bank, countries that are ready to support Nigerian infrastructural development efforts multilateral Financial Institutions.