- Unions say they weren't consulted on the government decision
- Politicians from both ruling, opposition parties protest move
The Nigeria Labour Congress, an umbrella trade union federation, vowed to resist a 67 percent increase in gasoline prices after the government moved to tackle near constant fuel shortages.
“This is the worst that any government has attempted to do” and the group will hold an emergency meeting on Friday, Secretary-General Peter Izebuwa Ozo-Eson said on national broadcaster AIT. He said the union wasn’t consulted by the government decision, which was announced on Wednesday.
Babatunde Oke, a spokesman for Petroleum and Natural Gas Association of Nigeria, also said its members weren’t consulted and are currently meeting to take a decision on the price increase. Emmanuel Kachikwu, state minister of petroleum resources, said during Wednesday’s statement that the decision had been taken after a meeting with unions, including the NLC and Pengassan.
The protests bear similarities to when former President Goodluck Jonathan, Muhammadu Buhari’s predecessor, sparked a week of national strikes when he raised the price of fuel in January 2012, forcing him to partially reinstate subsidies. Politicians from both the ruling and opposition parties have also voiced discontent.
“Somebody is asking me for advice on how he can survive the fuel price increase,” Ben Murray-Bruce, an opposition People’s Democratic Party senator from the southern oil-producing state of Bayelsa, said on Twitter on Thursday. “What can I say? Personally I’m even considering buying a horse!”
Senator Shehu Sani, a ruling All Progressives Congress senator from northern Kaduna state, said on Facebook that the price hike “amounts to capitulation and outright deception.”
Buhari, who took office last year, had previously argued that removing a cap on pump prices would hurt Nigerians. With the government unable to meet the foreign exchange needs of importers at a time when low oil prices have eroded export income, fuel shortages have persisted for months, forcing motorists to pay more than double the official price.
Nigeria, a major crude exporter, relies on fuel imports to meet more than 70 percent of its domestic needs, with four state-owned, ill-maintained refineries working at a fraction of their combined 445,000 barrels per day capacity. Higher fuel prices are expected to encourage private investments in refineries and boost domestic supply, the petroleum ministry said.