"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 10/29/16

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Coming Petrol Price Hike and NNPC’s Subterfuge

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Another petrol price hike is coming. It’s not a matter of “if”; it’s a matter of “when.” So either brace yourself for it or get ready to fight it. Of course, I’d be the happiest person to be wrong about this.

Every petrol price hike follows an unfailingly well-worn pattern in Nigeria. First, government flies a kite of an impending price hike through the bush telegraph and the traditional media, and then gauges the reaction of the public. If government sees that public reaction is intensely hostile, NNPC or some other government agency would issue a forceful but often wily denial, which lulls the people into a false sense of security and comfort.

Weeks or months later, supply would run out either because importers refuse to import petroleum products or because some union decides to go on strike to drive home the imperative of “total deregulation,”—or suchlike sterile subterfuge. A biting artificial scarcity ensues, price of petrol skyrockets, and the country grinds to a screeching halt.

Then an astonishingly fraudulent rhetorical rape of people, preparatory to the price increase, follows. The usual stale, sterile promise of “total deregulation” in the interest of the “masses” would be given. The masses of the people, we would be told, don’t “benefit” from low petrol prices. Faux anger would be whipped up against an intentionally unnamed, amorphous oil cabal and other elite groups that supposedly benefit from low petrol prices, which putatively robs government of the revenue it needs to build infrastructure and improve the lot of the people.

Of course, we would be reminded that our low prices conduce to petrol smuggling to neighboring countries, which purportedly hemorrhages our economy, and that, in any case, most Nigerians already pay way above the official price for petrol. And so on and so forth. Government calls this rhetorical fraud “sensitization” of the masses as a prelude to the increase in petrol prices. Of course, the real name for that is propaganda; deceitful, scorn-worthy, mendacious propaganda.

It’s probably the most bizarre and the most intellectually barren propaganda in the world not only because it’s been repeated verbatim since the 1960s but also because it seeks to convince people to accept that their own existential annihilation is beneficial to them, even when their lived realities give the lie to these cheap, stupid lies.

This elaborately choreographed scam has started. On August 7, 2016, Sunday Punch reported oil marketers to have said that the current price of petrol wasn’t profitable for them. They said, “the actual or real cost of petrol was N151.87 when all the pricing components are adequately captured.”

On September 4, we read again that all “former and present Group Managing Directors of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation,” after a one-day meeting with Minister of State for Petroleum Ibe Kackikwu, issued a statement saying, “the petrol price of N145/litre is not congruent with the liberalisation policy especially with the foreign exchange rate and other price determining components such as crude cost, Nigerian Ports Authority charges, etc remaining uncapped.”

This emboldened marketers, two days later, to insist that the “real cost of petrol” is “N165 per litre.” The Punch of September 6, 2016 quoted an oil marketer to have said, “[R]ight now, most of us are getting the product from the NNPC; that is why you still see that there is product everywhere. It is an indirect case of subsidy. It means the government is subsidising it through the NNPC and we are buying at local price. Had it been that we were the ones that sourced the foreign exchange, we can’t sell it at N145.”

Then on October 25, we heard that an NNPC Group General Manager by the name of Mele Kyari said at a conference in Lagos that “Sale of petrol at N145 is no longer sustainable.” In the aftermath of the panicky online chatter the statement inspired, NNPC was forced to deny that there would be an immediate increase in the price of petrol.

But the denial was, as usual, double-tongued. You need to read the whole story of the denial closely to know what I am talking about. "According to [the NNPC spokesman]," the Daily Trust reported, "IF THERE IS GOING TO BE ANYTHING LIKE A PRICE HIKE, the agency responsible for fixing the price of petrol, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, WOULD DEFINITELY SENSITISE NIGERIANS ON IT AND GIVE REASONS FOR THE HIKE."

It's the same sadly familiar trickery. Who the heck wants government’s "sensitization" and "reasons" for any impending hike? Government has been "sensitizing" and giving "reasons" for price hikes since the late 1960s, and they are all awfully the same: they are the same predictably fraudulent and flyblown clich├ęs of elite lies and insensitivity that I identified above.

"Sensitization" and "reasons" won't mollify the hurt the increase would inflict on ordinary Nigerians. "Sensitization" and "reasons" won't stop the cost of everything from food to transportation from escalating. "Sensitization" and “reasons" won't increase the meager, stagnant, and irregular salaries of people who work for government.

The statement from the NNPC is particularly ominous. It says, “AS FOR THIS MOMENT, there is absolutely no plan to do that and no need to do that, because we have more than enough supply, we have very robust stock of product in our custody."

So what of the "next moment" when the "robust stock of the product" in their "custody" is depleted? Got my drift? That's called plausible deniability.

I warned Nigerians before that the petrol price hikes would be never-ending as long as government refuses to invest in refineries and cut off the suffocating stranglehold of the fraudulent oil cabal once and for all.

I said government would continue to put forth one unimaginative subterfuge after the other to justify bilking everyday Nigerians and hastening their descent into untimely graves. We had been told that government no longer paid subsidies, and that the money saved from the withdrawal of petrol subsidies would be used to build infrastructure and make life a little better for everyone. Now they have changed the story: they now say they are still paying subsidies. The next lie would be that subsidies are bad, unsustainable, and should be got rid of.

They said they had totally "deregulated" the oil market and that only the forces of demand and supply would regulate prices. They even went so far as to say petrol prices would crash. Another big lie. The lies would get to the end of their shelf life soon, and the truth will come out.

Brace yourself for the next price hike—and another after that. And yet another thereafter—until all vulnerable and helpless people drop dead, and Buhari and his vultures have no more poor people to feast on.

Buhari's Nigeria is the perfect neoliberal nirvana that even the compulsively evil IMF and World Bank never imagined could ever exist anywhere on planet Earth: a place where mass stupidity reigns so supreme that people would actually protest against protesters protesting government's piecemeal death sentence on them. These low-IQ Buhari automatons “love” and “trust” their president who doesn’t care about them.

Take this from me: Until Nigerians actually unite and resolutely resist this sneaky move, what will follow in the next few weeks would be artificial scarcity of petrol, which would cause prices to go through the roof. The government, in cahoots with oil marketers, would allow the artificial scarcity—and the extortionist prices that accompany it—to linger long enough for people to heave a sigh of relief when the actual increased price they have in mind is finally announced.

Related Articles:
Unraveling of the Monumental Fraud in Petrol Price Hike
Petrol Price Hike: Time to Occupy Nigeria Again
Fuel Price Hike: The Language and Grammatical Illogic of a Regulated Deregulation
Fuel Subsidy Removal: Time to Occupy Nigeria!
Biggest Scandal in Fuel "Subsidy Removal" Fraud
Why Ordinary Americans Are Also Angry with Goodluck Jonathan
Photo Essay of Occupy Nigeria Protests
Labor's Treachery Against the "Occupy" Nigeria Revolt
The Grammar and Vocabulary of Fuel Subsidy Removal
"Premium Motor Spirit Otherwise Known as Petrol" and Other Petrol-Inspired Grammatical Boo-Boos

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