The position of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that there should be no further increase in the pump price of fuel has elicited mixed reactions in the country.
Six times, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has increased the pump price of petrol, making the product to sell for N167 per litre as against N86.5 it was sold in the President Goodluck Jonathan era.
Secretary of the national caretaker committee of the party, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, on Tuesday, said the party resolved there should be no further increase in the pump price of fuel.
Our correspondents gathered from impeccable sources that the decision not to immediately increase the fuel pump price was among other things reached during a meeting of the tripartite committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Daily Trust learnt that the meeting of the tripartite committee, which consisted of the top echelons of the legislature, executive and the APC, took place at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, and was chaired by Vice President Osinbajo, three weeks ago.
It was gathered that present at the meeting were Senate President, Ahmed Lawan; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Gambari; Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege; Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and some members of the APC caretaker committee.
Our correspondent reports that Chairman of the APC caretaker committee and Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, had met President Muhammadu Buhari last year at the State House, where the idea of forming a tripartite committee was mooted.
It was gathered that the committee would be handling critical issues of national interest with party officials actively involved in decision-making processes.
It’s all about 2023 — Dons
Reacting, a professor of Political Science with interest in public administration at Bayero University Kano (BUK), Kamilu Sani Fage, said the position of the APC was purely about the 2023 general elections as the party knew better than to support what is not popular with the masses.
“The insinuation that there is going to be an increase in the pump price of fuel is the reason why we are seeing queues in places like Abuja and some capital cities. And the reason why APC is trying to disassociate itself from the government policy has to do with the politics in Nigeria,” he said.
The former vice president of the Nigerian Political Science Association (NPSA) said the major stakeholders are already eyeing the 2023 general elections and would not want an issue that would be a campaign liability for them.
He, however, said what good thing Nigerians can take away from this is that the country’s democracy is maturing when the ruling party can go against the policy of the government.
For Professor Sama’ila Shehu of the Department of Political Science and International Studies, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, APC has found itself in a dilemma that stemmed from its “internal contradictions.”
He, therefore, noted that a certain camp or wing of the APC is influencing the decision of the party in order to achieve certain goals, especially because of President Buhari’s seeming indifference to the affairs of the party.
He also viewed the pronouncement from the perspective of genuine concern by some APC top echelon members over the hardship faced by Nigerians presently.
However, according to Professor Shehu, if the statement represents the genuine position of the party, “then it shows that APC is in real dilemma.”
On his part, Dr. Daiyabu Muhammad Hassan, a senior lecturer in the same department and university, believed that the party is trying to make amends and correct its unpopular policies in order to strengthen its position and brighten its chances in the 2023 elections.
Also speaking, Professor of Political Science at Lagos State University (LASU), Sylvester Odion, said the APC statement should not be taken at face value, noting that the reality of the global oil market makes it difficult to predict the price of fuel.
The don said right from the inception of the APC-led government, the ruling party knew its promise to bring down the price of petroleum products was not realistic.
He accused the ruling party and other political parties of lacking ideological stance.
In his view, an Associate Professor of Political Sociology, University of Abuja, Dr Abubakar Umar Kari, said there was a disconnect between the party and the government.
“The body language and even subtle utterances of some officials of government suggest that an increase in fuel price is imminent, ostensibly because government is unable or unwilling to continue to subsidize the commodity.
“On the other hand, like most Nigerians, the APC is opposed to any further increase in fuel price. The effects of such an increase can only be imagined. Things are just too hard for the ordinary people. Any fuel price hike will be one increase too many, it will be very unpopular and is an ill wind that can blow nobody any good.
“The party understands this only too well. The implications of the envisaged fuel price hike on the fortunes of the party are quite grave. APC is being demonized and losing public support as a result of policies considered as anti-people being churned out by the government.
“The way things are going, 2023 is too long before the party begins to reap the negative fruits of the economic policies (or lack of them) of its own government,” he said.
A stalwart of the party, who does not want to be named, faulted the party for disclosing the decision made during a closed-door meeting of an advisory committee.
“It is wrong for the party to formally make such a statement. As far as the president is the leader of the party and government, it is therefore wrong.
“They can call Mr President, giving him their own information since he’s the minister of Petroleum Resources, they can call the Senate Committee on the Petroleum or Committee on House of Representatives for Petroleum matters. By that they can get full information,” he said.
On the advisory committee, he said the panel is supposed to submit its report to the president not to formally make any statement.
Similarly, a former presidential candidate of United Progressive Party (UPP) who is presently a chieftain of the APC, Chief Chekwas Okorie, said that the party was being careful and mindful of the impact of further increase in fuel price on ordinary Nigerians and the political fumes it would generate from the opposition.
“So, one is the impact it will have on the economy and the ordinary people if you increase price. Two, is that there is already vicious propaganda going on from the opposition. You can’t forget the fact that we are already in an election era,” he said.
Ruling party hypocritical —PDP
Reacting, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said APC has no moral ground on the matter.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told Daily Trust that APC should make their process of price modulations open to Nigerians.
“APC is being hypocritical. Where have they been since all these increases on the pump price of petroleum products? For us, the question in PDP is what have they done with the revenue they have generated since they told us that they have removed subsidy, where is the money that they raised and what did they use it for?
“You cannot claim that you are paying a subsidy, whereas Nigerians are not in the picture of what you are doing in the area of price regulations. Whereas you are practising monopoly in the importation of fuel” he added.
By Ismail Mudashir, Saawua Terzungwe, Zakariyya Adaramola, Hamisu Kabir Matazu (Abuja), Isa Sa’idu (Zaria), Clement A. Oloyede (Kano) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)