Long queues at service stations, while those left open have at least doubled prices, said MISNA sources, while from the semi-arid north to the oil swamps of South, Nigerians begin feel the immediate consequences of the lifting of subsidies that have kept fuel prices low for decades.
Mark Asu-Obi, head of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Kano , told MISNA that “Many stations have closed since last week: they hold the stock for resale at higher prices in the coming days.”
According to government forecasts, deregulation could lead to increases from 65 to 141 naira per liter, 30 to 67 cents.
Asu-Obi said yesterday in Kano, petrol was selling for 80 naira per liter. Other sources say that today a minibus traveling from Lagos to Ado Ekiti costs 3000 naira, double the price posted last week.
The risk is that deregulation promotes speculative activities. In a statement, the government has claimed that it was now ready to ensure “an adequate supply at competitive prices”, calling on Nigerians “not to panic and not to hoard” fuel.
The price increase varies according to city and region, but it still affects the entire country, including the Niger Delta where 90% of locally produced oil comes from. According to Father Daniel Okanatotor, a missionary of the Society of St Paul (MSP) reached by MISNA in the city of Warri, there is concern that the price rises will affect millions of poor people hardest even if there is hope that under certain conditions deregulation can be beneficial.
“Historically – said Father Okanatotor – the subsidies have encouraged corruption and trafficking across the border ready to sell gasoline at market prices.” Because the price increases are sustainable, however, is essential to overcome the paradox of a country that is rich in oil and that is forced to import about 90% of its fuel requirements. “In Nigeria – said the missionary – there are only four refineries, old and broken: if you want to avoid social disasters, we must build new ones.”
The challenge is difficult because there is little time. The main trade union confederations have already announced a national mobilization with strikes, marches and “mass protests”. In challenging the abolition of subsidies is also the main opposition party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Muhammadu Buhari of the former dictator, according to which the President Goodluck Jonathan, “the war is doing to Nigerians.”
Many fear that popular discontent fosters extremist movements like the Islamic group Boko Haram, which today has threatened further violence. Asu-Obi, upon returning from Madalla, the suburb of Abuja, where an attack during the Christmas mass claimed more than 40 victims noted that “the vast majority of Nigerians condemn the actions of Boko Haram – as assured by the head of the Justice and Peace Commission – but the economic and social difficulties could create an explosive mixture.”