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Nigerians Debate The Privatization of Oil Refineries - 2003-10-06


Some Nigerians say frequent price increases for petroleum products will be reduced, if the government repairs or privatizes its ailing refineries. But officials say price increases are inevitable since the products are being imported until the refineries are repaired.

The new prices require motorists to pay an average of N40 per liter of fuel, instead of N34. That was the price until October 1st. A similar increase from N22 to N40 in June led to a labour strike - which forced the government to introduce marginal reductions in the prices. Now labour is threatening a fresh strike over the increases. Lawyer Justin Uwaifo says frequent price increases reflect the government's disregard for Nigerians welfare: " [The government is not being fair (by) adjusting the price every other day. They are not taking the plight or suffering of the people into consideration."

But government petroleum officials say independent marketers fixed the new prices -- since they are the ones who import the products, while the nation's refineries are undergoing repairs. Businessman Andrew Agbi, says one way to improve Nigeria's domestic production of petrol is to privatize the ailing refineries.

But Louis Ogbeifun disagrees. He is President of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association Of Nigeria, or PENGASSAN. According to Mr. Ogbeifun, labour would rather see the refineries repaired by the government. Analysts say frequent increases in the price of petroleum products do not augur well for the Nigeria -- because labor's strike actions in reaction to the price increases often paralyses the economy, inflicting hardship on the citizens. They say the government would do well to repair its refineries once and for all.