By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt
The Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide has decried the shocking increase in prices of petroleum products especially Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS) by the Federal Government describing it as insensitive to the plight of Ijaw communities living in different parts of the country especially the Niger Delta region.
The President of IYC, Peter Igbifa, in a statement he personally signed said Ijaw communities were the worst hit by the sudden jack up of prices in the petroleum sector because of their peculiar geographical locations.
Igbifa argued that the decision of the Federal Government to remove all subsidies on fuel was done without putting in place prerequisite facilities to ameliorate negative consequences of such action on vulnerable communities in Ijaw land.
He said the government should have waited till the completion of some of the modular refinery projects, rehabilitation of moribund federal government-owned refineries and reviving of floating petrol stations in some waterways in the Niger Delta region before implementing such decision.
Igbifa regretted that some floating petrol stations built by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to facilitate access to fuel in coastal Ijaw communities had been abandoned by the NNPC.
He said prior to the recent increase in fuel, residents in Ijaw communities were buying the product very costly outside the regulated prices because of unavailability of authorised fuel stations in their areas.
He said the price of petroleum products in such areas had become outrageous with the latest move by the federal government.
Igbifa lamented that the hitherto costly marine transport had quadrupled following the increase in fuel adding that most resident in Ijaw communities could no longer visit their capital cities to transact their businesses.
Besides the IYC President said the development would seriously affect the government’s war against illegal refineries and their implications on the eco system.
He argued that with the increase, many people were likely to go into the business of crude refining of crude oil to make petroleum products available to persons in the coastal communities.
Igbifa called on the federal government to allow the completion and operations of ongoing modular refinery projects before totally removing subsidy on fuel.
He also urged the Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, to revive the existing NNPC floating fuel stations and set more of such stations on the waterways of Ijaw communities to give Ijaw people access to fuel.
He said: “The umbrella body of all Ijaw youths, the IYC, totally rejects this increase of petroleum products. It is ill-timed. Our coastal communities are indeed the worst hit by this increase and we are asking the Federal Government to reconsider its position on this matter.
“We believe that before full deregulation is implemented in the petroleum sector, the Federal Government must put some prerequisite facilities in place. Such facilities must include reviving all floating petrol stations, which have been abandoned along some waterways in the Niger Delta.
“The Federal Government must also ensure the full rehabilitation and optimum operations of the moribund Warri and Port Harcourt refineries as well as the completion of other modular refineries in the Niger Delta. Anything outside ensuring that we have self-sufficiency in refining crude oil produced in this country amounts to putting the cart before the horse and we totally reject it.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw this decision because of the hardship it has already inflicted on our people. We also call on our own brother and Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, to prevail on Mr. President to meet the prerequisite conditions before total deregulation.
“We want to state that the current development if allowed to persist will hamper the war against oil theft and illegal refining of petroleum products affecting our ecosystem. This is because the unavailability of petroleum products because of its cost will compel more people to go into the business of illegal refining of the products, which is seen as cheaper than the regulated product.”
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