Nigeria plans grain and fertiliser distribution in response to escalating fuel prices

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Nigeria’s government has announced plans to begin the distribution of grains and fertiliser from Monday, as reported by Reuters. This measure, accompanied by an upcoming increase in the salaries of government workers, aims to mitigate the impact of record petrol prices, which have reached an all-time high of 617 naira ($0.78) per litre. These plans have been unveiled by the vice president’s office as part of the country’s effort to alleviate the ongoing economic strain.

The distribution of grains and fertiliser will be managed by the central bank, according to a statement from the vice president’s office. The initiative has garnered support from state governors, though further details about the plan’s specifics remain under wraps.

The Nigerian government, led by President Bola Tinubu, has been grappling with escalating fuel prices following the cessation of a petrol subsidy in May. This popular but costly scheme had kept prices affordable for many Nigerians for decades. However, the mounting financial pressure, which culminated in a cost of $10 billion last year, led to the subsidy’s discontinuation.

To address this burgeoning crisis, President Tinubu sought and obtained Senate approval last week for an $800 million loan from the World Bank. This decision aligns with Tinubu’s ambition to institute some of Nigeria’s most significant reformsin recent history, aimed at tackling the country’s high debt burden among other economic challenges.

In a bid to reduce dependency on imported fuel, the government has announced plans for a short-term rollout of mass transit powered by natural gas, alongside the establishment of autogasconversion plants. Longer-term initiatives include the introduction of electric buses and cars with nationwide charging infrastructure.

These reforms have, however, been met with criticism from labour unions. They have condemned the abrupt end of the fuel subsidy without suitable mechanisms to mitigate the surge in prices. This criticism comes against a backdrop of inflation rates that have been persistently in double digits since 2016, with an acceleration to 22.79% recorded in June.

The government’s response has been a negotiation with Nigeria’s main labour unions to raise the minimum wage for government workers. An eight-week timeline was set in June to finalise this agreement, illustrating the government’s efforts to balance its bold economic reforms with the urgent need to alleviate the burden on its citizens during this economic transition.

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