By Michael Simire
Deputy Sunday Editor
The past couple of weeks have not been the best of times for the average Nigerian, who has been battling to contend with an unsavoury New Year gift from government.
Astonishment, despair, and then anger greeted the unexpected January 1 declaration by the Federal Government that the downstream sector of the oil industry had been deregulated and as such the N65 per litre cost of petrol had more than doubled overnight.
Consequently, the nation virtually came to halt for most of the past week as the Organised Labour-led nationwide mass action became operational. But life still had to continue and Nigerians, amid the protest, had begun to devise means to adapt to the catastrophe.
Industry stakeholders say that because of the new price regime, the environment will be better off as less fuel will be burnt and thus resulting in minimal pollution.
“Already, people have started re-ordering their priorities – generators are now working fewer hours in residential area; during the sit-at-home most afternoons are devoid of generator noise and fumes,” submits Akin Olawore, a realtor.
According to him, resources will have to be reallocated and, following the crashing GSM airtime, “there will be more of conference calls than physical meetings where it can be avoided.”
Olawore, who is based in Lagos, adds, “More people will desire to join mass transit and perhaps pooling of vehicles will become of greater relevance. No doubt house prices will go up where there is vibrant market such as the mid and low, but there may be prolonged void at the high end.
“This is the time to convert downtown properties to executive studio flats, as closeness to the Central Business District (CBD) will translate to savings in gas cost which will drive demand in that market.”
Abuja-based environmentalist, Ochuko Odibo, believes that the situation will create a behavioural change in the way Nigerians consume fuel.
His words: “Many Nigerians will rather walk to the corner shop than drive there. Nigerians will now prefer to share car rides with friends or use the public transport service therefore reduce emission of carbon dioxide (Co2) in the atmosphere.
“It will also drive Nigerians to adopt alternative source of fuel that is cheap, renewable, affordable and available,” he stresses.
Environmentalists and university professor, Babajide Alo, notes that the development may reduce the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere.
He says, “People would begin to rationalise how they use their vehicles now because of the new fuel regime. Rather one person using a car, three or more people would now occupy such a vehicle. I foresee a situation whereby mass transportation will also be encouraged.”
Alo, a chemist, emphasises that the nation’s contribution to GHGs emission will reduce Greenhouse Gases would reduce under the new regime, adding, “One good part of the deregulation is that the environment will be better for it.”
Environmental activist, Ewah Eleri, describes the former fuel regime as not cost effective, resulting in wasteful use of vehicles. He states that the country’s transport sector is long overdue for an overhaul.
“If this becomes one of the resolutions of petroleum deregulation, people will rethink before embarking on single occupancy journey. This will be good for the environment and the national economy,” he contends, expressing regret that the timing of the policy’s implementation is questionable.
Environmental advocate, Surveyor Efik, tags the new regime as a blessing in disguise in terms of carbon emission reduction because, according to him, a lot of people may be forced to park their cars while others may engage alternative means of transportation.
He explains that the regime will reduce the number of cars on the roads and consequently cut the nation’s carbon footprint of the country. He laments, however, that the development will negatively impact on the socio-economic wellbeing of the citizenry.
Efik wants the authorities ameliorate the sufferings on the masses as a result of the subsidy removal, adding that the buses presented by the Federal Government should be adequate and environment-friendly.
He suggests that government should go for bio-fuel buses that are fuel efficient and emit less.