President John Evans Atta Mills’ surprise petrol price package has backfired, as his airwave minders issue a 10-day ultimatum for a reversal of the 5% upward review lest they hit the streets in a massive protest.
News about an expected upward price review of petroleum products hit the country a few weeks ago in the heat of the confusion generated by the non-availability of crude oil for the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) and the attendant chaos generated by the seeming contradictory statements on the issue. The announcement caught most motorists by surprise because the government propaganda machinery had made Ghanaians to understand that the 5% increment would not be passed onto consumers, in line with its promise of affordable fuel.
For those who left the corridors of power satisfied that there was not going to be an upward review, the announcement came as a betrayal. No wonder Kwesi Pratt Jnr, an avowed apologist of President Mills, and a leading member of the pro NDC Committee for Joint Action (CJA), could not hide his sentiment on the subject as he yelled at the President for what he considered an unacceptable price hike. Pratt described government’s action as insensitive and a betrayal of trust.
President Mills, also a member of the CJA, took part in a number of demonstrations organized by the political pressure group during its many petroleum price-related protests before he became Head of State. Pratt condemned the weekend increases and threatened an unprecedented demonstration against the government he helped in bringing to power.
It would be recalled that the issue of petroleum price increase formed the bedrock of the NDC campaign before the 2008 polls, with Mills promising drastic reduction.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) kicked against the first price increase by the NDC, referring the ruling party to their campaign time rhetoric about reducing the price if it came to power. K.T. Hammond, former deputy Energy Minister, warned the government about the dire consequences of the petrol price hike. This is the third price increase since President Mills assumed power, but this time around, he appears to have stepped on the toes of his apologists who would otherwise manage the accompanying bad press.
A few hours before the upward price review was announced, motorists suffered the ordeal of being disappointed at the various filling stations which flashed the “no petrol” sign in their face. No sooner had the announcement been made than the same filling stations withdrew their signs, charging commercial drivers arbitrary fares, which were in turn passed onto the ordinary man on the street. The Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU), following what had been described as a flat increase with no details to guide its members, is yet to come out with exact fares for the various destinations.
The union is angry because according to sources close to their headquarters, government did not consult them, as is the standard, before the price of petroleum products was increased. Until sanity is brought into the morass created by the unexpected flat increase, devoid of details, arbitrariness will reign as passengers jump at mates.
The Ghana Road Transport Coordinating Council, an umbrella organization, called for the maintenance of the status quo, explaining that the price increase is insignificant. It is doubtful whether the Council can sway the now adamant commercial drivers and their union who have been supportive of government in the previous increase. Alex Mould, Ag. chief Executive Officer of the National Petroleum Authority, said he could not tell whether there was going to be an increase or whether government was going to absorb such if there was any.
Source: Daily Guide
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