Adewale Sanyaolu and Lawrence Enyoghasu
The downstream sector of the petroleum industry was yesterday thrown into confusion as a leaked memo from the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC) on an increase of the ex-depot price of Premium Motor Spirit(PMS), popularly called petrol created panic among stakeholders and anger within the populace. The ex-depot price is the price at which the product is sold by the PPMC to marketers at the depots. While some fuel marketers had already adjusted their pump price from N161 to between N170 and N200 in parts of the country, some others have closed their stations waiting for official communication on the appropriate price. Following the fresh fuel price hike, major socio-cultural and political groups across the country have kicked against the development. Many of the groups believe that the economy is yet to recover from the effect of COVID-19 pandemic and as such, the citizens would not be able to bear the burden of another strain on their economic well being. According to Apaga Achi, spokesman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Nigerian government is by the development instigating another protest from Nigerians.
“What stand do we have again, this is a government that has promised Nigeria that they would reduce pump price but the opposite has been the case. They have continued to increase pump price since they took office. It is unfortunate that it is happening to us in Nigeria.
They need to have mercy on Nigerians. They need to be responsive to us. They should not be indifferent in the affairs of the people. The people are suffering, how can they increase price in this coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the world, they are fueling the suffering of the people. Once you increase the price of fuel, it will affect every other things and every segment of the economy; the prices of foodstuff and goods and services will quickly skyrocket. It will disturb the development of the economy. It is just unfortunate.
“It will aggravate the EndSARS protest that we are trying to quell. They can’t keep increasing the price of fuel every day without economic measures to cushion the effect. I wonder how they want Nigerians to survive. It means the EndSARS message is not felt and they are telling Nigerians to move on. I think the protest may return,” Achi stated.
The Publicity Secretary of pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, described it as a wicked act. “What has happened?” he quipped, “Is it that the price of fuel has increased in Niger republic or the Islamic Coast? This government should remember that in 2015, they promised Nigeria that they would repair all the refineries; they have not done so, not one. They behave as if it’s not human beings they’re dealing with. They have no pity for the sufferings of Nigerians. Like I said, it is a wicked act.” It also came as a shock to Dr. Pogu Bitrus , President General of Middle Belt Forum, who said the government has been insincere to the people.
“The issue is that there is no truth in anything that has to do with petroleum in this country. They have continued to tell us that there is deregulation even when it jumped from N87 to N145. They said it is deregulation. It went to N160 and they kept saying deregulation and now N170. Except there are people out there who can explain what deregulation means, then there is nothing we can do about it.
“As far as I am concerned, there is no sincerity since this government came into power with regards to deregulation. They took it from Jonathan at N87 and increased it and we were told it was deregulation and yet we discovered that we were paying subsidy than the previous government. From what is happening, I believe the economy is bad and they are looking for money from all sectors. We should only pray for the truth to come out from those who know something about the industry,” he stated.
Same shock was expressed by Shettima Yerima, National President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), who said the government is insensitive. “If that is true, it means that this government is insensitive to the plight of Nigerians. I am not aware but if that is true then they are insensitive and Nigerians don’t deserve it. You cannot continue to increase the pump price which is the only thing left for the common man to benefit from. After removing the subsidy you are still increasing, this is very unfortunate. I want them to review it if it is not true and if it is true then definitely it is very unfortunate and we condemn it in its totality,” Yerima stated.
While the memo emanating from the PPMC indicated that the ex-depot price of petrol has moved up to N155.60 from N151.17 per litre for the month of November, Saturday Sun findings across retail fuel stations proved otherwise.
A top management source in PPMC told Saturday Sun in confidence that the memo increasing the ex-depot price of petrol to N155.60 was a leaked before it was approved by the Federal Government. The memo from PPMC with reference number PPMC/C/MKT/003 dated November 11, 2020 and signed by Ali Tijjani reads ‘‘In line with the above, we propose PPMC November 2020 actual prices for PMS with effect from November 13, 2020 as follows: PPMC ex-depot price(with collection) N155.17’’
Some of the marketers who spoke to Saturday Sun under the condition of anonymity expressed disappointment at the circular, saying the claim by the Federal Government that the downstream sector has been deregulated was not true afterall. They said a situation where the Federal Government was still interested in price fixing cannot be said to be a deregulated industry.
Chairman, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria(MOMAN) in response to Saturday Sun inquiry on the latest hike said ‘‘We are as confused as you are. That is why we keep talking about the need for appropriate legislation to back up deregulation’’ At the recently held virtual Oil Trading and Logistics (OTL) Africa Downstream Week with the theme “Post-Deregulation Agenda for Nigerian Downstream Petroleum,” the Managing Director of OVH Energy Marketing, Mr. Hubb Stokman, raised doubts as to the sincerity of government’s intention to deregulate the market.
“While the government has categorically stated its intention to deregulate the market, removal of subsidy is not the same thing as deregulation, as deregulation has to be backed by law”, Stokman said. include market-driven pricing based on operators’ structural efficiencies.