The upturn in global oil prices last week has again brought to the fore marketers’ concerns over the non-implementation of the full deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector as the pump prices of petrol have been left unchanged for more than two months.
Top officials of two major marketers’ associations who spoke with our correspondents on Saturday said the continued increase in oil prices had brought back petrol subsidy.
The PUNCH had reported on January 11 that the sustained increase in global crude oil prices had pushed up the landing cost of imported petrol closer to the current pump prices of the product in Nigeria, and appeared to have triggered a return to petrol subsidy era.
Since November 13, 2020 when the pump prices of PMS were last increased in the country, the price of the international oil benchmark, Brent crude, has increased by 43 per cent, rising from $41.51 per barrel to $59.34 per barrel on Friday.
Fuel marketers had in December expected another upward adjustment of PMS prices to reflect the further rise in crude oil prices, which closed at $51.22 per barrel on December 31.
However, a N5 reduction in petrol price, effective December 14, was announced by the Federal Government – a development that left them reeling in shock and questioning the deregulation of petrol price.
Crude oil price accounts for a large chunk of the final cost of petrol, and the country has continued to spend so much on petrol imports for many years amid low domestic refining capacity.
According to the marketers, the pump price of petrol should be between N185 and N200 per litre.
The product is currently sold at between N160 and N165 per litre at many filling stations in Lagos.
The Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Clement Isong,
said, “Members of my association are operating in Nigeria and care about the long-term sustainability of the industry as well as the country itself.
“So, we know that depending on what exchange rate you use, the pump price should be between N185 and N200 per litre.
“For as long as we continue to sell the product at what we are currently selling it, then somebody is bearing the cost of subsidy, and the country really cannot afford subsidy at this time.”
He said the demand for petrol had increased significantly in the country, adding that the security of supply had been threatened.
Isong said smuggling might have resumed because of the significantly different prices across the borders, which were recently opened.
“So, we need to completely restructure our entire supply chain. We need to reach a place where, if deregulation takes effect, refining will resume in Nigeria. We need to find a way of making sure that Nigerians benefit from deregulation. That, I believe, is what the discussion must be.”
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, which has been the sole importer of petrol into the country in recent years, is still being relied upon by marketers for the supply of the product despite the deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector.
Private oil marketing companies have continued to lament that their inability to access foreign exchange at the official rates has hampered efforts to resume petrol importation.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, had said in September last year that the Federal Government had stepped back in fixing the price of petrol, adding that market forces and crude oil price would determine the cost of the product.
The Federal Government removed petrol subsidy in March 2020 after reducing the pump price of the product to N125 per litre from N145 on the back of the sharp drop in crude oil prices. The price reduction lasted till June.
Nigerians saw increases in the pump prices of petrol in four months, rising from N121.50-N123.50 per litre in June to N140.80-N143.80 in July, N148-N150 in August, N158-N162 in September and N163-N170 in November.