Fuel subsidy rises to N500bn, NNPC rules out price hike

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With the Federal Government leaving the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) unchanged in the first five months of this year despite the increase in global oil prices, subsidy on the product is estimated to gulp N500bn in the period.

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.

Going by the petrol pricing template of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, the landing cost of petrol rose from an average of N143.60 in December to N158.53 per litre on January 7, with the expected open market price (retail price) being N181.53 per litre.

On February 5, when oil price neared $60 per barrel, it was reported that the expected open market price of petrol rose to over N200 per litre, based on the petrol pricing template of the PPPRA.

The pump price of petrol has remained at between N160 and N165 per litre at many filling stations in Lagos since December.

The Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari, said on March 25 that the Federal Government was subsidising petrol with about N100bn to N120bn monthly.

He said while the actual cost of importation and handling charges amounts to N234 per litre, the government had been selling at N162 per litre, therefore, bearing the difference.

“Today, NNPC is the sole importer of PMS. We are importing at market price and we are selling at N162 per litre today. Looking at the current market situation today, the actual price could have been anywhere between N211 and around N234 per litre,” Kyari said at the time.

Petrol subsidy would gulp N480bn from February to May, based on the monthly figure given by the NNPC boss, while the corporation is estimated to have spent at least N20bn subsidising the product in January.

The National Operation Controller, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr Mike Osatuyi, said it had become clear that petrol subsidy had reemerged.

“They are no more deceiving us; they have told us the truth that there is subsidy. So, we will continue to carry the burden until when the infrastructure to cushion the effects of high petrol price is put in place by the government,” he added.

Asked if marketers were comfortable with the return of subsidy, he said, “We have no choice because it is the government that is importing petrol. They have the knife and the yam. So, they are to tell us where to go, and we have no choice but to comply.”

The Chairman, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr Adetunji Oyebanji, said the announcement by the NNPC that the ex-depot price of petrol would not change in May meant that subsidy would continue. “It means status quo remains; everything continues as it is,” he added.

For more than three years, NNPC has been the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria, and depot owners, major and independent oil marketers rely on it for the supply of the product.

The NNPC GMD, Kyari, on Monday announced that there would be no increase in the ex-depot price of PMS in May.

The national oil company has maintained an ex-depot price of N148/litre since February despite the hike in the actual cost of the commodity, hence incurring subsidy of over N120bn monthly.

Ex-depot price is the cost of petrol at depots, from where filling stations purchase the commodity before dispensing to final consumers.

Kyari also announced on Monday that Petroleum Tanker Drivers had suspended their proposed strike after the intervention of NNPC in the impasse between the PTD and the National Association of Road Transport Owners.

The NNPC tweeted these via its official Twitter handle on Monday.

It said, “Following GMD #NNPC Mallam @MKKyari’s intervention in the National Association of Road Transport Owners/Petroleum Tanker Drivers impasse, PTD has just announced the suspension of its planned strike until closure of discussion between both parties.

“Also, the GMD announced that there would be no increase in the ex-depot price of Premium Motor Spirit in the month of May 2021.”

In March, the NNPC said it would maintain its ex-depot price for petrol until the conclusion of ongoing engagement with the organised labour and other stakeholders.

It was gathered that the engagement with labour on petrol price had yet to be resolved, hence the continued maintenance of the current ex-depot price despite fluctuations in global oil prices.

The Special Adviser Media and Publicity to Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, Christian Ita, has highlighted the need to subsidise production rather than consumption in the country.

Ita, who spoke to our correspondent on Monday in Calabar, was reacting to the issue of fuel subsidy removal as it is causing a shortfall in revenue accruing to states from the federation account.

Ita said, “the truth of the matter is that subsidy in itself is not a bad thing. There is no country that is completely devoid of subsidy. The only problem is that we are subsidising consumption while others are subsidising production.

“If you go to America today, subsidy in public policy is a means of distribution of wealth. But the problem here is the sincerity behind it all. Rather than yank it off, why not put safeguards in place to ensure that the process is not corrupted?

“America subsidises agriculture. It’s about time we subsidised production rather than consumption. And again, we are even tired of this thing. Today we hear that they have removed subsidy. Tomorrow they will say there is still subsidy. So, we don’t know which one to take.

Gombe commissioner calls for local oil refining

The Gombe State Commissioner for Information, Julius Ishaya, said removing subsidy was not the way to solve the current financial challenges.

Speaking to one of our correspondents, Ishaya suggested the refining of crude locally, adding that it was draining to import.

He said, “Stopping subsidy is an ad-hoc attempt to solve the problem. We would rather advocate for us to attain our capacity by refining locally.

“Once we are able to refine locally, then there will be no need for importation and we won’t be talking of subsidy.

“The issue of subsidy is arising because we are not able to meet our local need and so we have to take our crude abroad. So other additional cost is incurred.”

He added that the agitation in Gombe was for the attainment of local refining capacity in order to make fuel importation a thing of the past.

SOURCE: PUNCH

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