By Adewale Sanyaolu
The National Association of Energy Correspondents (NAEC) has called on the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) to ensure a transparent subsidy system that will allow the supply figures and cost templates that provides opportunity for subsidy claims to be verifiable.
The call is coming on the heels of the lingering fuel scarcity which has brought untold hardship to Nigerians including loss of man-hours at filling stations.
A statement issued by the associationhowever, called on relevant government agencies in the downstream sector; the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Nigerian Midstream Petroleum Downstream Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) and other critical stakeholders to collaborate in arresting the prevailing chaos in the market.
NAEC said it observed that whereas the price of petrol is still regulated under a state sponsored subsidy scheme, acute shortages and high prices continue to plague the economy.
‘‘We observe that the major arguments advanced by both government agencies and market players for the lingering fuel scarcity includes logistics, price regulation and domestic energy subsidy. However, we also note that energy subsidy is a normal and effective economic growth stimulation strategy still employed by all developed countries of the world to tame the cost of production and guarantee the wellbeing of citizens. The subsidy system in Nigeria has been enmeshed in gross opacity.
It is our view that all stakeholder groups should partner regulators to establish unassailable templates for subsidy management until the market is fully deregulated,’’.
With long queues persisting at stations now selling at N185 per litre in Lagos and parts of Nigeria, marketers have started taking advantage of the situation, causing serious hardship to Nigerians and dislocation to the market structure through hoarding and profiteering.
Black marketers have not only returned, but they have also been smiling to the banks at the detriment of helpless and hapless Nigerians.
The NNPCL stations, independent and major marketers, have hiked their pump prices for premium motor spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol, for the second time in less than sixty days. The lowest price for the product is now N185 per litre from N175 per litre sold two months ago. The low-price band for the product, before this, was N165 per litre.
Most independent petroleum marketers’ retail outlets have adjusted their pump price to N290 to N300 per litre in tune with current market realities.
The development, according to the association, portends grave implications for the already weakened purchasing power and income of the average Nigerian.
Already, the association stated that the high cost of petrol is impacting the daily cost of living as seen in transportation costs, energy costs as many homes continue to rely on alternative sources of power due to the poor supply from the grid as well as in high cost of goods and services while the traffic situation across the metropolis is also worsening as a result of prolonged fuel queues.
‘’Though marketers have attributed the present petrol queues across the country to exceptionally high demand and bottlenecks in the fuel distribution chain, it is however clear that the distribution value-chain is broken and worsened by a weak regulatory system.
It is bad enough that there is no one to hold to account, it is worse that the government has jeopardised the interest of the masses for politics, considering that elections are near.
We therefore call on government to immediately liberalize petrol supplies in the country in line with best practices.
Also NAEC recommends that the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority (NMDRA), which is responsible for operations compliance and resource accountability need to rise to its duty by holding market players accountable for open books, fair play and equal opportunity.
It similarly called on NMPDRA not to fail in providing a public dashboard on the supply flow in the domestic fuel market to allow public demand for accountable practice from players. As this will clear the air of suspicion that the prevailing fuel market crisis is not a political undertaking by managers of the system to siphon funds for political objectives.
This is a litmus test for NMDPRA post-PIB, and the agency should be reminded that NAEC, Nigerians, and, of course, the world are watching how it is fairing in this and other responsibilities
With the situation in the downstream sector, the association is calling on the regulatory agencies to perform their responsibilities rather than the buck-passing because Nigerians deserve an answer and look up to the media who are equally kept in the dark.
The association added that marketers, independent and majors, should also look inwards to fish out bad eggs among them, adding that their comments, action, and inactions should be guided by patriotism and humanity,’’.