Civil society groups on Saturday pushed for complete deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry that allows markets forces to determine the pump price of petrol and other petroleum products in the country.
Their call came on the same day queues began to emerge at several petrol stations across the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja ahead of the expected pump price hike by the Federal Government.
The groups, under the aegis of the Coalition of Nigerian Civil Society Organizations for Petroleum and Energy Security, said for Nigeria to derive full benefits from its hydrocarbon reserves, the downstream sector needs to be urgently deregulated.
Speaking to journalists, the Convener of the group, Timothy Ademola, said full deregulation would lead to liberalization which would, in turn, attract investments into the sector.
Ademola however urged the government to put in place measures to cushion the impact on the masses by giving it “a human face”.
He explained: “The deregulation of petroleum downstream is supposed to bring about some sort of liberalization of the sector which would make it possible for all petroleum products marketers to source their products from anywhere and sell at any price dictated by prevailing market forces.
“The competition arising from that would have helped to force pump prices down to the benefit of the citizens. But the scarcity of foreign exchange has made it difficult for the marketers to import products, thereby making NNPC the sole importer in keeping with its statutory role as a marketer of last resort”.
He noted that since that is no provision in the 2021 budget for a subsidy, allowing NNPC to continue to bear the cost of subsidy would mean a return to fuel scarcity and queues across the country.
“If this happens, organized labour that is presently resisting deregulation would be forced to castigate NNPC for not supplying enough fuel to guarantee zero fuel queues and for not making a profit at the end of its financial year.
“Truly, the situation calls for a new and bold approach. We suggest that Labour should not just constitute downright opposition to Deregulation but partner with the Government on how to best achieve patriotic, people-centred Deregulation; leveraging the new Government policy for the soon resumption of Nigerian Refineries, the approval of Modular Refineries and the welcome development of Dangote Mega Refinery.
“It will do our nation much good if our respected labour leaders spearheading the resistance to deregulation would recognize that deregulation has largely stabilized petroleum products supply over this past year. Once the foreign exchange issue that has made it difficult for major and independent marketers to engage in the importation of petroleum products is resolved, the other gains of deregulation will kick in and Nigerians will be better for it”.
Ademola added that “the market stabilization that has been brought about by the past one year of deregulation is a strong assurance that full deregulation is the way to go if Nigerians are to enjoy the full benefits of their hydrocarbon wealth. Resisting deregulation may only slow down our national progress in this regard”.
Meanwhile, across Abuja metropolis and suburbs, queues emerged at filling stations as motorists and consumers stock up ahead of the expected petrol price increase following rising in crude oil price at the international market.
Most petrol stations monitored sold between N166–N167 per litre.