DEREGULATED PETROL PRICES-A PAINFUL BUT PRACTICAL STEP FORWARD

Aliyu Othman, Abuja

NNPC Towers, Abuja

The newly announced price for premium motor spirit or petrol did not come as a surprise to many in Nigeria, in view of the current realities and the status-quo in most countries in Africa and around the world.

For a fact, an increase in the pump price of petroleum products anywhere in the world, always has a ripple effect on economic and sometimes, even social activities. The scenario is no different in Nigeria where changes to prices of petroleum products are often translated onto goods and services, which in effect, result in low productivity and a dip in the socio-economic activities of the people.

A close look at the pump prices of the petroleum products across leading African economies shows that Nigeria still retains the third position with the lowest sale price for petrol on the continent.

The 145 Naira or 73 cents per litre of petrol means Nigeria ranks amongst the leading economies and nations like Kenya, South Africa and Angola, the second largest producer of crude oil in Africa.

A World Bank Report on gasoline price index for 2015 shows that Kenyans pay higher for petrol at an average of $1.21 cents, about N241 Naira per litre. Kenya is followed by South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Tunisia and Egypt, in that order, as nations where the pump price of petrol are higher compared to other nations in Africa.

What is interesting about the World Bank report is that Libya provides the lowest petrol price in Africa, at a pump price of less than 12 cents or 23 Naira per litre of petrol. Libya is closely followed by Algeria that sells petrol to its citizens at 27 cents or 53 Naira, going by the official exchange rate of 199 Naira to a dollar offered by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Nigeria’s old price of 86 Naira 50 Kobo or 34 cents, placed the oil rich nation as the third lowest paying nation for petrol and the new price of 73 cents or N145 still retains Nigeria in that spot after Angola.

Nigerians have for years enjoyed subsidies on petroleum products at the expense of so many other development projects. The problem with that scenario is that it also inadvertently, fuelled whole sale corruption within the petroleum sector and by extension, other related sectors.

Naturally, organised Labour will expectedly, kick against the new petrol price regime. The government however, must be proactive and urgently adopt ameliorative and palliative measures to cushion the effects of the policy on the poor, including the working class.

Furthermore, government must not also be emboldened by the support from Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria-IPMAN and major marketers. This will not assuage concerns already being expressed by Labour Unions.

The stage must be set to accommodate dialogue that will propose practicable long-term solutions to address the likely multiplier effects of the policy. The over-arching principle must reverberate around ensuring that the ordinary citizens are not unnecessarily burdened. Neither Labour, nor government, nor even the marketers can afford to let Nigerians down, especially in light of the promise of ‘Change’ that brought this current government into power.

Relevant regulatory agencies must also ensure that products are made readily available all around the country and controlled to avert diversions and other sharp practices.

In addition, new refineries must be constructed urgently, to augment the production capacities of the old four refineries for local consumption and future export of finished products.

The ball is now in the courts of the government and organised labour, as well as major and independent marketers to deliver. Nigerians are waiting and watching.

 

H.S