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Prevailing discontent forces government to halt petrol price hike

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Current anger and displeasure among Nigerians with respect to widespread economic and political tension have forced the Federal Government to shelve plans to increase the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise called petrol.

Although there was strong indication of an imminent petrol price hike by the authorities, The Guardian gathered from some stakeholders in the downstream value chain of the petroleum industry that the plan did not receive any attention at the stakeholders’ meeting held in Abuja last week Thursday.

It was learnt that some stakeholders involved in the importation and distribution of PMS had expressed dissatisfaction over the current pricing template of the product, and had communicated their stand to the Federal Government with the intent to review pump price upwards in the shortest possible time.The spokesperson, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Reuben Apollo, in a telephone interview, said the PPPRA is currently not seeking to up petrol pump price.

When asked if the agency hitherto nursed the intention, he said: “Even if that was the case, this government will not dare that given the level of discontentment in the nation now.“There is currently a lot of pressure in the country, and it cannot happen now. Even from our last meeting, this was not talked about.”Responding to an enquiry on the planned PMS price hike, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Ndu Ughamadu, in a telephone interview, said: “I am not aware of any plans by the government to increase the price of petrol.”

The spokesperson for  Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC) of the NNPC,  Wole Olarinre, said: “There is no way I can know if there is a plan to increase the pump price of fuel. I can’t speak on this. Only the GGM, Group Public Affairs of the NNPC can speak.”Similarly, the Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Clement Isong, also said he was not aware of such move, saying at his level, such development has yet to be communicated to him.

Meanwhile, economic analysts warn that any change in the pump price of petrol will alter the economic indices and relative price stability, renewing a slide in purchasing power of the citizens.In the first quarter of this year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said the inflation rate measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) dropped to 15.13 per cent in January, from the 15.37 per cent recorded in December 2017.

Nigeria’s consumer prices rose at the slowest pace in 2 1/2 years in June 2018 as food costs climbed the least since March 2016.The annual consumer inflation rate was 11.2 per cent from a year earlier, compared with 11.6 per cent in May.

In February this year, the National Economic Council (NEC), made up of state governors, demanded for “correct” pricing of petrol in the country.A litre of petrol in the country sells for N145 officially, although the Ministry of Petroleum Resources recently revealed that its landing cost is N177. The product sells for $1.07 (about N385) in neighbouring Chad, and Cameroon, and goes for $1.00 (N360) in Benin Republic, the ministry alleged.

The NEC had mandated its committee on the forensic audit of revenue accruing into the Federation Account, Excess Crude Account and Consolidated Revenue Fund, to interface with the NNPC to determine appropriate price for petrol.But according to experts, as an oil dependent economy that is still at the basic stage in its diversification process, domestic activities are still subject to the influence of crude oil prices, its production level and mostly, the resulting price of petrol.

 


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NNPCWole Olarinre
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