Fuel subsidy removal protest
By Ejiofor Alike
Some fuel marketers used the artificial scarcity situation created by the industrial action organised by the labour and other civil-society coalitions to connive with fuel hawkers, popularly called ‘black market operators’ to extort motorists and other users by hiking price of petrol to N300 per litre.
The Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) had on January 1, 2012, announced the removal of subsidy, increasing the pump price from N65 to N143.56 per litre, in line with the prices at the international market.
But the organised labour and other civil-society coalitions opposed the deregulation policy, calling out Nigerians on street protests and which resulted to the closure of markets, filling stations and other businesses.
The development created artificial scarcity as filling stations and depot owners did not sell products, creating opportunities for unscrupulous marketers to engage in profiteering.
In parts of Lagos such as Egbeda; Lagos-Badagary Expressway; Iba; Ojo; Festac and Mile 2, few filling stations opened between 6am and 8am in the morning, and between 6pm and 7.30pm in the evening, to sell fuel at exorbitant prices.
According to investigation, some of the filling stations do not sell directly to motorists as they lock their gates to entry of vehicles but sell in kegs and jerry-cans to middle-men.
These middle-men sell to motorists at prices ranging between N200 and N300 per litre, depending on the location. In Apapa, however, some of the stations opened in the evening on Friday to sell at N141 per litre.
Executive Secretary of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Mr. Obafemi Olawore, told THISDAY that no major marketer was involved in profiteering.
Olawore, who acknowledged that the PPPRA has a role to play in a deregulated market, however stated that it was not proper for the PPPRA to fix price in a deregulated sector.
“PPPRA will be relevant in a deregulated regime just like the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) but what they have done is not deregulation. PPPRA in a deregulated regime should not fix the price of products. What they are doing now is not deregulation,” he said.
Mounting concern that the Federal Government might review the subsidy regime and reduce the price of PMS in line with the demand of the labour, had forced marketers, especially those around the South West to reduce the number of trucks they loaded before the commencement of the crisis.
Before the crisis started, the ex-depot price for products belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was N128.90 per litre, while private marketers were selling between N130 and N131 per litre.
However, many marketers were concerned that after buying at such high ex-depot prices, the Federal Government might carve in to the pressure by the organised labour and other civil society coalitions and reduce the pump price to around N100 per litre.
A marketer, who spoke to THISDAY on condition of anonymity, stated that it would be suicidal for marketers to buy at the high ex-depot price, when the labour had scheduled to embark on strike.
Most of the trucks that loaded products shortly before the crisis were those from the northern parts of the country and other areas that benefit from bridging claims.