By Chineme Okafor
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) involved in Nigeria’s extractive industries have asked the federal government to set up processes to abolish legislations that set up the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) and the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
The CSOs include Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), BudgIT, Connected Development (CODE), Media Initiative for Transparency in Extractive Industries (MITEI), OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative and Publish What You Pay (PWYP), amongst others.
They made the call at a recent webinar organised by the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) to evaluate the government’s recent decision to deregulate the downstream sector.
They noted that the call which included the revocation of the Price Control Act became necessary to entrench the deregulation drive; and equally called for the enacting of an appropriate legislation or embedding it as part of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) expected to be submitted to the National Assembly soon.
The consortium also asked the relevant authorities, especially the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ensure a level-playing field for all importers of petrol into the country, and not grant undue advantage to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the current context.
In addition to their call for a full-fledged downstream deregulation, the CSOs called on the NNPC to take urgent practical steps to reverse the fortunes of its loss-making refineries as revealed in the published 2018 audited reports of its subsidiaries.
They noted that, “the refineries remain cost centers that the Nigerian government can ill afford given the impact of COVID-19 and other fiscal pressures on its economy.”
“The Nigerian government should create an enabling environment for the private sector to contribute to the efficient running of the refineries so that Nigerian can reach its domestic refining goals,” said the group in a communique wherein they also asked President Muhammadu Buhari to “demonstrate his honest commitment to the deregulation efforts by expunging the laws that entrench the potential of returning to a subsidy regime and pre-deregulation state.”
In the communique, they advocated that, “the government repeal the PPPRA Act, the PEF(M)B Act and the Price Control Act specifically, section 6(1) of the Petroleum Act, Schedule 1 of the Price Control Act, all acts that ensure a potential of returning to a price fixing regime and demonstrate to the Nigerian people that the declaration of full deregulation is merely a statement of intent and not yet honored.”
According to the consortium, there was need for the government to, “commit to the sustainability of the deregulation regime by entreating it in law, either through a stand-alone legislation, or through appropriate clauses integrated into the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) will allow for the sustainability of the no-subsidy regime.”
“While we await appropriate legislation, we require the government to clarify the role of the Petroleum Support Fund in the new deregulation regime. Clarity is required about how that fund is being managed, whether the over-recovery sums were deposited there and how they are expected to be spent,” they stated.
It also urged the government to back up its deregulation policy statement by empowering appropriate agencies such as the Federal Competition and Consumer Council to take over the protection of the interests of petroleum products consumers across the country in a deregulated downstream sector.
On the issue of ameliorating the immediate effects of the removal of petrol subsidy, the group asked the government to, “channel the revenues used for subsidy to improve the lives of its originally intended beneficiaries;
impoverished Nigerians and not the rich, by investing in enablers of economic growth and development such as development of rural roads, education, health services and agriculture.”
“If the NNPC must remain a player in the market, it must strive to operate under the same conditions and rules as other players in the sector regulated only by the prevailing market forces and competition,” the group insisted while urging the government to also firmly engage with Nigerians on the policy.