Despite the widespread outcry trailing the removal of fuel subsidy in the country, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, (NNPCL) has insisted there will not be a reversal of the policy as there is no cash back-up to offset the subsidy payment for the month of June.
Group chief executive officer of NNPCL, Mele Kyari, who made this known yesterday in an interview, also stated that the federal government did not provide cash backing for the budgetary allocations of N6 trillion and N3.7 trillion made for fuel subsidy in 2022 and the first half of 2023 respectively.
This is as civil society organisations (CSOs) have kicked against the abrupt removal of fuel subsidy without due consultations or provision of palliatives.
The NNPCL had on Wednesday morning officially increased fuel pump prices to between N488 and N557 per litre in different parts of the country, pegging price at N537 per litre in Abuja.
President Bola Tinubu had sparked off the fuel subsidy controversy during his inaugural address on Monday when he announced that petrol subsidy was gone, with no budgetary allocation to fund it.
Following his announcement, filling stations stopped selling petrol to motorists, awaiting the new price regime, resulting in long queues at fuel stations across the country, with several retail outlets selling the product between N600 and N800 in Lagos, Abuja, Ogun and some other states.
Also, talks between the federal government and organised labour over the removal of fuel subsidy ended in a deadlock on Wednesday as they failed to reach a consensus following the hike in petrol pump by oil marketers.
Speaking yesterday in an interview on Arise TV’s Morning Show, Kyari said the federal government was still owing it a N2.8 trillion shortfall.
“Actually, you can make budget, there was provision of N6 trillion in 2022, and N3.7 trillion for the half of 2023, and I can tell you that not a single naira has been funded. And by law we are required to pay taxes, royalties as a company. These are fiscal obligations, before we declare profit to our shareholders.
“I am sure you are aware that this company is doing well; we have grown up to N607 billion profit in 2021. This is huge but you can’t make that dividend available to the shareholders because of the burden in the volume of subsidy and that volume of subsidy must be financed. “Provision in the law simply means that the government will write cheque to NNPC at the end of the month for the service we are providing to the nation. That cheque has not been written. And what we did is that we held back the fiscal obligations, despite the fact that we are holding the fiscal obligation of 2022 and half 2023, there is still a net deficit of N2.8 trillion the president should have written a cheque for us. Yes, there is a provision, but you do not have the cash to back it up and the fiscal obligation that comes with it,” he said.
Kyari assured Nigerians that the price of Premium Motor Spirit, known better as petrol across the country, would soon become moderate.
The NNPC boss further said that the removal of fuel subsidy will allow new entrants and investors into the downstream sector, a move that would aid competition and phase out monopoly
According to him, the removal of subsidy would allow new entrants into the market, and ultimately lead to a downward review of pump prices of petroleum across the country.
He said, “The beauty of this (subsidy removal) is that there will be new entrants (into the market) because oil marketing companies’ reluctance to come into the market all along is the very fact of the subsidy regime that was in place.
“Therefore, you will see competition, even with NNPC. And by the way, by law, NNPC cannot do more than 30 per cent of the market going forward. As soon as the market stabilises, oil marketing companies are able to come in.
“Competition will definitely come in and the market will regulate the prices itself. Therefore, this is just an instantaneous price hike. Ultimately, you’d see changes downwards and it is very likely because efficiency will come in.”
On why fuel stations hiked their pump price when they still have in stock already subsidised products, the NNPL boss said it was the reality of the market.
“It applies to every commodity and not just petroleum. It could have been the other way round; prices could have collapsed downwards and those holding the old stock will have to sell at lower prices to arrive at market condition.
“It is not something serious or strange, this is a stock management issue and it is very typical; no one can do anything different about this.
“The prices we are seeing today at our station are the current prices of the commodity. This means that prices in the market can go down at any time and, of course, the market will adjust itself.”
Meanwhile, the Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) has expressed dismay and condemnation at the removal of petrol subsidy, describing it as insensitive.
Executive director of CTA, Faith Nwadishi, yesterday said the insensitivity displayed by the NNPCL in its abrupt and unilateral decision to increase petrol pump prices with without substantial dialogue or consultation with key stakeholders showed disregard to the welfare and economic realities of Nigerian citizens, who were expecting this to happen by the end of June 2023.
“NNPCL’s decision is adding further hardship to Nigerians who were already dealing with the shock of the president’s announcement without clear plans for the introduction of palliatives.
“This approach is grossly insensitive and counterproductive in the face of our challenging economic situation,” said Nwadishi.
While CTA recognises and supports the government’s decision to remove the subsidy in the interest of economic growth, it insists that such policy transitions should be carefully managed in consideration of the populace, and not to impose undue hardships.
Another CSO, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) also expressed deep concern about the decision of the federal government to remove PMS subsidy without engagement and consultation with stakeholders.
Lead director of CSJ, Eze Onyekpere said that while CSJ had long advocated for the removal of PMS subsidy, however, the abruptness and lack of transparency surrounding this announcement raises several critical questions and potential consequences for the citizens of Nigeria.
He said the sudden removal of petrol subsidy without a clear plan to mitigate the potential adverse effects on the already burdened citizens will exacerbate their suffering, noting that the cost of living had already been a significant challenge for many Nigerians. This decision, he said, has the potential to further escalate the financial burden on households across the country.
“It is very important that decisions of this magnitude, which directly affect the lives of citizens, are made through inclusive and participatory processes, ensuring that diverse perspectives are taken into account.
“Additionally, the lack of transparency and clarity in the computation of the new fuel prices circulated by NNPCL is disturbing. CSJ urges the government to provide a comprehensive breakdown of the cost components and the basis for the calculation of the new fuel price. This information is vital for the citizens to understand the rationale behind the price adjustment.”
He added that the arbitrary nature of this subsidy removal sends a dangerous signal of potential dictatorship and a lack of openness and transparency in the conduct of government affairs.
‘Tinubu Has Ordered Palliatives To Cushion Effects’
Meanwhile, the GMD of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL), Mele Kyari, has disclosed that President Ahmed Bola Tinubu has ordered the putting in place of palliatives to cushion the effect of removal of fuel subsidy on Nigerians.
The NNPCL GMD gave the hint after a private meeting with members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the party’s national secretariat.
He said: “I am aware that Mr President has directed some engagement, and some palliatives will be put in place, and I am very sure this will happen.”
Kyari also confirmed ongoing rehabilitation of the nation’s four refineries, saying one of them will start operations this year.
“There is an ongoing process of rehabilitation and one of the refineries will come on stream this year. The second will come on stream next year and the third will come in 2025,” he said.
On the benefits of subsidy removal, Kyari said when President Tinubu declared in his inaugural speech that the subsidy was gone, the bond market appreciated within 24 hours.
Labour Leaders Meet Today, Ask Nigerians To Prepare
The leadership of the organised labour are meeting today to deliberate on the next line of action over the fuel subsidy removal by the new government of President Bola Tinubu.
The meeting is expected involve top members of the labour centres, including Central Working Committee and the National Executive Committee of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC ) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC ) of Nigeria.
According to a statement by the head of Information and public affairs, NLC, Comrade Benson Upah, yesterday in Abuja, the meeting will deliberate on the fuel price issue.
Contrary to some reports that the congress will embark on protest over the subsidy removal today, Comrade Benson stressed that even though the organised labour is irked about the price increase which will bring untold hardship to ordinary Nigerians, it has no plan to start any action today.
In a similar development, some members of the civil society organisations including delegation from Northern Women Assembly (NOWA) and Miyetti Allah yesterday visited the headquarters of the NLC to show solidarity to the congress and support its position against the petroleum products price hike.
According to a statement signed by the national president of NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, NOWA which was led by its national president, Alhaja Aisha Hassaini, expressed dissatisfaction with the hardship and increased suffering which the petroleum price hike had foisted on their members across the North and urged the NLC to immediately take steps to get the government to revert to the old pump price.
Another group, the Miyetti Allah Peace Initiative, was led by its national president, Yusuf Musa Ardo, who brought a petition demanding the protection of the NLC against policies of the government.
They demanded that necessary action be taken with their support to ensure that the federal government reverses the decision to withdraw petroleum subsidy.
In his remarks, Ajaero assured of the congress’s commitment to take all necessary actions within the ambit of the law to protect the interest of Nigerian workers and masses no matter the quantum of opposition.
Ajaero said, “As we go into the Joint CWC/NEC meeting of both congresses today to further discuss this unfortunate price hike, we urge all Nigerians to be prepared; the will of the people must prevail.”