Fuel Scarcity: FG denies plan to increase fuel price

•There will not be fuel price hike during Yuletide period, says govt

•NMDPRA assures motorists current stock can last for 34 days

•Govt can’t continue subsidy amid diversion – NNPC source

For the first time in weeks since the scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, began, the Federal Government opened up and declared on Wednesday that there was no plan to increase the pump price of petrol, at least during the Yuletide season.

However, the government’s comments came amid a worsening and persistent fuel scarcity, which spread further on Wednesday across the country. Also, the cost of the commodity rose to as high as N285/litre in some filling stations in Abuja.

Oil marketers stated that the black market cost of petrol in Lagos had risen to about N450/litre, while it sold for more than that price in some other states.

But the government disclosed on Wednesday that there was fuel supply stock that could last the country for 34 days.

This came as a senior official of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited told reporters that subsidy on the PMS was becoming unbearable for the oil firm, amid product diversion.

As concerns around fuel price and supply heightened, the government declared that it had no plan to increase the price of petrol, describing comments on PMS price and its availability as speculations.

However, the government, through its Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority, did not state any approved pump price for petrol, neither did it condemn the hike in PMS price by marketers nationwide.

Wednesday reports confirmed that the pump price of petrol could hit N400/litre at most filling stations before the end of this year, going by the continued scarcity of the product, according to oil marketers.

This will represent over 100 per cent increase in the pump price over the period.

The National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, had told our correspondent that most IPMAN members, who owned bulk of the filling stations across the country, were now subjected to purchasing PMS at about N220/litre, which was why many outlets currently dispensed at about N250/litre and above.

He said the cost of the commodity had been rising due to its unavailability and other concerns in the sector, stressing that consumers should be ready to pay between N350/litre to N400/litre before the end of this year.

Reacting to the concerns around PMS price and its availability, in an advisory issued in Abuja on Wednesday, the NMDPRA said, “This advisory addresses speculations on the price and availability of Premium Motor Spirit.

“The authority wishes to inform the general public that the Federal Government has no intention of increasing the price of PMS during this period. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited has imported PMS with current stock levels sufficient for 34 days.

“Consequently, marketers and the general public are advised to avoid panic buying, diversion of products, and hoarding. In keeping with the authority’s responsibilities as outlined in the Petroleum Industry Act, the authority assures the public that it would continue to monitor the supply and distribution of all petroleum products nationwide especially during this holiday season.”

Meanwhile, some senior officials at the NNPC had earlier confirmed to our correspondent that subsidy was becoming too burdensome on the national oil company, as this was another reason for the scarcity of PMS.

NNPC is the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria. It has been shouldering this task for several years now, after other marketers of the commodity stopped importing the product due to their inability to access foreign exchange as required.

“Your report on Monday fully captured what is happening in the downstream oil sector, with respect to the supply and availability of PMS,” a senior official at the company, who pleaded not to be named due to lack of authorisation, stated.

The source added, “How can we continue to import 60 million litres of petrol daily and keep subsidising it, while millions of litres are either diverted or cannot be accounted for? The burden is too much, as you rightly captured in that story.”

On Monday, The PUNCH exclusively reported that the lowest price the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited could sell petrol to marketers, assuming there was no subsidy, was N400/litre.

Oil marketers, who made the disclosure, also gave other reasons for the continued scarcity of petrol, which had led to the lingering queues at filling stations nationwide.

They said PMS imports charges were becoming unbearable for the sole importer of the commodity – NNPC, disclosing that the oil firm had been subtly pushing these charges to depot owners.

It was learnt that depot owners, on their part, were also passing the charges to filling stations, which in turn push it to final consumers of the product, a development that has led to the increase in the pump price of the commodity.

It was also gathered that the Federal Government had quietly allowed depot owners to raise the ex-depot price of petrol to about N185/litre, whereas the approved rate used to be N147/litre.