• Price to fluctuate in accordance with market forces
• NLC, TUC demand return to old price
• Govt: negotiation continues
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) yesterday unveiled a new pricing template for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol.
The action followed the shutdown of filling stations by marketers in an instant reaction to Monday’s pronouncement by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in his inauguration speech, that ‘fuel subsidy is gone’.
In response to the nationwide artificial scarcity of petrol, the Federal Government held talks with Labour leaders on the situation at Aso Villa, Abuja.
The parley was deadlocked.
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Joe Ajaero told reporters after the meeting, that the NNPCL was wrong to unilaterally fix prices.
He demanded that there should be a return to the old price for talks to continue.
But the Federal Government, speaking through Mr. Dele Alake, said negotiation with Labour leaders will continue.
In the NNPCL pricing template, Lagos State has the lowest price of N488 per litre.
Borno and Yobe states have the highest of N577 per litre. In Abuja, a litre now sells for N537.
The new price regime led to a sudden disappearance of vehicular queues from most NNPC stations, especially in Abuja and Akure, the Ondo State capital.
The NNPCL explained in a statement by its Chief Communication Officer, Garba Muhammad, that the adjustment was based on prevailing market realities.
It informed PMS users to note that prices would change from time to time, depending on market dynamics.
The statement reads: “NNPC Limited wishes to inform our esteemed customers that we have adjusted our pump price of PMS across our retail outlets, in line with the current market realities.
“As we strive to provide you with the quality service we are known for, it is pertinent to note that prices will continue to fluctuate to reflect market dynamics.
“We assure you that NNPC Ltd is committed to ensuring the ceaseless supply of products.
“The Company sincerely regrets any inconvenience this development might have caused.
“We greatly appreciate your continued patronage, support and understanding through this time of change and growth.”
Although most NNPC stations in the FCT sold the product for N537 per litre immediately after the announcement, nearly all major dealers and independent marketers had their gates shut to motorists.
The few that were in business sold for between N520 and N800 per litre.
In Ondo State where the government had on Tuesday directed a task force to monitor the sale of PMS, Doyin Odebowale, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on Special Duties, said the release of price template by the NNPCL prevented the team from embarking on the assignment.
Odebowale, however, said the team would from today go around the state to ensure that no petrol station hoarded petrol or engaged in under-dispensing of the product.
Prior to the announcement by the NNPCL, seven filling station managers, supervisors and attendants were arrested in Osun State by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) for petrol hoarding.
The spokesperson for the state command of the NSCDC, Kehinde Adeleke, who made this known, neither named the arrested persons nor their stations.
Adeleke said: “Visit to most of the filling stations around Lameco, Stadium, Owode Ilesa garage, Ilesha garage roundabout and Ayepe axis, all in the state capital revealed that they had fuel in their reservoirs but refused to sell to members of the public.
“While queues were seen at various filling stations, these unscrupulous marketers insisted on inflicting pain on their customers.
“Upon being asked about their refusal to sell fuel, most of them said they were waiting for approval from their headquarters.”
Checks by The Nation showed that NNPC stations that were hitherto selling at between N250 and N350 per litre adjusted their prices to N500 per litre.
Unlike the FCT where queues fizzled minutes after the new template was announced, filling stations in Lagos, including NNPC stations, that were open sold the product at between N500 and N600 in the early hours of yesterday.
But at about 10 am, some NNPC stations stopped selling temporarily, leading to mild protests by motorists, who accused them of hoarding.
Station attendants, however, explained to The Nation that they halted sales temporarily to enable them to adjust their pumps in line with the new price of N488 per litre as announced by the NNPC for Lagos State.
A former Chairman of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and Managing Director of 11Plc, Tunji Oyebanji, said the new prices did not affect other marketers.
“We currently operate a deregulated market and with a deregulated market, customers are free to make a choice. We are now in a deregulated environment, we cannot come together and fix the price,’’ Oyebanji said.
According to him, the current scarcity is because marketers have not been having full tanks as NNPCL is the only importer of petrol.
He said: “You would have noticed that many filling stations started adjusting their pump prices beginning this morning (yesterday).
“Every marketer is adjusting its petrol prices, especially now NNPC has done its own. Some marketers’ prices may be lower, higher or the same as that of NNPCL’s.
“People have to be patient and be buying their normal consumptions. There is no need to fill your tank if it is not necessary or stock petrol at home.
“What you see is that people now fill up vehicle tanks and also fill their kegs with fuel for keeps. People are just engaging in unnecessary panic buying.”
In Katsina State, the scarcity worsened, necessitating the government to issue a 24-hour ultimatum to the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) members to open their filling stations by today.
Governor Dikko Umar Radda, at an emergency meeting with the association’s leadership, said any member that refused to comply with the directive would be forced to dispense the product free of charge.
Piqued by the scarcity in Bayelsa State, Governor Douye Diri directed the Ministry of Mineral Resources and the state’s petroleum task force to shut down any station hoarding petrol.
IPMAN, however, said it sanctioned over 100 stations before the new NNPCL price regime.
Their offence is that they unilaterally increased pump prices.
As of yesterday, over 100 stations were sanctioned.
Some of the marketers are not registered IPMAN members.
More support for subsidy removal
The Federal Government got more backing on subsidy removal yesterday.
The Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) endorsed the decision.
Chairman of the forum and Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, told reporters at the APC National Secretariat that all the presidential candidates promised to remove subsidy.
Uzodimma, who spoke shortly after meeting with the National Working Committee (NWC), said the immediate past administration had repeatedly said fuel subsidy was no longer sustainable.
“What we are talking about now is the implementation process; how to implement the programme in a manner that will not be too hard on the people. And I think the government is working on it,” he said.
Uzodimma added: “I have confidence in the ability of the current President to navigate through the waters and take decisions that will be in the best interest of our people and the country as a nation.”
Former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, described it as “the best and wisest decision”.
He tweeted: “On this removal of fuel subsidy, I am convinced that President Tinubu has taken the best and the wisest decision for the collective good of Nigeria and its people. He promised to remove the subsidy, he never hid it.
“Most importantly, too, the immediate past government already removed fuel subsidy technically by not making provision for it in the 2023 budget.”
“I appeal to Nigerians to bear with the government for now as the present hardship will ease out with time. Removing the fuel subsidy is the best thing to do and it has to be done once and for all.
“Unfortunately, the subsidy regime has only been benefiting a few people in the oil industry and Nigeria must break this chain once and for all.”
A pro-Democracy and anti-sabotage group backed the policy.
Its Supreme Leader, Smart Edwards, said at a briefing: “No country can consistently allow N400billion monthly to a few Nigerians. We support this position and we agree with the NNPC Ltd too.”
A group, Like-Mind Initiative, said it would prevent economic collapse.
National Coordinator, Mr Augustine Esiekpe, urged Nigerians to support the initiative.
”A few Nigerians are profiting from it and enriching themselves at the expense of poor Nigerians,” he said.
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