The Federal Government is yet to achieve its goal of fully deregulating fuel prices in the country’s downstream sector of the petroleum industry, the former President-General of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Petr Esele, has said.
Mr Esele was reacting to the alleged unilateral decision of the Petroleum Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria (PETROAN) to announce an increase in the pump price of petrol in the country.
On February 8, the President of PETROAN, Billy Gillis-Harry was quoted in the media to have announced an increase in the retail price of premium motor spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol from N160 to N178 per litre.
Following the announcement, media reports said filling stations in Benin City and environs adjusted their retail pump prices upwards, between N165 and N168 per litre from the previous average of between N159 and N161 per litre.
But, in his reaction on Saturday in Benin City, Mr Esele, who is also a one-time two term President of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) faulted the PETROAN decision.
He said the association had no right to unilaterally announce the increase in petrol pump price in the country without reference to the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
PPPRA is the only government agency authorized by law to monitor and regulate the prices of petroleum products in the country.
The former union leaders said what PETROAN did by announcing the fuel price hike was to draw attention to the challenges inherent in the implementation of the current deregulation policy in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry.
“They (PETROAN) are pained over what they are expected to pay as ex-depot. So, increasing the price is one of the ways to draw attention to their plight as operators in the sector. The measure is to bring pressure on the government to look into their plight. However, in as much is their right to do so, they have ended up taking the laws into their hands,” Mr Esele said.
The former TUC president said what the PETROAN action showed was that the Federal Government was yet achieve what it wanted with the earlier reduction N5 in the pump price of petrol.
Going by current dynamics in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry, Mr Esele said it was clear the government is yet to fully deregulate prices in the sector.
“I don’t think we are fully deregulated because I think the government is still paying subsidies on petroleum products.
“There is still subsidy payment being made somewhere in the pricing template. If we say the sector is fully deregulated, if landing cost is at N180 and petrol is selling at N160 or N168 per litre, who then is paying the difference?” Mr Esele asked
He advised the government to embark on awareness campaigns to educate Nigerian citizens, especially the ordinary man on the impact of the rising cost of crude oil prices on the retail fuel price at the pump.
“It’s something that we expect the ministry of information to talk about, bringing out the economic aspects of the crude oil prices and letting people know that this is where we are and this is where we are going.
“On the other side, the government also has to reach out to the people to let them know what it is doing to cushion the effects of fuel price increases in the country.
“So, if the prices are going up and the people have to go through some pains, the government also has to find a way to mitigate whatever pains the people are going through. That is the politics of deregulation,” Mr Esele said. (NAN)