Directly or indirectly, officially or unofficially, it is clear that the cap on the pump price of Petrol (PMS) has been removed. All over Nigeria, for a few months now, the price of Petrol has varied from one filling station to the other. As at 6th of January, Prices ranged from a minimum of 240 Naira per liter in Benin, 340 Naira in Kaduna, 360 Naira in Umuahia, 400 per liter in Owerri to 500 Naira per liter in Port harcourt , no filling Station is selling at the so called controlled price, except in some filling stations in Abuja and Lagos. And nobody is enforcing any price as it used to happen in the past. So it is clear we have deregulated. Thats fine!
I think the Government should own up and announce this policy officially. It is deceitful and dis-ingenious for this Government to announce that payment of subsidy will end in June, when they would have ended their regime. Why wait? Why make such deceitful proposition? Who will enforce the plan, Buhari/Oil Minister or the new President? I urge the government to come clean and level up with the citizens instead of this deceit and hanky-panky game with our commonwealth and citizen wellbeing.
By announcing the deregulation now, which is already a fiat accompli Nigerians will attain the following benefits:
First, an official deregulation will mean, that many more companies and oil marketers can import fuel under the supervision of the regulatory agency, thus immediately easing the scarcity and ending the double jeopardy of many motorists and road users. For months now many motorists spend hours and in some cases, days and nights trying to buy the product at inflated prices. They lose many productive hours searching for petrol and when they find it, they pay exorbitant prices. Those who buy from hawkers run the risk of buying adulterated fuel which destroy car engines, in addition to the indignity of buying petrol from hawkers. This is not to talk of the misery of those who travelled in commercial vehicles this season. Many were stranded at motor parks as they found that their budget could not meet the daily changing fares!
Secondly and most important, an official deregulation now will obviate the need for more subsidy payment and at least we can save the 3.5 trillion Naira budgeted for the first six months of this year by this outgoing government. 3.5 trillion Naira can do so much for our infrastructure, especially when it is noted that only 5.9 Trillion is the entire Capital budget in a 22 Trillion Budget for 2023. It can build several roads and bridges across the Country or transform our entire Educational and Healthcare system.
Thirdly it will disabuse the minds of some Nigerians who speculate that this 3.5 trillion naira has been put in the budget for other purposes including Election funding and send forth and parting gifts for the Government officials and politicians of the Party in power. This set of Nigerians can see that government has ‘surreptitiously’ deregulated while still retaining subsidy payment. And they ask for what purpose? Hence the speculation.
To deny this speculation and save a whooping 3.5 trillion naira, I urge this Government to formally announce the deregulation now or if they are ‘afraid’ to do for whatever reason, then they should open up the market ‘surreptitiously’ as well so that supply can expand and allow market forces to fix price. To allow only NNPC to be importing while removing the price cap after paying subsidy is profoundly confounding. The current situation is deeply damaging Nigerian Economy, increasing poverty and misery for many Nigerians while creating a lot of opportunities for arbitrage and corruption for NNPC and Government officials. President Buhari should bite this Bullet and save Nigerians from multiple jeopardy which they are facing right now. It is true that we have lost the battle against corruption, but we must not watch helplessly as Poor Nigerians are openly ‘raped’ and ravaged by the ‘oil curse’
*Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa* _OFR,MON, NPOM_
_Convener, the NEW NIGERIA GROUP (NNG)