•Petrol price to rise again as naira nears N1,000, crude oil hits $95, IPMAN warns
•Operators commend government for subsidy proposal, CSOs oppose fresh subsidy
The Federal Government may spend about N1.68tn as subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, from September to December this year, an analysis of data provided by oil marketers and the sector has shown.
PMS dealers stated on Thursday that the pump price of petrol should be between N890 to N900/litre based on the fall of the naira against the United States dollar and the surge in the price of crude in the international market.
Petrol currently sells at between N598 and N617/litre depending on the location of purchase, fuelling suspicion that the commodity is being subsidised by the Federal Government.
The government and the NNPCL have not officially admitted that subsidy on petrol has been reintroduced. President Bola Tinubu had on May 29 announced ended the subsidy regime during his inaugural address.
The government subsidises PMS through the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited. NNPCL is the sole importer of PMS. Other marketers stopped PMS imports due to their inability to access foreign exchange.
The removal of subsidy led to an increase in the pump price of petrol from about N198/litre in May to the current rate of N617/litre. But the fall of the naira coupled with the rise in crude oil price have continued to mount pressure on the cost of PMS.
Dealers in the downstream oil sector explained that the cost of crude oil and the exchange rate of the naira-dollar accounted for over 80 per cent of the cost of PMS.
Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil, rose to about $95/barrel on Thursday. It had peaked to $97/barrel the preceding day, which was the highest figure in 2023.
Oil had started the year at about $82/barrel, dipped to $70/barrel in June, but traded above $94/barrel in the past week.
Also, The PUNCH reported on Thursday that the naira continued its downward trend after exchanging to the dollar at 980 on the parallel market on Wednesday.
A week earlier, the naira was exchanged to the dollar at 950/$.
However, on the FMDQ at the Investor & Exporter forex window, the naira appreciated slightly after closing at 770.71/$ on Wednesday from 776.76/$ on Tuesday.
The forex crisis and the recent rise in crude price, according to oil marketers, have made it impossible for petrol price to still remain at N617/litre. They insisted the government had quietly reintroduced fuel subsidy.
A media report on Thursday indicated the Federal Government paid N169.4bn subsidy in August, 2023.
Quoting a Federal Account Allocation Committee document, the report said the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas paid $275m as dividends to Nigeria via NNPCL.
NNPCL, according to the report, used $220m (N169.4bn at N770/$) out of the $275m to pay for the PMS subsidy in the review month.
“I told you earlier that there is no way that the government will sustain the price of petrol at N617/litre without paying subsidy on it, going by the continued fall of the naira,” the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Chinedu Ukadike, told The PUNCH on Thursday.
He added, “The dollar is almost N990 at the parallel market currently, and you can see the effect of this on the pump price of diesel. Diesel is close to N1,000/litre, so the retail price of PMS should be around N890 to N900/litre.
“Therefore, it is better the government assists the masses by paying subsidy. From our records, in the United States, the super product or petrol is sold around $3.9, which is close to about N3,000/litre.
“The premium product is sold at about $2.89, which is over N2,000/litre. And if you check in other African countries you will find out that the product is being sold at between N1,200 and N1,500. But going by the forex rate in Nigeria, it should be around N900/litre.”
It was gathered that the subsidised ex-depot price of petrol as sold by NNPCL, was between N585 and N600 depending on area of purchase.
By subtracting the ex-depot cost of N600/litre from the projected unsubsidised rate of N890/litre, that the government may have been spending about N290/litre as subsidy currently.
In July, data from the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority showed that between June 1 to June 28, 2023, which was described as the post-deregulation period, the total petrol consumption across the country was 1.36 billion litres, while the average daily consumption was put at 48.43 million litres.
With an average daily consumption of 48.43 million litres and an estimated subsidy of N290/litre, the government could be incurring N14.04bn as subsidy daily, while this could rise to N421.3bn monthly.
This could rise to as high as N1.68tn for the months of September, October, November and December 2023, should the naira continues its fall against the dollar and crude price maintains its upward surge.
Subsidy consumes trillions
Before Tinubu announced the end of fuel subsidy in May, the scheme had consumed trillions of naira from the government’s purse.
In October 2022, The PUNCH reported that the government of former President Muhammadu Buhari had spent about N6.88tn in subsidising petrol at the time.
This was based on data obtained from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
NEITI report showed that fuel subsidies gulped N316.7bn in 2015; N99bn in 2016; N141.63bn in 2017; N722.3bn in 2018; N578.07bn in 2019; and N134bn in 2020.
Although the NEITI report did not state the amount spent in 2021 and 2022, figures obtained from NNPCL indicated that fuel subsidy jumped to N1.43tn in 2021.
NNPCL data also showed that petrol subsidy gulped N2.565tn between January and August last year. The oil company, however, described its subsidy spending as under-recovery.
The latest report on 169.4bn spent on subsidy in August indicates more billions of naira might be spent on the commodity from September to December 2023.
Commenting on the government’s decision to reportedly reintroduce fuel subsidy, the National Secretary, IPMAN, Chief John Kekeocha, said it was obvious the price of petrol was now higher than N617/litre.
He commended the government for considering the plights of its citizens, but stressed that the government should come out clean on subsidy.
“The government must come out clean on subsidy. We know it is not possible to be running full deregulation at the current price of petrol. However, it is commendable that they are considering the plights of the masses,” the IPMAN official stated.
Officials of the NNPCL and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority stayed mute on the subject when contacted.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Satellite Depot, IPMAN, Akin Akinrinade, said a rise in the pump price of diesel, a deregulated product, should mean a corresponding rise in the pump price of petrol which was also recently deregulated with the official ending of the subsidy regime in June.
He said, “Ex-depot price of diesel is around N989 per litre while at the pump it is now selling at N1000 per litre. Ex-depot price of petrol at DAPPMAN depots is between N572-N575 per litre, while NNPCL depots sell at N556.5 per litre.
“But you know the price of petrol at the pump has remained the same for a while now despite the increase in crude oil price at the international market. I think the government is doing everything it can to keep petrol prices the same due to the political nature of the product.”
He added, “However, there could be other means by which the government is subsidising it. For instance; local levies such as NIMASA, NPA and other levies are currently being paid in naira, no longer in dollars. So, if the government is working on that; it can also reflect on the prices of petrol by bringing it down. And as you know, no marketer brings in petrol due to the high price of forex. They claim they don’t have access to dollars at the CBN rate. So, it’s only NNPC that is bringing in products.”
An unconfirmed source told The PUNCH “subsidies is back.”
He said, “You know President Tinubu in his inaugural speech said the government would intervene if need be. So that is exactly what is happening. Because if not for that; going by what is happening now, using CBN’s official rate, petrol should be selling for N625 per litre in Lagos and higher prices going up north. But what we have at the pump is still around N580 per litre. But if you use black market rate, petrol should be around N800 per litre in Lagos. But we should be careful not to set the country on fire since we know the government is currently discussing with Labour,” the source said, asking not to be quoted.
Brent international price had reached $95 a barrel in the week, with Nigeria’s sweet crude also selling at around N100 per barrel.
“Any kindergarten would know that the government has returned to paying subsidies. I think we should be asking the NNPC to tell us the magic they are performing to keep prices the same for a while now,” a top source among the oil marketers told The PUNCH on Thursday.
The President, IPMAN, Chinedu Okoronkwo, said there was no need for speculation on the return of subsidies.
“The good thing is that NNPC is still importing and we are their major customers, so why should we be disturbing ourselves? Speculating will only throw the country into chaos. We believe the NNPC knows what to do, and they are doing exactly that. The Federal Government has assured us that the refineries will start working by December, and we know the NNPC has enough stock to last us till then, and even beyond,” he said.
According to a report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, subsidies had cost the country about N1.99tn from 2015 to 2020.
Also reports by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited to the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee showed that petrol subsidy cost N1.57tn in 2021, and N1.27tn from January to May 2022.
The sum of N3tn was also budgeted for subsidy from June 2022 to June 2023.
The Chairman, Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, said it would be difficult for the government to maintain a balance in petroleum price in the hands of private sector individuals.
Adeniran noted, “It is practically impossible for the government to maintain a steady balance in the price of petroleum products in the hands of business men and women that are running the cartel. They will always find a way of making things difficult for Nigerians and force the hands of the government backward towards ensuring that there is one form of subsidy or the other because without the subsidy, they are not used to doing honest business. They will find a way of embarrassing the government by ensuring that there is no adequate supply of petroleum products or making their cartel increase the cost of petroleum products.
“The new government that is just consolidating its stay in power want to avoid the embarrassment and by so doing, it will look backwards and succumb to the blackmail of the oil cartel. Those who are also speculating on forex, they have ensured that the exchange rate is stepped higher. Once the foreign exchange is on the high side, there is a ready excuse for the oil marketers to increase the price so that government can pay them extra at the expense of Nigerians.”
Speaking with our correspondent, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Rafsanjani slammed the FG for lack of transparency and accountability to public trust.
Rafsanjani, said “We cannot over-emphasise the instrumentality of transparency and accountability to public trust and confidence as key drivers of good governance.
“We as citizens must continue to call out the government on the opacity around petroleum sector governance and how it has continued to impoverish Nigerians.”
He said citizens would continue to suffer the effect of the removal or reintroduction of petrol subsidies, until the government embraces sincerity both in its intentions and actions.
The Executive Director explained further, “The lies and misinformation are endless. The NNPCL seems to continuously overstep its boundaries and disseminate half-truths. Where does the NNPC derive the authority to make arbitrary deductions for subsidy payments that have been declared removed by the President?
“This is a recurrence of the 2020 House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts probe into the questionable withdrawals of over $21bn from the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) dividends account by the NNPC.
“No official statements have been made as to whether subsidies are back, but in principle and practice, we are back in a subsidy regime, if you consider that international crude prices has crossed $95 a barrel and the exchange rate is now N920 per dollar. The government needs to be clear and decisive in its actions. But these actions must be informed by policies and plans that are technically sound, publicly acceptable and administratively feasible.”
He advised that “We must build a democracy centered on public trust and accountability.”