The Federal Government should hands off the importation of refined petroleum products into Nigeria and should concentrate on getting the country’s refineries functional, oil marketers have said.
According to oil dealers, the downstream oil sector in Nigeria has not yet witnessed proper deregulation going by the fact that the government through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had remained the sole importer of refined petroleum products.
They told our correspondent that the consistent rise in the pump price of petrol could also be attributed to the fact that the commodity was being imported into Nigeria mainly by one dealer, the NNPC.
The government-owned NNPC imports refined petrol into Nigeria through its subsidiary, the Pipelines Products Marketing Company, and the price of petrol had been on the rise since March this year, hitting N170 per litre recently.
Commenting on the development, the National President, Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, called on the government to make the environment suitable for independent dealers to be able to import products.
He argued that the government-owned oil corporation should hands off petroleum products imports and create room for marketers to import in order to ensure competition.
The PETROAN president said the government should then ensure proper consumer protection in order to stop marketers from raising the prices of products arbitrarily.
Gillis-Harry said, “The government is not supposed to make profit in a matter like this. Government is supposed to service the strongly needed economic indicators.
“So what the government through the NNPC should have done is to summarily hands off in the importation of products and allow the players to determine how we can work together.”
On whether the downstream sector had not been deregulated based on some arguments by marketers, the PETROAN chief stated that proper deregulation was necessary.
He said, “Deregulation is a statutory matter that has to go through some legislative procedures. Until that is done, you cannot just with a wave of hand say you have deregulated. It doesn’t work that way.
“There are critical rules that must be followed in deregulating and we have quite a lot of clarification that we as an association have made. We have written a proper and concise process and procedure about that.”
He added, “The recent pump price increase for petrol is an affirmation that there is no deregulation, because PPMC cannot just change price, rather prices in a deregulated market will be determined by the forces of demand and supply.”
He said marketers were ready to work with government, adding that a lot of businesses had collapsed as a result of the abrupt hikes in petrol prices.