The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, oil marketers and experts on Sunday explained why the Federal Government could not stop petrol subsidy despite its non-inclusion in the 2022 budget.
Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria and experts including a professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, Sheriffdeen Tella, in separate interviews with The Punch, said it would be disastrous for government to stop the subsidy without functional refineries in the country.
A study of the allocations for the ministries of finance and petroleum resources in the 2022 budget showed that the Federal Government made no provision for petrol subsidy for the coming year.
However, it was learnt on Sunday that the commodity might still be subsidised in 2022, as the country’s sole importer of petrol, the NNPC, stated that there had been no counter order on subsidy from the Federal Government.
The corporation’s Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Garba-Deen Muhammad, in an interview with The PUNCH, confirmed that fuel subsidy would not be stopped until government and labour concluded their talks on the issue.
For more than four years, the NNPC had remained the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria, as other oil marketers stopped importing the commodity due to their inability to access foreign exchange and the occasional fall of the naira against the United States dollar.
Muhammad insisted that until negotiations with labour unions were concluded, the price of the commodity would remain the same, stressing that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, had earlier stated this.
Muhammad said, “I know that the negotiations are ongoing and the minister, when he spoke, he made it clear that no conclusion would be reached and no decision (on subsidy) will be taken until the negotiations are concluded. That is still the situation.”
When pressed further on whether NNPC would continue to shoulder the humungous financial burden of subsidy, the GGM replied, “Yes, the NNPC has not made noise about the burden it is carrying.
“And it is something I cannot pass any judgment on because the higher authorities have spoken. The minister the GMD (Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari) have spoken that they are engaging labour.
“This is because labour represents the Nigerian people and it is until the negotiations are concluded that the decision will be taken.”
The Petroleum Industry Act, which was passed in August this year, does not give room for petrol subsidy.
It will be disastrous for FG to remove subsidy without refineries working – IPMAN
Reacting to the issue, IPMAN outlined some factors that should be met before the Federal Government would halt subsidy on petrol.
IPMAN’s National Public Relations Officer, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, stated that getting the country’s refineries working was the major factor that must be addressed.
He said, “It will be very disastrous for the Federal Government to remove subsidy without implementing certain factors. The main factor is that the government should ensure that all the refineries are in good working conditions.
“The other is that there must be a level playing ground for modular refineries to be operational in order to boost local production and counter the foreign exchange concerns we face in this country.
“The importation of petroleum products drives subsidy and so if we no longer import these products, we will deal with the concerns of forex. So the NNPC and the government have a lot to do in order to take care of these things before they halt petrol subsidy.”