The current dwindling of the nation’s fortunes in the oil and gas sector following the outbreak of the coronavirus has again brought to the fore the need to urgently reform the petroleum industry.
Specifically, the lawmakers in the National Assembly are unhappy about the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to transmit a revised version of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) for legislative processing and passage.
The Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream and Downstream), which stated that very little could be achieved without the bill from the presidency, told The Guardian that it was the desire of the National Assembly to pass the PIB before the end of 2020. The panel expressed worry that with the continued delay by the presidency, the plan could be endangered.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan had also earlier in the year pledged that the Senate would ensure the transmission of the approved version of the PIB to President Buhari for his assent before the end of 2020.
“Our petroleum industry is almost stagnant and for long needing profound reform. Our oil and gas-related committees are, therefore, expected to work hard to take the lead in our determination to reform this vital sector. It is the desire, indeed the design of this Senate that the Petroleum Industry Bill is passed before the end of 2020.”
Similarly, the Major Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) has reiterated its call to the Federal Government to urgently restructure the petroleum industry with a view to opening it up for more participants.
MOMAN Chairman, Tunji Oyebanji, also appealed to the government to review industry margins.
According to him, “removing fuel subsidy at the period of a drop in prices would eliminate waste, address the issue of the low margin of marketers, as well as set the country on the path of determining appropriate pricing for the product in the country.”
He said the restructuring of the downstream oil industry would set it on the path to sustainability.
“The elimination of oil theft and leakages in the system, optimization of the supply chain, the introduction of alternative energies and the regular and consistent maintenance of the distribution infrastructure are all necessary aspects of this downstream reform for which the passage of the PIB will provide an opportunity address,’’ he stated.
Also yesterday, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association (IPMAN) recounted the losses its members incurred due to the recent reduction in the price of petrol allegedly because of lack of appropriate communication and synergy among relevant agencies of the Federal Government.
The association urged the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to carry its members along by putting them on notice ahead of future adjustments in the price of fuel.
IPMAN National President, Sanusi Fari, in a statement, noted that although his members were always law-abiding citizens, who would comply with any adjustments, the last price adjustment left them in serious pains.
Fari said:” The previous reduction affected our members so much that many lost funds and the loss did not go down well with members. Most of them operate with borrowed funds from banks with interests.
“We had earlier pleaded that some time is given to us to exhaust the old stock but we did not get any response.”
On the need for synergy with the PPPRA in the management of fuel prices, the IPMAN boss said: “This time around, we want the PPPRA and other relevant agencies to always carry us along as some of the major stakeholders in the downstream in future strategic decisions of this nature”
The group charged its members to continue to serve the public based on the new price template by selling between N123.50k and N125 per litre.
IPMAN gave the charge as other stakeholders called on the Federal Government to further reduce the price of petrol because of the low price of crude oil in the international market.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described as cosmetic and inadequate, the reduction of petrol price to N123.50 and argued that with the very low international price of crude oil, Nigerians should not be made to buy a litre of the product at a price higher than N90.
The party insists that “given the fall of the price of crude in the international market to below $30 per barrel, the appropriate domestic price for fuel should be between N80 and N90 per litre, a cost template that should be immediately implemented to ease the economic burden on Nigerians and further serve as a palliative for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In a statement, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said:” Our party maintains that any further delay in the reduction of fuel price amounts to fleecing of Nigerians at a time government should rather concentrate on efforts that will immediately ease burdens and enable our citizens to battle health and economic concerns worsened by the coronavirus disease.”
Although most petrol stations opened in Abuja yesterday, only a handful were selling petrol at the approved N123.50 kobo.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the manager of a filing station along Nnamdi Azikiwe Way, Wuse district said there was still no directive from their headquarters to readjust from N125 to N123. 50 kobo per litre.
The manager of another filing station along Zuba-Berger expressway blamed the non-adjustment of their pumps to the ongoing lockdown of the country due to the ravaging COVID-19.
He said: “Since the downward adjustment was effected by the PPPRA in the early hours of April 1, 2019, we are yet to receive official communication from the appropriate quarters to effect the change. Indeed, we have not gotten any directive from our headquarters to change the price from N125 to N123.50 Kobo per litre.”
The marketers who said they always got official communication whenever price adjustment took place, blamed the ongoing lockdown for the lack of communication.
Meanwhile, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), North-East Zonal Operations Comptroller, Alhaji Ibrahim Ciroma has warned independent and major marketers against hoarding or diverting the product, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the deadly virus has not hit Borno and Yobe states, some filling stations were not dispensing fuel since Tuesday’s closure of borders of the two states.
At a news conference in Maiduguri, Ciroma said there was no basis for marketers to hoard petrol as the zone received 52 trucks of the product this week.
“We’re everywhere in Maiduguri and Damaturu metropolis to meet demand for petrol. Today (Thursday) we are expecting 10 fuel tankers from Gombe,” he said, noting that an investigation by the DPR revealed that most filling stations were not selling petrol since the lockdown of Borno and Yobe states by Governors Babagana Zulum and Mai Mala Buni.