By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Victor Ahiuma-Young, Michael Eboh, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Maikanti Baru, said, yesterday, there was no plan by the Federal Government to hike the price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, otherwise known as petrol.
The declaration came on a day Acting Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, Mrs. Sotonye Iyoyo, dismissed calls by former NNPC GMDs that the price of petrol be increased, stressing that the downstream segment of the petroleum industry had already been liberalised. She also noted that the call of the former NNPC bosses was their personal opinion, which had no bearing on the agency’s price template.
The clarification of the minister, NNPC and PPPRA came against the backdrop of calls by former Group Managing Directors of the NNPC that the price of the product be hiked from its present rate of N145 per litre to enable the corporation generate more funds.
But Senate Spokesman, Abdullahi Aliyu Sabi, yesterday, warned proponents of the new increment in pump price of fuel, saying they must not take the patience of Nigerians over current economic situation in the country for granted.
Organised Labour also warned against any further increase in the pump price of fuel, saying it would be total madness to do so as it would be totally unacceptable.
Baru, who was first to emerge from the meeting with the President, told State House correspondents, who pressed him for comments, to contact the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, for clarifications.
But pressed further to speaker as he was exiting the Villa, he simply said “there is nothing like that.”
On his part, Kachikwu first directed reporters back to the GMD NNPC for answers but told that the GMD was mute on the matter, he said that there was no plan to review the price.
“There is no memo to that effect, wait for the GMD,” Kachikwu said.
Speaking on the development in Abuja, Iyoyo said the calls by the former NNPC GMDs was only a recommendation which was not binding on the agency.
She stated further that the call was the personal opinion of the former GMDs, noting that the federal government was not planning any fuel price increase in the coming days.
Also speaking on the issue, Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Department of the NNPC, Mr. Muhammad Garba-Deen, in an interview with Vanguard in Abuja, said the corporation didn’t have the mandate to determine the price of PMS.
Former GMDs’ opinions, solely theirs —NNPC
Garba-Deen disclosed that the meeting in which the call was made was a consultative forum, adding that the fact that the NNPC GMD, Mr. Maikanti Baru, was part of the meeting didn’t mean he shared the same views expressed in the meeting.
He added that the agreements reached at the meting was solely the opinions of the participants and, therefore, not binding on the current management of the NNPC, as well as the Federal Government.
He said: “The NNPC GMD was in that meeting, and it does not mean he shared their views. He was the convener of that meeting and he allowed them to express themselves as professionals in the industry.
“He did not want to interfere. And whatever views they expressed was not binding on him and not binding on the government also and in any case, the NNPC does not fix price, it is the duty of the PPPRA. That is their opinion, whether government would increase price or not, I have no idea.”
He further stated that the decision to increase the price of PMS or any other petroleum product was within the purview of the PPPRA and not within the powers of the NNPC, which is an operator in the industry.
He said: “The NNPC has no mandate to increase price of petroleum products. It is the mandate of the PPPRA. Only PPPRA has the mandate to increase fuel price and it is under the Ministry of Petroleum, just as the NNPC is also under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
“We have nothing to do with price increase. The template we are using today was not developed by the NNPC. It was developed by the PPPRA, and the NNPC is a player in the market just like every other player, like Oando, ExxonMobil, Total and Shell. We do not fix the price.
“As I speak to you now, a lot of people are selling below N145 per litre. So the issue of price hike does not arise, considering where we are coming from and the fact that things are hard. As far as that call to hike PMS price is concerned, it is the opinion of the former GMDs.”
Asked the real price of PMS, Garba-Deen said: “I don’t know, because so many variables are normally taken into account in arriving at any price. Foreign exchange is just one of them, because it is not part of our mandate, I cannot comment on it.”
The former GMDs of the NNPC, had at a weekend meeting with the current GMD, called for an upward review of the price of petrol, stating that the present price cap of N145 per litre was not in line with current economic realities.
Present at the meeting, according to the NNPC, was the Minister of State for Petroleum/Immediate Past GMD, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, represented by the Senior Technical Assistant, Engr. Johnson Awoyomi; HRM Edmund Daukoru, Chief Odoliyi Lolomar, Dr. Thomas M. A. John, Engr. Lawrence Amu, Dr. Jackson Gaius-Obaseki, Engr. Funsho Kupolokun, Engr. Abubakar Lawal Yar’Adua, Dr. Joseph Thlama Dawha and Mr. Maikanti Baru.
Senate warns proponents of fuel price increase
Speaking to journalists, in Abuja, the Senate spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, who represents Niger North senatorial district on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, asked government not to buy the idea of ex-NNPC Group Managing Directors.
He insisted that government must be mindful of the activities of the former NNPC bosses, who he noted, were parading themselves as its advisers, saying they might be agents of enemies of the present federal administration, with given tasks to pull down the government.
Sabi, who said the former NNPC helmsmen lacked the capacity to speak the way they did, blamed them for the current nation’s economic woes. According to him, their activities as heads of the NNPC brought the country to its current situation.
He said: “First and foremost, let me say that these are my personal opinions. I’m not making this submission as spokesman of the Senate, which means the position of the Senate but I’m saying this in capacity as Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, who represents the good people of Niger North Senatorial District.
“I read the newspaper report and I was disturbed, worried and I think for all intents and purposes, I’m very much disappointed.
“First and foremost, let’s underpin the issue as follows: I saw it clearly: former Group Managing Directors – almost all of them numbering close to 10 or so. And what came to my mind was that how did we get here?
“The NNPC, as an institution, was expectedly the live wire of this nation. As we have all known, refineries have not been functional because if they were functional and if that institution had been up and doing in tandem with its peers in other countries, we would not be where we are today.
“For crying out loud, all of these former GMDs, can they be said to be free of blame on how we got here? These refineries have not been working, the corporation itself has not been run transparently to the maximum benefit of Nigerian citizens.
“At least, I knew that it was just in this our change administration that the Minister of State (Petroleum), Ibe Kachikwu, was able to tell Nigerians that the corporation had declared profit now because he has brought his wealth of private sector experience to bear on that corporation.
“Before now, going down the lane through the period of the 16 years misrule of the PDP administration, and even before then, our refineries have not worked. All the problems we are having is as a result of all these people who are assembled now to be the wise men to tell us what should be done.
Ex-GMDs have no moral right to advise FG
Sabi continued: “As far as I’m concerned, all of them do not have the moral standpoint to even advise us on what to do because they had a hand in it. And I cannot see how you can solve a problem under the same condition that created it. Are we expecting these people’s advice to change the narrative?
“As far as I’m concerned, maybe, they are sent to destroy this government. We will not allow them to do that because right now, Mr President is grappling with inherited problems. He is trying his best to see that things are changed.
“If you look at the arithmetic, if things had been well, it is now that Nigerians are even supposed to enjoy because the price of petroleum has crashed.
“So, no matter how well intentioned their advice is, it’s unfortunate that it is coming from that particular group of people because they have been part of the mess all along.
“I can’t see how they could clear themselves of the mess that is currently in the oil and gas sector. So, to my mind, they should have made their advice underground. But to come out in that strong manner, I see it as a slap on us because they are responsible for what we are getting.
“If they had left a legacy of a solid institutional base for the oil and gas industry, we wouldn’t have been in this situation today. You increase the price and add up to the crisis that Mr President is handling, is that the way to go about it?
“If we trace the historical milestone of this organisation down the line, these people have been responsible for the period of unaccountability, deep leakages that has characterised that industry.
“For them to come out today and tell us that this is what needs to be done, I don’t think they sat down to think through what they were saying. They don’t have the moral foundation to advise us on what to do because they are responsible for where we are.
“My take is that the current effort that is being made to turn around this sector will continue.”
Why Senate suspended PIB treatment
Speaking on why the PIB has not been taken beyond the first reading in the Senate, Sabi declared that the Senate resolved that its treatment be suspended following controversies arising from host communities funds component of the bill.
He, however, refused to state where opposition against that aspect of the bill came from.
He said: “The Senate is already primed because most experts have submitted that we need to do something about the PIB.
“The Senate decided in our own wisdom, that rather than take the whole hog of PIB, it is better to turn in to about one or two components; we wanted to take the management framework but because of the sensitivity of the host community relationship and benefit sharing issue, that issue met some brickwall even before it went ahead.
“So, we thought it wise to keep it down. But I’m convinced beyond reasonable doubt that by the time we come back from recess, that issue will still get a front burner attention because it’s key to whatever changes we want to see done, going forward on a sustainable basis in the oil and gas industry.”
Govt should not push its luck – Odumakin
Speaking on the issue, National Publicity Secretary of Pan-Yoruba Socio-Economic Organisation, Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said: “Government should not push its luck too far as there is a limit to which you can tax poverty. There shouldn’t be an invitation to the rage of the poor through insensitive policies at this difficult period.”
Labour warns against price increase
Meanwhile, Organised labour, yesterday, warned against any further increase in the pump price of fuel, saying it would be total madness to do so.
Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and it’s Trade Union of Nigeria, TUC, counterpart, insisted Nigerians would not accept any policy that would compound the hardship they had been passing through.
General Secretary of NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said: “It is not something that is new. We have said before that this is what would happen. That is what is happening. Once you decide that import regime is what you are going to use and you claim to be deregulating, you are going to find the demand for foreign exchange to bring in product will weigh heavily on the Naira.
“Therefore, the Naira will continue to lose value and when that happens, you will come back to say the price is not right. That is what is happening. We said it when we were telling Nigerians that it was a wrong policy that that they were pursuing.
“Beyond that, it is important to state that Nigerians are already bearing too much hardships and any attempt to again raise the price of fuel, certainly, will not be a good policy to pursue. As far as we are concerned at the Congress, we are opposed to any further increase in fuel price.
“The price that was increased before, we opposed it and we still believe it was wrong. So, to be thinking of a new increase, considering the hardship that Nigerians are going through, we are not going to accept it.”
On its part, TUC in a statement by Bobboi Bala Kaigama and Simeso Amachree, President and Acting Secretary General, TUC, respectively, said it was annoying that the the Federal Government was considering another increase, when it was yet to fulfill its promises and agreement reached with organised labour during the protest against the last hike.
The statement read: “In case the management of the NNPC has forgotten, the economy is in crisis and life has become very difficult for the common man who now can hardly afford two square meals per day. The present minimum wage can no longer purchase a bag of rice.
“Businesses are shutting down leading to millions of job losses, which of course have accentuated increased cases of crime and other vices. If all the members of the NNPC team can offer as recipe to contain this scourge of economic downturn is to hike the price of petroleum products, then they are not fit to manage the sector and should throw in the towel.
“If the country had other sources of forex or produces most of what it imports, the economy would not be what it is now. What stops the government from building more refineries and diversifying the economy? The federal government should maintain some stability of forex, taking into cognisance the fact that Nigeria is an import-dependent country.
“The implication of refining outside the country is enormous; if you are refining outside, you must pay for cost of transportation, insurance and port charges, etc. We just cannot continue to tow the same line.
“The economy is already on its knees, and it is our thinking that the priority of government now should be how to salvage the situation through other creative and resourceful avenues, such as downward review of the cost of governance, creating friendly business environment and jobs, diversifying the economy, setting up an economic team that would creatively fashion out modalities to navigate the stormy waters of recession.
“If persons in government feel our pains as they claim to do, then the news that people are already exchanging their children for bags of rice should prick their conscience.
“The Congress will resist further hike in the price of petrol if that is what it will take to get the government into thinking out of the box.
‘’We do hope it doesn’t get to that. We urge the government to fulfill its promises for which it set up the joint Government-Labour Committee to determine a new, more economically realistic national minimum wage and proffer ways by which pains of the last increment can be ameliorated.”