By Clara Nwachukwu
Operators in the downstream petroleum sector have argued that there is no alternative to the deregulation of the sector.
The operators also expressed frustrations over the seeming lack of development sector on account of continued Federal Government=s interference in the setor.
Speakers who spoke during the annual, OTL Africa Downstream Expo, which ended in Lagos on Friday, maintained that the sector should be deregulated completely to fast track growth and development.
Speakers at the conference said that only by deregulation can Nigerians and the economy can benefit from developments in the sector.
The former Chairman, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, who condemned government=s continued operation of the subsidy regime, described the system as given room to Amonumental laziness.
According to him, AThe trillions of Naira being used to fund subsidy under the Petroleum Support Fund, PSF, should have been deployed to other sectors of the economy in providing infrastructures such as pipe borne water, good roads, well-equipped schools and hospitals for the overall benefit of the people.
Reiterating the importance of deregulation, the Chief Operating Officer, Oando Marketing, Mr Yomi Awobokun, complete deregulation, whih will break all forms of monopoly should be accompanied with the privatisation of refineries to encourage the construction of new refineries; liberalisation of fuel import; and open access to oil and gas facilities such as pipelines, depots, jetties and more.
Other speakers who spoke along the same premise, expressed concern that the downstream sector has not yet grown to the anticipated heights despite over 50 years of commercial oil production in Nigeria.
In particular, the Managing Director, Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc, Mr Tunji Oyebanji, opined, AIt is painful that after ll these years, we have not progressed much in spite of the potential in the sector. By now, we should have been much further along the line than we are presently.
Oyebanji agreed that in every sector of the economy, the global practice is that government would only be involved at the infant stage, to stabilize and set the pace of the industry. But he stated that after stabilization, when the private sector has matured enough to take charge, Agovernment would step back to allow things to evolve.
The reason the sector has remained at the infancy is because of the pervading participation of government in the affairs of the industry, and until that is cleared, we will not see the benefits that accrue to the consumers and the economy at large.
He listed some of the benefits to include better choice, more competitive pricing regime on account of the interplay of market forces, better standards as there will be no hiding place for inefficiencies and an overall effective and efficient sector.
According the Mobil boss, the current regulation of the downstream sector is the reason for all the inefficiencies and distortions in the system, adding that operators= true capacities cannot be determined effectively.