By Michael Eboh
The economic hardship faced by Nigerians heightened over the last couple of weeks, as the prices of some petroleum products, such as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), also known as cooking gas; kerosene and Automotive gasoline Oil (AGO) also known as diesel, recorded significant increase, forcing Nigerians to spend a huge chunk of their earnings on the essential commodities. In spite of several complaints and cries, the Federal Government and its agencies in charge of the sector, had refused to provide any explanation for the rise in the prices of the commodity, especially in the face of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s new foreign exchange policy which had helped narrow down the official and the parallel markets exchange rates.
However, only kerosene and sometimes, diesel, are imported into the country, while LPG is produced locally and to a large extent, not traded in foreign currency. The price of diesel rose from about N130 per litre, a price it had been selling for about three years, to over N200 this week, while the price of cooking gas and kerosene, two important commodities used by almost every home in Nigeria, rose from about N2,500 for a 12.5 kilogramme cylinder and N83 per litre to N4,000 and N230 per litre respectively.
The hike had jerked up the price paid by households and businesses on the commodities, taking a toll on their savings and income. While nothing had been said to be responsible for the increase in the prices of kerosene and diesel, the Nigerian Association of LPG Marketers (NALPGAM) had accused the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company PPMC, a subsidiary of the NNPC and NAVGAS, a major LPG marketer, of conspiring to hike the price of LPG artificially. The marketers accused the PPMC of diverting LPG vessels belonging to the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) to NAVGAS terminal, instead of allowing it to discharge at PPMC jetty for all the marketers to receive supply.
NALPGAM said, “Gas is supposed to be readily available in all the major terminals in Lagos but today, only one company has gas because some people have hijacked the NLNG domestic supply scheme. They increased the price from N2.4 million per 20 metric tonnes (MT) to N2.6 million. It was later increased to N3 million and N3.5 million.” To worsen the issue, Nigerians had been left at the mercy of marketers of these commodities who fix prices arbitrarily and without recourse to the economic situation in the country.
Also, the major agency in charge of petroleum products pricing, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, had since May 2016, when the new price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, was announced, stopped updating the pricing template for kerosene, diesel and other petroleum products. Also various text messages and calls made to the spokesperson of the PPPRA, Mr. Lanre Oladele, over the hike in the prices of the commodities, were ignored. The NNPC also failed to respond to enquiries regarding the issue.
The PPPRA had in January announced the hike in the prices of kerosene to N83 per litre, from N50 per litre, without giving any reasons for the hike. The hike came at a time when the prices of crude oil in the international market dropped to significant lows, with other countries cutting down the prices of the commodities. The rising price of major commodities in the country over the last couple of months have put Nigerians in dire straits, especially as nothing has been heard of discussions of increment in wages.
Some people who spoke to Saturday Vanguard are worried over the hikes and the Federal Government’s seeming insensibility to the plight of Nigerians. Specifically, Mr. Kayode Oluwole, who said he bought cooking gas at N3,500 for a 12.5 kilogramme cylinder, from N3,000 previously, lamented the hike, saying it is negatively affecting his finances. Also, another aggrieved customer, who chose not to be named, called on the Federal Government to come out with reasonable explanations for the hike and take urgent steps to address the situation and call the marketers to order before its gets out of hand.