Members of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, have advised Nigerians to expect a higher petrol pump price in the coming days, saying price may rise to N195 per litre.
They lamented what they described as “inconsistencies” on the part of the Federal Government, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and its subsidiary, the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company, PPMC, on deregulation policy.
NNPC had last week, ruled out immediate price rise until a scheduled meeting between the Federal Government and labour unions at the end of the month.
While the Trade Union Congress, TUC, said it would not react until the price was officially announced, the pro-labour civil organization, Joint Action Front, JAF, said the marketers’ position did not come to them as a surprise, blaming the development on the failure of the trade union movement to defend workers against policies inimical to their interest.
In his reaction last night, Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, GPAD, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Kennie Obateru, said: “NNPC has not increased its ex-depot price and has no plan to do so in February 2021.”
However, IPMAN members said that despite NNPC’s assurance of product availability, independent marketers could not access the product from NNPC depots.
According to the marketers, this has forced them to rely on independent depot owners for supplies.
Speaking to journalists after a meeting in Abuja at the weekend, Chief Executive Officer of Kakanda Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, Danasabe Kakanda, accused the government of giving the private depot owners edge over independent marketers.
He explained that independent marketers were always left at the mercies of private depot owners from whom they rely for supplies, even though they also own filling stations and compete with the marketers.
He said: “With the inconsistencies of government, Nigerians should expect the price of fuel to be between N190 and N195.”
Also speaking, Chief Executive Officer of Foste Nigeria Limited, Chief Austin Erhabor, urged the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, through NNPC, to come out clear to explain to Nigerians whether they had deregulated the petroleum supply chain or not.
“It is time for them to separate politics from economics. Our business is dying. How can you be talking about deregulation and you are mentioning official pump price?’’ He queried.
Erhabor exonerated petroleum marketers in the ongoing uncertainty in the supply chain, saying the sector was suffering from confused government policies.
“These private depot owners were not supposed to own filling stations. They were supposed to be in the middle between NNPC and the independent marketers.
“Is it fair for somebody that I am buying from, my competitor, I buy from you, you come and build station close to me, and you are the one that is supplying me, how can I sell? Because if you want my business to die off, all you need to do is supply to the level you are selling to me in your depots,” he added.
The Foste Nigeria Limited boss accused private depot owners of systematically edging the independent marketers out of business by hoarding petroleum products to ensure that only their filling stations were loaded first.
“As we speak, most of us have paid money to these depots without getting product. And before your eyes they are loading up their own trucks. These private depots are known,” he said.
On his part, former National Publicity Secretary of IPMAN, Dr. Emma Ihedigbo, also said oil marketers were no longer happy about what government agencies were doing with petrol supply chain.
“What we are saying in effect is that we are crying out that, PPMC wants to strangulate IPMAN members and all the businessmen dealing on petroleum products and we are no longer happy about it. And if nothing is done, we will come out and tell the world what is going on,” he warned.
Reacting last night, the umbrella body for pro-labour civil organization, Joint Action Front, JAF, through its National Secretary, Abiodun Aremu, said: “This should be expected from marketers as long as the leadership of the Nigeria trade unions movement is not prepared to defend workers against policies that are inimical to their interest.
“Why would the marketers not be so audacious to make such reckless statement when our trade unions’ leadership, capitulated to the policy of deregulation on September 28, 2020 and called off the popularly mobilised nationwide strike at the dying minutes without regard to the views of long-standing relationship with pro-labour allies?
“This has undermined public confidence in labour leadership role in the struggle to resist the hardship and untold sufferings imposed by the ruling APC government on the working people and the majority of poor Nigerians.
“The arrogant pronouncement by the marketers should serve as a wake-up call on the leadership of organised labour to begin a new process of rethinking, ideological repositioning and reaffirmation of the stand of labour against neo-liberal exploitative policies of deregulation, privatization and the need to ensure that public goods is at the centre of socioeconomic policies.
“JAF, therefore, wants a to assure organised labour of its readiness to collaborate and struggle with labour as long as the primary focus of the struggle is unapologetical defence of workers’ interest and oppressed masses against ruling class and marketers’ interest.
“Organised labour should realise that the era of unprincipled and half-hearted prosecution of resistance struggle should be gone. Organised labour should be prepared to assure Nigerian workers and the oppressed masses of Nigeria that labour should no longer bark, no longer rush to the negotiation tables but ready to stand by the collective principles and resolve of the congress of workers.”
On its part, , President of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, Quadri Olaleye, simply said until the marketers increase the pump price of fuel, “‘we are not going to say anything.”