Petrol import permit controversy: Marketers demand level playing field for operators

• Calls for full deregulation

Following directives by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) that marketers are free to import premium motor spirit (PMS) otherwise called petrol, marketers have called for a level playing field for all marketers and importers of petrol to avoid arbitrage and undue advantage are not accorded some marketers.

Speaking during the Nigerian Petroleum Downstream Consultative Summit, on Thursday, Mr Adetunji Oyebanji, Managing Director of 11Plc, said the government should make broader consultation with regard to its planned deregulation policy.

Tribune Online reports that Oyebanji who is also the chairman of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), said at no time did government stopped marketers from importation.

“What government must do is to come up with a clear policy statement that will guarantee a level playing field for all marketers in terms of foreign exchange needed to import products.

“There must be a uniform exchange rate for all marketers because if there are different exchange rates, it will promote undue advantage for some marketers at the expense of others,” he said.

Oyebanji further explained that marketers had to shun importation because of the inability of the government to refund subsidy claims for upward of three years.

He said that it is beyond mere announcements as any move to change the present price control regime must be backed by law.

Oyebanji also expressed concerns that when the government announced the removal of subsidy a few months ago and followed by a statement about deregulation, stakeholders were taken aback as there was no input from them on those issues, and that marketers need additional clarity on that.

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He said that MOMAN fully backs deregulation and wishes that subsidy removal is gone forever.

“Market forces should be allowed to determine prices of petroleum products as done in the deregulated economy, adding that it will engender competition, boost investment and generate jobs as well as providing the government with more revenue,” he said.

In her contribution, Hajia Amina Maina, Group Chief Operating Officer, MRS Holdings, said that government policies have discouraged investments in the depot space of the sector.

Maina disclosed that a standard depot costs about N3 to N5 billion and because of low margin and inappropriate policies many investors have abandoned the business.

She noted that with the NNPC taking over 100 per cent of import and price determination with little margin for depot owners, many have left due to huge bank loans and business takeover by AMCON.

Also, Winifred Akpani, MD/CEO of Northwest Petroleum and Gas Company, urged for a proper and determined position by the government to encourage wider investments in the sector by deregulating the sector. This, she said, will promote efficiency and transparency as well as improve on refinery projects.

She said the government should wrap up its deregulation agenda as soon as possible because “now oil prices are low and it is better you conclude it now. By the time it is summer, oil prices will rise and may be difficult to fully remove subsidy by that time. There should be a policy document or law that will back fuel subsidy removal and explain the roles of stakeholders in a deregulated market.”

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