Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has said the current price of N145 per litre for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol can no longer be sustained.
In a presentation he made to a joint committee on Petroleum (Downstream) of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Minister said the landing cost for petrol stood at N171 per litre.
According to him, the Federal Government, through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been bearing the cost of N26 per litre, representing the difference between N171 and the current official price of N145 per litre.
Insisting that independent marketers would not be able to import the product at the current foreign exchange rate, saying the marketers were able to sell for N145 per litre when the exchange rate was N285 per Dollar. The Naira presently exchanges for N365 per Dollar.
Kachikwu, however, proffered three alternative solutions to pump price increase: getting the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to introduce a modulated foreign exchange rate specifically for importers of the product; giving the marketers significant tax adjustments to enable them to absorb the high cost; and a plural pricing system whereby the NNPC would continue to sell at N145 through its numerous outlets while the marketers are allowed to fix their own price.
The Minister identified causes of the last fuel scarcity to include diversion of products, logistic constraints, and bottleneck associated with clearance, bad road network, insufficient product reserves, smuggling through land borders, supply gaps and enforcement challenges.
He stated that the marketers stopped importing fuel since October 2017, as a result of their inability to access foreign exchange from the CBN, leaving only the NNPC to import the product, which has left a wide gap between demand and supply.
To address the situation, the Minister canvassed the opening up of production lines, specifically the refineries, which he said, would address supply gaps that usually leads to incessant scarcity.
In his own submission at the hearing, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru said the last scarcity was caused by rumours of price increase in the media that led marketers into hoarding the product in anticipation of higher prices.
The GMD said that the strike action embarked upon by PENGASAN in December was partly responsible for the scarcity, saying issues raised by the association for going on strike had nothing to do with the NNPC.
According to him, the strike triggered panic buying by members of the public leading to scarcity of the product. He added that although PENGASAN called off the strike on December 18, the damage had already been done.
The GMD alleged that about 4500 distribution trucks failed to return to depots to complete their distribution formalities during the scarcity period, meaning that the trucks were diverted.