Subsidy ‘returns’ as FG leverages NNPC to manage market shocks

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N318 billion subsidy now paid monthly
• Marketers lament inability to import as NNPC maintains monopoly with FX access

There are indications that the Federal Government may have returned subsidy payment on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), using the supposed commercialised Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited to manage the market shocks and maintain monopoly of the downstream segment of the nation’s oil and gas industry.

According to The Guardian analysis, about N318 billion (N10.6 billion) monthly losses are now recorded on petrol and may be calculated as under-recovery by the supposed NNPC Limited. Similar development had played out under the former administration of Muhammadu Buhari, where the government secretly returned subsidy and called it under-recovery in NNPC’s books.

Usually, the federation account suffers it. The fund is usually deducted before NNPC makes any remittance into the account meant for the three tiers of government.

Coming weeks after President Bola Tinubu said there would no longer be increase in pump price of PMS and days after NNPC’s Huub Stokman took over as Chairman of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), some marketers told The Guardian yesterday that the state oil firm is now subsidising through its access to foreign exchange.

In mid-August, Tinubu stated that despite the deregulation of the downstream market, the current petrol price would remain unchanged, as there are no immediate plans to raise fuel prices.

As at the last week of August, PMS was trading for $1,030.11 per metric tonne at the international market compared with the $859.25 it traded around July when NNPC increased pump price to an average of N617 per litre. This shows an increase of 19.88 per cent. The exchange rate in July was N820/$ but now N920/$, indicating a 12.19 per cent increase. The crude oil price in July was $78.50 per barrel, it traded for $88.50 per barrel in the last week of August. Yesterday, it hit the $90 mark.

Also, while the price per litre at the international market in July was $0.641, it stood at $0.792 in the last week of August. This means that the landing cost of PMS stands at about N728.64 per litre compared to the N529 it was in July.

The addition of freight costs, lightering costs (STS), distribution margin, ancillary costs by Nigerian Midstream Downstream Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as well as marketers’ margin stands at about N90 to N105.

By implication, the pump price of PMS should hover between N818 and N833 per litre depending on one’s city of residence. With these developments, the average subsidy on every litre is about N200 per litre. This is about N10.6 billion daily and N318 billion monthly.

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President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Indian/Swiss Businessman & Chairman of Hinduja Group in Europe,Mr. Prakash Permanand Hinduja, when he paid a courtesy visit on the Nigerian President on Tuesday in New Delhi, India.

As of yesterday, the pump price of PMS in Cameroon is N1,082.70 per litre, in Benin, it was N1,008.90, in Sierra Leone, it stood at N1,143, N1,037 in Togo, N1,047 in Ghana and N1,258.20 in Guinea.

When the current pump price is compared with other deregulated products in the country, diesel and kerosene are selling between N800 and N900 per litre. The price of kerosene/jet fuel at the international market as of last month of August is $1,036.60 per metric tonne, which was almost the same as PMS. Diesel at the international level traded lower during the period at $952.85 per metric tonne.

MOMAN, which had regularly provided a pricing update, had suspended it. A source at the organisation said there is an instruction not to share the update because the government has said there would be no price increase.

Although the exchange rate at the NAFEX window traded for N769.93 on Monday, many marketers said they are unable to source foreign exchange from the window and as such cannot import despite obtaining licenses from the Nigerian Midstream Downstream Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA).

“NNPC unofficially has been told to subsidise PMS through exchange rates. They are getting dollars from crude oil sales. It is their money they can decide to do with the exchange rate at N1 to $1 or N915 to $1, whatever they do, it is in their books, they aren’t looking for forex anywhere. But we marketers have to go out and look for forex, and it is this forex that is impacting on what we sell,” a top marketer, who pleaded not be mentioned, said.
He disclosed that if the situation persists, most marketers would be out of business in no time.

National President, Natural Oil and Gas Suppliers Association of Nigeria (NOGASA), Benneth Korie, who had decried the prevailing development in the sector said: “We are suffering too much. We are losing money on a daily basis. That is what we do. We borrowed money from the banks and some of us cannot pay again.

“We are in trouble. There is a need for the government to come into this matter urgently, otherwise we will have a problem. Definitely the price of PMS will go up as much as the dollar price goes up. If you are exchanging $1 for N950, it will go up.”
Against the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), Nigeria needs an estimated $15 billion to import almost 100 per cent of its PMS demand in a year as the local refineries are dormant.

While marketers had raised concerns that there was no transition plan in place before subsidy was removed, some of them predicted the current situation where foreign exchange crisis would humble the much-trumpeted deregulation of the downstream sector.

Former chairman of the Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Tunji Oyebanji had earlier warned proper approach to the subsidy removal was sacrosanct.

“We are saying that there has to be a very clear roadmap so that all stakeholders can be carried along. For me, this is very critical.

“For example, at the point we will remove subsidies, will other products be imported? We can’t wait until the day subsidy will be removed before we know. If they are importing, we need to have placed an order. If NNPC will be importing, we need to know. Everyone needs to be on the same page,” Oyebanji said.

At about 3:39pm on Monday, 4th September, The Guardian requested clarification from the Group Corporate Communications Manager of the NNPC, Garba Deen Muhammed on the management of the pricing template but did not receive a reply until this report was filed.

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