The recent price change in the petroleum pump price by the Petroleum Products Price Regulation Agency (PPPRA) has drawn various reactions from the downstream stakeholders in the oil and gas sector.
Although, the agency insist that the monthly guiding prices would still allow reasonable returns to operators, many of the stakeholder operators like Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), and the Petroleum Products Retail Outlets owners Association of Nigeria (PETROAN) complain of the effect of the price changes to their business.
However, while most of these groups, including the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), have called for possible street protest against the government, the PETROAN President, Dr Billy Gillis-Harry, in this interview, holds a different opinion. Harry who is also President, Bilview Energy Limited, insists that only a round-table, stakeholders’ engagement between the various downstream group operators, the leadership of PPPRA, NNPC, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), and the ministry of petroleum resources, will solve the problem.
While announcing the pricing regime for July, the PPPRA said the new prices allow reasonable returns for downstream operators. Are you not impressed with that?
If it is not favourable to other players in the downstream, who are openly protesting in the media and all over, it cannot be favourable to PETROAN. However, while we are not happy, we do not think any street protest or shutting down our outlets will solve any problem.
The position PETROAN members occupy in the petroleum value chain is critical. So, we need to thread with a lot of caution.
Are you saying that the stakeholders in the downstream sector are not involved whatsoever in the fixing of the prices by the PPPRA?
If we are, you won’t read of the repeated complaints and concerns. As major stakeholders in the industry, we are worried about the incessant, monthly price changes. I totally agree that there should be a complete price review, but it should not be left only in the hands of the PPPRA. That is our position. This is even as deregulation is being taunted as being in force in the downstream sector.
What do you mean by incessant price changes?
I am sure you noticed that price variations from March till this July have not been consistent, or followed any pattern. A proper review involving the major stakeholders will deal with the situation.
Are you not surprised that the deregulation of the petroleum pricing regime in Nigeria is not backed by any law?
That is part of the problems we are complaining about. We, in PETROAN verily support the adopted deregulation, in the belief that it is the best for us all in the sector, and as Nigerians. But I tell you this; we want this deregulation to be backed by law.
What we have currently is a happenstance that came through a decree during the military regime. Now we have a National Assembly that can engage due process and legalize deregulation now.
Is PETROAN happy that the subsidy regime has ended, in view of the benefits to retail outlets?
I don’t know about any benefits as you put it. We run our outlets according to provisions of the law, and we operate under the supervision of relevant authorities, whose operatives come over to our shops, even without notice to do their jobs.
Let me answer your question; we, the retail outlets of the petroleum industry are happy that the petroleum subsidy is gone. But as I said before, we want a situation whereby the price modulation and presentation need to have a conclusive stakeholder review.
Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja