The Nigerian government said it would open the floodgate of petrol imports and provide the foreign exchange required for the purpose to marketers in the hope of making the distribution of fuel competitive.
Chinedu Okonkwo, president of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), told newsmen on Monday after talks between marketers and the Federal Ministry of Finance that dealers would commence importation in no distant time.
It will end the monopoly of fuel importation into the country currently wielded by state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), whose sweeping control of the availability of petroleum products has made the market uncompetitive, making it impossible for dealers to determine prices and for the firm to hike prices at will.
“Last week we got some assurance from the Ministry of Finance on how to help us access the dollar at the same rate with NNPC because the market is now open.
“Now if we get that, we have got people who are ready to bring in this product, but their challenge is how they can get the dollar. So, if by the time we finish with government and sort this out, a lot of marketers are ready to bring in products,” Okonkwo said.
But none of that has happened since NNPC’s price-fixing arm, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, first announced in May it had granted marketers the right to henceforth bring in fuel into the country.
Severe dollar shortage is making the importation of the product difficult, a development Tunji Oyebanji, chairman of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, said in July could make NNPC maintain its sole importer status.
“Sourcing of forex remains an issue; so, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) may continue to be the major importer of products until further notice,” he said.
Okonkwo stated after the meeting that government was considering extending importation privilege to marketers as an alternative option aimed at curbing incessant rise in the retail price of fuel.
“I know that by the time that happens, it will create healthy competition where if we can’t get product from the Singapore market, we will get from Russia or Europe. It will no more be a one-man show like it is right now,” the IPMAN boss said.
Last Friday, Pipelines Products Marketing Company, a division of the NNPC, upped the ex-depot price of petrol from N147 to N155.17 per litre, consequently triggering an increase in pump price to between N168 and N170.
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