As the scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) continues to rock many parts of the, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation cannot continue to be the sole importer of the product into the country.
Private oil marketers had since last year stopped fuel importation due to shortage of foreign exchange and increase in crude prices, which they said had made it unprofitable to import petrol and sell at N145 per litre.
The LCCI advised the Federal Government to stop treating petrol as a social product by encouraging private sector operators to play a bigger role in the nation’s downstream petroleum sector.
The Director-General, LCCI, Mr. Muda Yusuf, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Wednesday, said, “It’s unfortunate that we are having fuel queues back. But there is a very fundamental problem with our petroleum downstream sector, and the problem is that it is over-regulated. You cannot have a sector as big as that serving our size of population and we expect only the government provider to be supplying fuel. It is not a sustainable model.
“So, there is an urgent need to push back the role of government in the issue of retailing fuel, importing fuel and all of that. Right now, it is only the NNPC that is importing PMS. Such a thing cannot be efficient; it creates room for all manner of abuses, some of which the marketers cannot disclose because of their own businesses.”
Describing the current structure as inherently inefficient, he stressed the need to open up the sector to private investors.
Yusuf stated, “Secondly, we need a more efficient distribution system. Many years ago, we invested heavily in pipelines that would make distribution easy either from the ports or the refineries. But the pipelines have not been maintained; there have been no investment in them. Again, it is because it is government that is sitting on those investments. Now, the refineries are not working well.
“We need to deal with this issue in a more holistic manner. What we are seeing are symptoms of the structure that is defective. The government cannot continue to treat PMS as if it is a social product; even education, which is a social product, the private sector is playing a big role in it. So, why must you sit on PMS and you have a situation where only the NNPC is importing?”
He said the private sector should be allowed to play a bigger role in importation, refining, distribution and marketing of petroleum products, and all other activities in the downstream sector.