A former President of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Peter Esele, has faulted the Petroleum Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria for announcing an increase in the pump price of gasoline.
Esele told a correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria in Benin, Edo State on Saturday that PETROAN had no right to increase petrol pump price unilaterally.
On February 8, the President of PETROAN, Dr. Billy Gillis-Harry, announced an increase in the retail price of fuel from N160 per litre to N178 per litre.
Findings by a NAN correspondent showed that although filling stations in Benin had adjusted their prices upwards, none is selling for as high as N178 as announced by Gillis-Harry.
Some filling stations are, however, selling for between N165 to N168 as against the previous prices of N159 to N161 per litre.
At the NNPC Mega Station, fuel price has been adjusted from N159 to N165.
Similarly, at Conoil and Buvel Oil filling stations, prices have been adjusted from N161 to N168.
According to Esele, PETROAN has no right to increase fuel pump price, a responsibility he said is solely vested in the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency.
The unionist argued that what the association has done by announcing the price hike is to draw attention to the challenges they are currently facing in the downstream.
He said: “They are pained over what they are expected to pay at the depot.
“So increasing the price is one of the ways to draw attention to their plight.
“The measure is to bring pressure on government to look into their plight.
“It is, however, not their right to do so.”
The former Trade Union Congress president said that what the action of PETROAN showed was that the Federal Government had not yet enforced what it wanted to do with the earlier N5 reduction in the pump price of fuel.
Esele said going by current dynamics in the oil sector, it had become clear that the downstream was not yet fully deregulated.
He said: “I don’t think we are fully deregulated because I think government is still paying subsidies.
“There is still subsidy payment being made somewhere and if you say it’s fully deregulated, if landing cost is at N180 and you are selling at N160 or N168, who then is paying the difference?”
Esele advised government to embark on awareness campaigns to educate citizens, especially the ordinary man, on the impact of the rising cost of crude oil prices.
He said: “It’s something that we expect the Ministry of Information to talk about, bringing out the economic aspects of it and letting people know that this is where we are and this is where we are going.
“On the other side, the government also has to reach out to the people to let them know what it is doing to cushion the effects of fuel price increases.
“So if the prices are going up and the people have to go through some pains, government also has to find a way to mitigate whatever pains the people are going through.
“That is the politics of deregulation.”