Bimbola Oyesola , [email protected]
Organised labour has kicked against removal of a cap for the price of premium motor spirit (PMS) and the commencement of a market-based pricing system.
This is even as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has said the announcement by the executive secretary of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) was without consultation and approval of board members.
The representative of the NLC on the board, Peter Ozo-Eson, said, as a member of the board of PPPRA, this came as a rude shock because, at no time was the matter presented to the board for consideration, deliberation or even for information.
“What use is the board if such weighty decision can be adopted, announced and implemented without the knowledge, input or deliberation of the board?” he queried.
Ozo-Eson, immediate past general secretary of the NLC, said it became obvious that marketers and some other operators were seeking an across board upward review to ensure that prices were kept artificially high.
He noted that the constitution of the board was set up in law to ensure adequate representation of all the stakeholders to ensure that decisions and policy recommendations had the benefit of the inputs of all stakeholders. He said, “the board is, therefore, the forum for stakeholders’ discussion and decision. To compound our disbelief, we have reviewed your statement, placed on your website, announcing the introduction of this policy. The statement, purportedly issued on March 20, 2020, is said to have removed the cap on the price of PMS effective that same date. Interestingly, the board has had three meetings (one physical and two virtual) since that date and at none of these meetings was this policy presented to or deliberated upon by the board.
“Interestingly, you have thrice issued pricing guidelines stipulating caps on PMS prices since then. If the management of the agency received directives from somewhere else, it should be honest enough to so admit and ascribe.”
The former NLC scribe maintained the need for a strong regulation to protect the masses, particularly in the absence of a strong consumer association to counteract the power of the oligopolistic marketers.
“It is in the need for this that the PPPRA was established. The agency must rise up to provide this need or cease to exist,” he said.
He lamented that the oligopolies in the oil industry have had their knees on the neck of ordinary Nigerians for too long, stating that it is time to demand that they remove their knees from the people’s neck.
He stated, “For long they have had their knee on our necks in respect of diesel. We are having difficulty breathing. Your policy on PMS will place their two crushing knees permanently on the necks of poor Nigerians and the Nigerian economy. Please, please, please, we cannot breathe!
“The exploitative opportunities in the case of PMS will be much graver than those of diesel, given the more pervasive use and lower price elasticity of demand of the former. Unregulated pricing, in an import based regime, will be at the expense of the consumers.
“I wish to urge you to do what is in the interest of Nigerians and the Nigerian economy. Bring these matters to the Board for deliberations. If, however, you persist in succumbing to the blackmail and pressures of the marketers and operators, note that there will be no objective basis for the continued existence of PPPRA and PEF in the scheme you are now touting.”
He expressed that there is need for caution, drawing inference from diesel deregulated a number of years ago and the failure of marketers to pass on the benefits of falling prices to domestic consumers.
He said that despite the global glut which made all objective indices suggested a domestic price of less than N120 per litre for diesel, consumers have continued to be forced to pay N220 per litre on average.