By Michael Eboh
Oil marketers, under the aegis of Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria (PETROAN), yesterday, kicked against attempts by some labour groups and trade associations to stage a protest march in opposition to the recent hike in the price of Premium Motor Spirit, also known as petrol.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), United Labour Congress (ULC) and some other oil marketing groups had threatened to embark on a nationwide strike over the hike in petrol price, while they called on the government to revert to the previous price.
In a statement in Abuja, National President of PETROAN, Dr. Billy Gillis-Harry, stated that while its members are not happy with the way certain things are in the downstream petroleum industry at the moment, they do not think any street protest or shutting down of their outlets would solve any problem.
According to him, the position PETROAN members occupy in the petroleum value chain is critical, hence, there is need to thread with a lot of caution, especially as putting the whole retail space into confusion would induce more losses on marketers.
He said, “The latest price change in the petroleum pump price by 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 Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) are dropping hints of a protest march
“They complain that the effect of the usually sudden price changes to their business is huge and devastating.
“However, while most of these oil sector pressure groups have made open threats, PETROAN holds the opinion 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.
“It is sad enough that only the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has been saddled with the task of determining the pump price of petrol and other refined products in Nigeria, however, PPPRA should perform this task with extensive consultation with all stakeholders.
“We all feel the same pain – I mean with our sister unions and associations – but we in PETROAN considers the option of dialogue to ensure that all inputs of stakeholders are properly collated to determine the price of products.
“Hence, PETROAN has taken a position not to support the random call by pressure groups in the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry to embark on strike action to protest the federal government, incessant changes in pump price of petrol.”
Gillis-Harry agreed that there should be a complete price review, noting, however, that it should not be left only in the hands of the PPPRA.
He added that the PPPRA should be preoccupied with deregulation of the oil and gas sector, noting that the price variations from March till this July had not been consistent, or followed any pattern.
He, therefore, called on the National Assembly to enact a law that would cover the deregulation policy.
He said, “That is part of the problems we are complaining about. We in PETROAN verily support the pronounced deregulation by the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva and all the leadership in the petroleum sector, 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 legalise deregulation now.”