N4trn bill: How petrol subsidy grew by 349.42% in 3 years
Petrol subsidy payments grew by 349.42 per cent from N350 billion in 2019 to N1.573 trillion in 2021, propelled by the rising price of crude oil in the international market and the falling value of the Naira.
The cost of subsidizing the product in 2020 was N450 billion. In 2022 alone, the total cost of subsidy in January and February was N396.72 billion, the latest data from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has shown.
Federal legislators approved the sum of N4 trillion to be spent on petrol subsidies in 2022.
The Federal Government had previously disclosed through the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that it spent N10.413 trillion on fuel subsidies between 2006 and 2019.
With Nigeria importing all its petrol from refineries abroad, the low value of the Naira has had a significant impact on the pricing of the product in-country.
None of the three government-owned refineries is currently operational, despite huge investments in their Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) by the government.
The current administration has failed on its promise to make the refineries operational within a short period of assuming office.
Deregulation on hold
A plan by the government to deregulate the sector, following enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act (2021) that prescribes a free market for the downstream sector of the petroleum industry has been abandoned, with the government seeking and obtaining budgetary approval to spend N4 trillion on petrol subsidy.
The annual expenditures on petrol subsidy under the current administration contrast very sharply when compared with fuel subsidy under the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan, which was accused of fuel subsidy fraud.
According to data published by the defunct Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, the Federal Government paid a total of N2,105.92 trillion in 2011, an increase of N1,437.84 trillion from the 2010 payment.
It also noted that in 2012, N1.35 trillion was paid as a subsidy, the highest within the period under review.
“A total of N 1, 316 trillion in 2013, N1,217 trillion in 2014 and N653.51 billion in 2015 was paid as subsidy claims,” it added.
It noted that the NNPC since 2016, had been the sole importer of the product to the country.
Determined to curb fiscal leakages associated with the fuel subsidy regime, President Jonathan had announced deregulation of the downstream sub-sector, with a view to eliminating fuel subsidy.
However, incumbent President Mohammadu Buhari, and other opposition party leaders, under the Save Nigeria Group, organised nationwide protests to stop Jonathan from going ahead with the decision.
Other notable Nigerians that led the mass protest included Pastor Tunde Bakare, who was Buhari’s running mate in Congress of Progressive Change (CPC) and Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State.
The protests forced Jonathan to rescind the policy. When Buhari took over power in 2015, his government initially refused to pay fuel importers for products imported into the country.
It took a fuel crisis, characterised by long queues, to force the government to pay the debts, as the marketers insisted that they would not import more products unless their earlier bills were settled.
The Buhari administration was to later come to terms with the realities of the rot in the industry.
President Buhari made himself Minister of Petroleum and by so doing, has directly managed the petroleum industry. However, he has failed to make any policy changes.
‘Global price of crude determines petrol price here’
Speaking in a telephone interview from Ibadan, Director, Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law, University of Ibadan, Professor Adeola Adenikinju said the price of petrol is determined by the international price of crude and cost of foreign exchange.
Adenikinju noted that the government’s decision to continue subsidy payment was more political than economic, given the revenue challenges facing governments at all levels.
He pointed out that by retaining the petrol subsidy, the government would find it difficult to meet other commitments.
According to him, “It is a political decision, not an economic one. Economically, we know that subsidies have been very costly to the country and this is going to have serious implications on government revenue, particularly the state governments.
“The states are going to feel it more because they depend heavily on revenue from the Federation Account and secondly, they do not have the leverage to borrow like the Federal Government.
“If it goes ahead, the states are going to be hard-hit financially and it is going to be extremely difficult for them to meet all their commitments in terms of payment of salaries and keeping their obligations to pensioners”.
He noted that he would not be surprised later in the year if the states and local governments are unable to meet their commitments.
The university teacher also pointed out that the decision went beyond just revenue but would also have implications for the oil industry.
“It is also at the heart of the deregulation of the downstream sector. It will have implications for the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021 significantly because the decision on pricing is about market forces being at play to allow investment decisions to be made.
“This is going to hinder investment, so we can say that until the issue is resolved there is not going to be much private investment flow to the downstream sector.”
He blamed the middle class and the elite, who he said are the main beneficiaries of the petrol subsidy regime for mounting pressure on the government to retain the policy.
“Once you touch the middle class, the elite, they react. The argument is about the protection of the privileges of the middle class to which the labour unions belong. This is because kerosene was deregulated, nothing happened, diesel was deregulated, nothing also happened but once you touch something that affects the middle class, it becomes difficult to implement because they have access to the media”, he added.
‘Loss of confidence in govt by citizens’
He also blamed the resistance to the policy on citizens’ loss of confidence in the government, pointing out that over time Nigerians no longer trusted the government.
Adenikinju urged the government to intensify negotiations with organized labour, noting that ending the costly subsidy regime is critical to the financial state of governments at all levels.
On his part, Independent Oil and Gas Governance Consultant, Mr Henry Adigun, in an earlier interview with Vanguard, argued that it is impossible for Nigerians to expect to continue to pay the same rate for petrol while it was rising in other countries due to crude oil price in the international market.
Adigun noted that while the reluctance of the government to have petrol subsidies removed is understandable, Nigerians must know that the payment would have to come from somewhere.
According to him, “the challenge about PIA is not about the quality of the law but implementation, and so far the government has been very inconsistent in the implementation and they have not really allowed it to work.
“I understand that you cannot have subsidy removal now because the hardship on Nigerians would be immense. We have a situation whereby inflation is about 17 per cent and food prices have soared. Any attempt to increase petrol price will mean that a litre of petrol will probably sell at N270-N285.
“That would have a knock-on effect on inflation, food basket and on many other things, and at the point, we are in now, we cannot afford that as it might lead to social unrest. Our people are very angry because there is poverty in the land”.
How subsidy rose sharply, by MOMAN scribe
Speaking to Vanguard in a telephone interview, the Executive Secretary of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Mr Clement Isong, explained that three factors were responsible for the astronomical rise in petrol subsidy.
Isong listed a rise in the international price of crude oil, foreign exchange rate and high rate of petrol smuggling across Nigeria’s borders.
He said: “The first is the international cost of crude oil and the derivative products like Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) has gone up significantly as a result of the Russian war in Ukraine. So the price of crude itself, and the price of petrol, diesel and all products that come from petroleum have gone higher than they normally would be because of the war and the sanctions imposed on Russia, which is a major exporter of crude.
“Secondly, the rate of foreign exchange is exceedingly high right now. That is to say, the exchange rate for the Naira is at its highest level. I’m not talking of the black market which is even higher, I’m talking about the Central Bank of Nigeria rate which is N411-N414 to the dollar. It is higher than it has ever been historically.
“Finally, and this is the most important reason because you have capped the price, at one third or one quarter, of the price that it is across the borders, the propensity for the product to move across the borders is at the highest.
“What I mean by that is that so many people, ordinary Nigerians, ordinary human beings on both sides of the border engage in moving the product from the Nigerian side to the other side. Whether we are talking about Cameroun, Chad, Republic of Benin, Niger or Equatorial Guinea, this product goes to the whole Central and West African regions.
“This is because it is a simple law of economics that the product will follow where the price is highest. The product will go there by itself. Now because there is so much product going out, and the government doesn’t want queues in Nigeria, the government has increased the amount of product that it is importing for the Nigerian people”, he added.
He explained that the combination of these factors has brought Nigeria to where it is at the moment.
Isong explained that ordinarily, the volume being imported into the country ought to be lower, but the activities of smugglers have shot up the volume.
“For all, you know, maybe our consumption in Nigeria is normally 30, 35, maybe 40 million litres per day, in the last couple of years it has been between 60 and 65 million litres per day which were already too high because of the price cap but now that the differential between the price in Nigeria and in neighbouring countries is even higher, the volume that will go outside Nigeria will be higher.
“So, this year, we are averaging between 70 and 80 million litres per day. That volume is not consumed in Nigeria. The solution is simply for Nigerians to put up their hands and say to the government, we no longer want subsidies. The subsidy is killing our country, subsidy is killing us”.
The MOMAN scribe noted that while he understood the argument behind the government’s decision, removing subsidies is in the best interest of the country.
“The position of the industry as a whole is this: the industry is against the subsidy. We have always been against it, we will always be against it. We are against the concept of price regulations which is what brings the subsidy”, he stated.
Subsidy widens FG’s deficit
The Federal Government said that the fuel subsidy was widening its deficit gap so much that it was considering tapping the 2 billion Euros it raised in the Eurobond sale last year to support its fiscal position.
Reuters reported the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, as disclosing this at the Arab-African Conference in Cairo, Egypt.
She said that the administration will target more local borrowing this year to help fund the budget deficit which has been exacerbated by rising oil prices, due to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Mrs Ahmed was quoted as saying, “Rising oil prices have put us in a very precarious position … because we import refined products … and it means that our subsidy cost is really increasing.” The Federal Government had, in September last year, raised 4 billion Euros from the international capital market.
Although the President Muhammadu Buhari administration had announced plans to end fuel subsidies in June, it later reversed itself following a public outcry against the decision.
It then extended the subsidy by 18 months to avert any protests in the run-up to presidential elections next year, as part of its external borrowing plan.
Rather than being an advantage to Nigeria as a major oil producer, the high crude oil prices have become a burden for the country as the fuel consumed locally is imported.
The Buhari administration has failed in its promise to make the four refineries owned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited become operational, despite huge investments in their Turnaround Maintenance.
The NNPC has given the excuse of high under-recovery as the reason why it has not been remitting oil revenue to the Federation Account, from where the three tiers of government share federation revenue on a monthly basis.
Even the Monetary Policy Committee, MPC, recently aired its concern over NNPC’s non-remittance of oil proceeds at a time when oil prices have risen very high to the advantage of other oil-producing nations of the world.
The exact volume of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popularly known as petrol consumed in the country remains a subject of contention. The state governors had rejected the NNPC’s claim of 75 million litres of daily consumption.
The Minister of Finance had announced that a committee was working to reconcile the financial position of the NNPC, in respect of the under-recoveries, and the remittance into the federation coffers. The reconciliations have yet to be made public.
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Dangote, PH refineries, others won’t change fuel price – NNPCL
The local production of Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise known as petrol, by Dangote Refinery, Port Harcourt Refining Company and others in Nigeria is not going to change the pump price of the commodity, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited has said.
The NNPCL’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Mele Kyari, who disclosed this during an interview on Arise television in Abuja on Thursday, stressed that the notion that petrol prices would reduce once the country starts domestic production was false.
Kyari confirmed that the Dangote Refinery, which was inaugurated on May 22, 2023, by former President Muhammadu Buhari, would start pushing out products by the end of July and early August.
He also stated that the Port Harcourt Refinery would be delivered by the end of the year, adding that the facility was expected to further boost local production of petrol.
But Kyari declared that despite the volume of petrol being expected from these facilities, the cost of the commodity would not reduce, regardless of the fact that the product was produced locally.
“There is a notion that if the product is processed locally, prices will reduce. Let me make it clear that it is not going to change anything. If you produce locally, the refineries will also input the cost of production and other things and it will be sold at the current price.
“There will also be no subsidy when local production starts because there is no cash-to-back subsidy, this country no longer has the resources to continue with subsidy,” Kyari stated.
Speaking on when the fuel queues being witnessed across the country would clear, during another interview on Channels TV, the NNPCL boss said the queues would not exceed Saturday.
“I don’t see it staying beyond another day or two, maximum. It can actually be on Saturday. We have supplies. The key trouble with the PMS system is supply, but I have supplies.
“There are over 810 million litres of PMS in depots, tanks and fuel stations across the country, so you don’t have the problem of transferring those from marine to land, you already have them on the ground,” he stated.
He validated the PMS pricing document for various states that trended on Wednesday on the internet, stating that the document was from the NNPCL.
“You have seen a document in the space out there. Every company does this. It is a marketing document. It was not a price announcing document, every company keeps this record and adjusts it appropriately on the basis of changing conditions in the market.
“So what you saw was just an internal company document that found its way into the internet. It is an NNPC document but it was not intended to be an announcement and is not an announcement, because it can change the next day,” Kyari stated.
On whether there was enough product in-country, he said, “Today I have 1.8 billion litres of PMS and that means that if we don’t do anything, I’ll have sufficient fuel for the next 30 days in my hands.
Kyari explained that the company had over 800 million litres of petrol on land, stored in filling stations, tank farms and depots, while its total stock for both marine and land stood at about 1.8 billion litres.
“But, of course, the way we supply is not this way, so we maintain this level of supply consistently. That means you will see the arrival of products every day so that you continue to maintain that level of safety.”
‘Subsidy not realistic’
Speaking to journalists after a meeting with the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, at the party secretariat in Abuja on Thursday, Kyari revealed that the administration of President Bola Tinubu had concluded arrangements to have one of the four refineries repaired and operating at an optimal level before the end of the year.
The NNPCL boss argued that it was no longer justifiable to continue subsidising the commodity given the high opportunity cost the Federal Government was suffering from funding it.
Kyari, who was received by the APC chairman and members of the National Working Committee at about 12.30 pm, confessed that the country could no longer sustain the expensive subsidy regime.
According to him, over 38 per cent of the total fuel distributed in the country was consumed by Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Rivers.
Kyari explained that following the hike in pump price and the resultant effect on commercial fare, the president was working out some palliative measures to ease the pains of Nigerians.
He also added that there was an ongoing process of rehabilitation to ensure one of the refineries was ready this year.
Kyari lamented that despite its N2.8tn indebtedness to the NNPCL, the Federal Government had yet to release funds for 2022 and 2023 subsidies.
He said, “There was a subsidy in 2022 but in 2023, not a single naira was provided for the purpose. And ultimately while we held back our fiscal obligations, we still have a net balance of over N2.8tn that the federation should have given back to the NNPC.
‘’For any company, when you have negative N2.8tn, there is no company in the whole of Africa that will lend to you. You cannot have receivables. The provision of subsidy is there but absolutely there is no funding for it. It means it is only on paper. It doesn’t exist.
“We can no longer bear it. If we continue, we will run into defaults and the default of NNPC is the default of Nigeria. Once NNPC goes into default and liquidity, it affects every borrowing done by the country, even the sub-nationals. Your lenders will come back to you and say your country can no longer pay.
‘’The only way you can stop this is to stop this conversation around subsidy. It is why Mr President announced that the subsidy is gone. In 24 hours, the bond market appreciated. It is nothing else other than the statement around subsidy and balancing of the apex market. These two elements are a major concern for every investor all over the world. Every partner that we have is worried about.’’
Kyari acknowledged that the price increase would trigger inflation, noting that the market forces would determine what happens subsequently.
He noted, “Before today, the average subsidy level was N400bn every month. There is nothing anybody can do about it. There is this common argument that the masses will suffer. I agree that once you increase prices of this proportion, as it has happened, it will have an impact on inflation. There is no doubt about it. The market determines what happens next. Even inflation in many countries goes up when you have economic indices become difficult.
“Mr President’s target is to have seven per cent growth of GDP. You cannot have it if you have this disruption in your demands and consumption pattern. Very many of us here have at least two cars in our houses including myself. When you buy fuel of 100 litres in an SUV, you are literally subsidising three litres with N100 for all of us.
‘’Even the consumption itself is clearly skewed in locations and states where the level of economic activities are higher than the others. It is very understandable and that is why people can afford it in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Kano. So over 38 per cent of the total fuel distributed in this country ends up in these places. All the other parts of the country suffer for it and you can see the relativity.’’
Kyari submitted that the price at which petrol was being sold now is the current market price of the commodity.
‘’The price you are seeing today at our stations is the current market price of the commodity and what this means is that prices in the market can go down at any time and the market will adjust itself. The beauty of this is that there will be a new entrance because oil marketing companies now will want to invest, they have been reluctant to come in because of the subsidy,’’ he stated.
With the latest development, the NNPCL chief said the market would regulate itself, adding that oil marketing companies could now import products or buy locally-produced ones and take them into the market and sell at commercial prices.
He added, ‘’You would see competition even with NNPCL, and by law, the company can’t do more than 30 per cent of the market going forward. So competition will surely come in and definitely, the market will regulate the price itself. It is an instantaneous price and in two weeks, you will see the adjustment that is happening in many jurisdictions.
‘’But ultimately, you would see changes in price downwards and that is very likely. Efficiency will come in and every lacuna in the sector will be taken out because of the new situation.
‘’The current price is not fixed and will surely change and we did it to announce various prices depending on our cost by location and by the realities around us knowing full well that the NNPCL is the single supplier of the market today and we are seeing that exit coming very quickly. There will be no monopoly and we will not continue to be the only supplier.’’
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has called on the Federal Government to end subsidies on not just petrol but all petroleum products.
The House, however, urged the government to roll out palliatives and other measures to cushion the effects of the removal of the PMS subsidy on Nigerians.
These were part of the recommendations by the House Ad Hoc Committee on the Need to Investigate the Petroleum Products Subsidy Regime in Nigeria, which the lawmakers considered as a Committee of the Whole and adopted in plenary on Thursday.
Chairman of the committee, Ibrahim Aliyu, had laid the report, 11 months after the task was assigned to the panel.
The committee recommended that “the Federal Government should remove subsidies on all petroleum products.”
It also recommended that “the Federal Government should immediately design measures and palliatives to cushion the effects of the subsidy removal for Nigerians, effective from this year 2023, through the provision and procurement of Compressed Natural Gas buses as an alternative transport system with cheaper fuel consumption.”
The panel also said the government should introduce intermodal, regional and national transport systems to ease the mass movement of people across the country.
In addition, the committee recommended that the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission should issue stricter and most appropriate regulations as provided in the Petroleum Industry Act to ensure that Nigerians were not short-changed through profiteering.
The lawmakers equally said the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation Committee should lead a reconciliation meeting between the NNPCL, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Joint Venture Contracts and the NMDPRC on the utilisation of their crude entitlements.
The report partly read, “With the total deregulation of the sector, all the agencies involved in crude lifting/security should have a representative with the Nigeria Navy as a lead agency to physically assess and document daily crude production and lifting;
“The committee also recommends that the Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, liaise with the National Assembly to fashion out critical areas of economic development, in which the additional revenue from the proposed subsidy removal will be appropriately utilised.
“A further investigation, through a forensic audit by the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation, be made to ascertain whether the N413bn borrowed from the Central Bank of Nigeria for subsidy payments was refunded after the passage and assent of the 2015 budget as earlier approved by the President and the report of the Auditor General to be submitted to the House for further legislative action.
“With the subsidy removal, the Federal Government should forthwith suspend all Direct Sales Direct Purchase (oil swap) contracts. NNPCL should act by the provision of the PIA to ensure that the country is not sub-changed in both production, lifting and sales of crude.
The committee further recommended that the Nigeria Customs Service and the Weight and Measures Department of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment be equipped to ascertain the actual daily crude oil lifting from the country for proper checks and balances.
Another recommendation was that the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Act, 2007, be amended by the National Assembly to be in tune with global best practices.
The panel further recommended that the National Assembly, especially the House standing or ad hoc committees in the 10th Assembly be saddled with such responsibility to conduct “a full-scale investigation on the defaulting oil companies and MDAs that have not met the expectations of the committee to ascertain their level of involvement or otherwise and further protect the commonwealth of the country.”
The House on June 29, 2022, resolved to investigate payments for subsidy on petroleum products, especially petrol, under the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, had set up the panel whose probe covered 2017 to 2021, with the mandate to report back to the House within eight weeks for further legislative action.
The probe was based on a motion titled, ‘Need to Investigate the Petroleum Products Subsidy Regime in Nigeria from 2017 to 2021,’ which was unanimously adopted after it was moved at plenary by a member of the House, Sergius Ogun.
In a related development, the Nigeria Labour Congress has dismissed reports that it would embark on a nationwide protest against the increase in the pump price of petrol.
In a statement on Thursday, signed by its head of information, Benson Upiah, the congress noted that it would keep the public abreast of its moves.
The union had demanded the reversal of the fuel pump price while a meeting between the labour leaders and the FG deadlocked on Wednesday.
But clarifying its position following speculations about its next move, the congress said, “In as much as we are outraged by this mindless price increase which is intended to bring untold hardship to ordinary Nigerians, we have no plan to start any action tomorrow (today).
“What we do have for now are organ meetings slated for tomorrow, Friday, June 2nd, 2023 to deliberate on the price issue. We promise to keep Nigerians informed on our next line of action after our meetings.’’
In reaction to the fuel price hike, the Edo Civil Society Organisations on Thursday blocked a section of the Benin/Lagos highway in protest against the subsidy removal.
The protest, which was held at different locations in the state, obstructed vehicular movements forcing commuters to trek long distances.
Naira exchanges at N464.67 to dollar
Naira remained unchanged on Thursday, exchanging at N464.67 to the dollar at the Investors and Exporters window.
The local currency did not change from its value on Wednesday, while the open indicative rate closed at N464.64 to the dollar on Thursday.
An exchange rate of N467 to the dollar was the highest rate recorded within the day’s trading before it settled at N464.67.
The naira sold for as low as 460 to the dollar within the day’s trading.
A total of $250.98 million was traded at Thursday’s official Investors and Exporters window.
CBN increases interest rate to 18.50%
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has again increased the monetary policy rate (MPR) by 0.50 per cent to 18.50 per cent.
The Governor of the CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, announced this interest rate hike on Wednesday while addressing newsmen in Abuja.
He said members of the team agreed to raise the benchmark interest rate to curb inflation.
The CBN governor said the committee considered a perennial scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit known as petrol, the 2023 general elections, continuous rise in energy prices, exchange rate pressure as well as continuous rise in insecurity.
He said committee members noted that the naira redesign has huge moderating factors to price development on cash.
Announcing the committee’s decision, Emefiele said, “MPC was of the view that although the inflation rate moderated marginally in December, the economy remained confronted with the risk of high inflation with adverse consequences on the general standards of living.
“Committee, therefore, decided to sustain the current stance of policy at this point in time to further rein in inflation aggressively.
“MPC voted to raise the MPR to 17.5%, retain the asymmetric at +100/-700 basis points around the corridor.”
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