Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on Friday, May 13, 2016, said the fuel price increase by the federal government will have worse effects on the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged Nigerians.
Osinbajo, however, noted that the federal government carried out the increment as the last option to liberalize the sale of the premium motor spirit.
He said though the increase will have worse effect on Nigerians, the government will put modalities in place to cushion the effect of the increase on the poor and vulnerable Nigerians.
He spoke in reaction to wide criticism trailing the removal of the fuel subsidy and the consequent increase of the petrol pump price to N145 per litre.
Osinbajo said he had read various observations criticizing the new fuel price, noting that “all, certainly have strong points, but the most important issue of course is how to shield the poor from the worst effects of the policy. I will hopefully address that in another note.
“Permit me an explanation of the policy. First, the real issue is not a removal of subsidy. At $40 a barrel there isn’t much of a subsidy to remove. In any event, the president is probably one of the most convinced pro-subsidy advocates”.
“What happened is that our local consumption of fuel is almost entirely imported. The NNPC exchanges crude from its joint venture share to provide about 50% of local fuel consumption. The remaining 50% is imported by major and independent marketers.
“These marketers up until three months ago sourced their foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria at the official rate. However, since late last year, independent marketers have brought in little or no fuel because they have been unable to get foreign exchange from the CBN. The CBN simply did not have enough. (In April, oil earnings dipped to $550 million. The amount required for fuel importation alone is about $225million!) .
Meanwhile, NNPC tried to cover the 50% shortfall by dedicating more export crude for domestic consumption. Besides the short term depletion of the Federation Account, which is where the FG and States are paid from, and further cash-call debts pilling up, NNPC also lacked the capacity to distribute 100% of local consumption around the country. Previously, they were responsible for only about 50%.
We realized that we were left with only one option. This was to allow independent marketers and any Nigerian entity to source their own foreign exchange and import fuel. We expect that foreign exchange will be sourced at an average of about N285 to the dollar, (current interbank rate). They would then be restricted to selling at a price between N135 and N145 per litre.
“We expect that with competition, more private refineries, and NNPC refineries working at full capacity, prices will drop considerably. Our target is that by Q4 2018 we should be producing 70% of our fuel needs locally. At the moment even if all the refineries are working optimally they will produce just about 40% of our domestic fuel needs.
“You will notice that I have not mentioned other details of the PPRA cost template. I wanted to focus on the cost component largely responsible for the substantial rise, namely foreign exchange. This is therefore not a subsidy removal issue but a foreign exchange problem, in the face of dwindling earnings,” he said.