Buhari blocks petrol price hike

President Muhammadu Buhari has said an emphatic no, to any further increase in the price of petrol, now fixed at N145.

Reuters news agency quoting presidency sources reported that President Muhammadu Buhari conveyed his position to Dr Ibe Kachikwu, the minister of state for petroleum and Group managing director of the NNPC, Dr. Makanti Baru at a meeting in Abuja.

Reuters did not give a specific date of the meeting, but said it took place last week.

The meeting came on the heels of an advisory by former bosses of the NNPC, who said the present price regime needed a review, in view of the devaluation of the Naira, which has increased the cost of importation.

Militant attacks on oil installations and pipelines in the Niger Delta have made Nigeria solely reliant on importation to fulfil the fuel needs of its 170 million people.

The attacks have also reduced oil output by at least a third, from the high of 2.2 million barrels a day to 1.7million barrels.

“Gasoline is the top priority” for NNPC, one oil industry source told Reuters.

The NNPC and government, the source said, “will do whatever they can” to stop shortages and keep prices stable.

In a statement last week, NNPC’s Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, which oversees downstream regulations, said there was “no basis” for price increase fears, and assured the nation of “uninterrupted supply and distribution.”

Nigeria has four oil refineries, but none of them has been able to run consistently enough to meet domestic demand for petrol and diesel.

The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, which represents small and medium fuel sellers, is, however, calling for higher prices.

It argues that the current state cap of 145 naira per litre is far too low, given the devaluation.

The Naira fell to 420 per dollar on the parallel market last month, compared with the rate of 285 that the government was using when it set the cap.

The NNPC has been providing some 90 percent of imported petrol in recent months.

NNPC, beset by dollar and oil shortages, is running a tender to buy gasoline over the next six months, as sources say it is concerned the current system of swapping crude and relying on other importers might not provide enough.

In its tender, NNPC asked for 90 days to repay in either cash or crude, which is as much as three times longer than the standard repayment.

NNPC made sure gasoline importers were able to access dollars. Oil majors including Chevron, Exxon and Shell have to buy naira for local operations, a key channel through which dollars arrive. NNPC has funnelled around $500 million of this to gasoline importers over the past several months, sources said.

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