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FG, DOMESTIC AIRLINES LEGAL BATTLE KICKS OFF THURSDAY

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Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika

The Federal Government has assembled a legal team to challenge the suit filed by domestic airlines seeking to stop the establishment of a proposed national carrier-Nigeria Air.

It was learnt on Monday that the legal team of the government and a 10-man group representing the domestic airlines, would meet in court on Thursday in Lagos over issues pertaining to the proposed national airline.

The PUNCH had exclusively reported on November 14, 2022, that the national carrier project might be stopped by the court as domestic airlines had taken the Federal Government and Ethiopian Airlines-its foreign technical partner and majority shareholder-to court.

The 10-man legal team representing the domestic airlines include Nureini Jimoh, SAN; Prof. A.B. Ahmad; Prof. Y.B Hassan; Emmanuel Dike; Habiba Nuhu; Ashraf Yusuf; Abubakar Nuhu; Zainab Maiyaki; Opeyemi Ajekigbe; and U.F Abdullateef.

The hearing for the suit between the Federal Government and domestic airlines is due to be heard on Thursday, November 24, 2022, findings by The PUNCH have shown.

Officials of domestic airlines close to the suit confirmed the suit is slated for a hearing on Thursday.

“The battle begins on Thursday. Our lawyer has confirmed to us the suit will be heard on Thursday, November 24, 2022. The Federal Government lawyers will also be coming to represent the government. Our team of lawyers will be present,” a top official of a local carrier who chose to speak on condition of anonymity told The PUNCH on Monday.

“After the court hearing on Thursday, the Federal Government will be expected to file its comprehensive defence within one month. Failure to do that means it won’t have the opportunity again,

Meanwhile, the Managing Director, Top Brazz Aviation, one of the local carriers listed on the court paper, Mr Roland Iyayi, said he believes the domestic carriers have a strong case the court will decide upon.

He said, “We are absolutely prepared to pursue this. Based on what we presented to the court, we believe we have a very strong case. On the basis of the documents that we have presented, we believe we have a very strong case.”

Iyayi further explained, “Domestic airlines are not averse to having a national carrier. What we are saying is that the structure and the design that is being put together by the Honourable Minister of Aviation is a bit of an issue which we believe is not going to help the Nigerian state in a long term.

“We have also come to find out that there are undue privileges that are going to be given to this new carrier which domestic airlines are not enjoying. For instance, the government is proposing a 15-year tax moratorium. This is not a national carrier that is being presented, this is simply a flag carrier. We believe that ultimately, the Nigerian public will not benefit. There will be unfair competition.

“These are the issues we took to court, asking the court to determine whether or not we have a case. Already, ET has listed Nigeria Air as its subsidiary on its website. We are talking about unfair competition, contrived outcomes, lack of transparency and undue privileges that will ultimately result in a distorted market.  At the end of the day, we will decimate the domestic market to the detriment of the consumers.  In the absence of being unable to sit around a table to negotiate, we are left with no other choice but to go to court before it becomes too late.”

FG legal team

It was also gathered that the Federal Government had assembled a team of lawyers from the Federal Ministry of Justice, with some of them serving in the legal department of the Federal Ministry of Aviation, to challenge the suit by the domestic airlines.

Sources at the justice and aviation ministries confirmed that the Director of Legal Services at the FMA, Liman S.S., would lead the team on Thursday.

“They have many lawyers at the Federal Ministry of Justice and you know they work in a team,” a source at the aviation ministry, who requested not to be named, as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, stated.

Asked whether the ministry would engage the services of a private law firm, the source replied, “I can’t confirm that but I don’t think that will happen. This is because most times, for such issues, they don’t just engage external lawyers to do it.

“Rather they do it by themselves, don’t forget that the Attorney-General was named as a defendant in the suit. So I doubt if they will take it to a private firm. This is not the kind of issue that they will take to a private law firm.”

Also speaking on the issue, the official at the Federal Ministry of Justice stated that the head of legal services at the aviation ministry would lead the team.

“The head of the legal team at the Ministry of Aviation, who is from Zaria, Mr. Liman S. S., is the one leading the team of lawyers to challenge the suit.

“They have many lawyers in the legal department and these lawyers are to handle the case, except when there is the need for additional hands.”

But in a text message official response to our correspondent, the spokesperson of the Federal Ministry of Aviation, Eunice Akro, described the suit by the Airline Operators of Nigeria as uncertain.

Aviation ministry reacts

She pointed out that the FMA had yet to be served with the court processes of the suit.

 Akro said, “The AON suit against the establishment of a national carrier is uncertain. We are aware of the rule that prevents discussion on matters that are already before a court of law.

“The Federal Ministry of Aviation and perhaps the other defendants in the suit are yet to be served with the court processes of the suit and the court order for the ex parte application.”

The PUNCH also reported last week that Federal High Court, Lagos Judicial Division, on November 15, 2022, issued an order of interim injunction restraining the Federal Government from executing the proposed establishment of the national carrier – Nigeria Air.

But the Federal Government, through its Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, declared on the same day that no law in Nigeria could stop the national carrier project.

On their part, domestic airlines alleged that the sale of shares of the proposed airline violated the Companies and Allied Matters Act, as well as that of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The document containing the Federal High Court’s order of interim injunction, with reference: FHC/L/CS/219/2022, indicated that the registered trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria were the plaintiff in the suit.

It named the four defendants to include Nigeria Air Limited – first defendant, Ethiopian Airlines – second defendant, Senator Hadi Sirika (aviation minister) – third defendant, and the Attorney-General of the Federation (Abubakar Malami) – fourth defendant.

This followed The PUNCH’s earlier exclusive report on November 14, 2022, that the national carrier project might be stopped by the court due to the suit by the domestic airlines.

The report stated that about eight local airlines and their association took the government to court on Friday, listing Nigerian Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, as defendants.

Among other prayers, the indigenous airlines want the court to stop the national carrier deal and withdraw the Air Transport Licence already issued to Nigeria Air by the Federal Government/Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

They also claimed that the firm which served as Transaction Adviser for the transaction was incorporated in March last year and alleged that the company was linked to the aviation minister.

The local airlines further alleged that ATL issued to Nigeria Air did not pass through the normal security clearance.

Responding to the prayers of the plaintiff in the documents sighted on November 15, 2022, the court ordered that “an order of interim injunction is granted restraining the defendants either by themselves, agents, privies, principals or any other persons whosoever from executing the proposed or draft ‘national carrier establishment and agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria (represented by the 3rd and 4th defendants) and the strategic equity partner (the 2nd defendant) or giving effect to and or suspending the sale and transfer of the shares and operations of the 1st defendant by the 2nd defendant pending the determination of the motion on notice.

“That an order of maintenance of status quo by all parties in this suit from taking any further step(s) in relation to the subject matter of this suit pending the determination of the motion on notice is granted.

“That an order of accelerated hearing of this suit is granted.”

Aviation minister’s position

But the aviation minister stated on same day that no law in the country would stop the Federal Government from setting up an airline for Nigeria.

Sirika, who was in Lagos to commend the successful completion of the 18/L runway of the Lagos airport, also stated that he had yet to receive the court papers as regards the suit instituted against the proposed national carrier.

He had said, “I am not aware that anyone is in court. I don’t have any court papers; otherwise, I am not interested. I cannot see any rational court that will say that I am stopping somebody from establishing a company, because Nigeria Air is a limited liability company known to the Nigerian laws in the Corporate Affairs Commission.

“If anybody wants to come and invest in that company, there is no law in Nigeria that stops him from doing so. If there are foreigners coming to invest, nobody stops them from investing. You can own a company 100 per cent. What would you say to Shell, Unilever, and Julius Berger?

“There are companies in Nigeria registered by Nigerian law and people are coming to invest. This is what we want. We want Foreign Direct Investment. If people or Nigerians are investing in the airline with over $200m in Nigeria and so what? We want more of them”.

Sirika wondered why domestic airline operators would claim that they were not carried along in the setting up of the proposed Nigeria Air.

“I heard that the airline owners said that they were not carried along. If you were there at the National Assembly, I told them where I met them like the Max Air, Azman, Air Peace, Ibom Air, everybody where I met them and told them to please come and partner in this airline and own it,” he said.

Sirika added, “I told them that it is meant for the private sector. I told Air Peace to come and invest in this one and one of them said to me that I should make it formal. I said to him that I met you in your own place, met with you and invited you and told him that I have put it in all places as adverts.

“I also put it in The Economist, on television, and also put it on the website. How formal can that be? I always beg them and said all stakeholders are invited to be owners of the airline as private sector people. Nobody will say he was not invited.”

The minister insisted that the national carrier project was in order, stressing that the Federal Government would forge ahead with the establishment of the proposed airline.

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OIL-PRODUCING STATES BORROW N1.3TN AMID N6.4TN WINDFALL

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Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed

•PANDEF, others ask N’Delta governors to showcase development projects

•Oil-producing states received N1.9tn as derivation fund under Buhari – Minister

•13% derivation includes DESPADEC funds, money judiciously spent, says Delta

The total debts of 10 oil-producing states rose from N2.04tn in December 2015 to N3.35tn as of June 2022, according to sub-national debt reports of the Debt Management Office.

This means that a total of N1.31tn was borrowed within a period of about seven years by the states.

The 10 states are: Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, Abia, Ondo, Imo, Cross River, Bayelsa and Lagos.

This came as findings by The PUNCH show that the oil-producing states received the sum of N6.4tn in federal allocation and 13 per cent derivation fund.

The Federal Government disbursed a total of N1.98tn as a share of the 13 per cent derivation fund to oil-producing states, the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National budget, Zainab Ahmed, disclosed on Thursday, at the sixth edition of the PMB Administration Scorecard.

She stated that the amount was paid in seven years despite some of the funds preceding the current administration.

She said, “One of the key functions of the Ministry of Finance Budget and National Planning is in support of states. The President understands very clearly that this economy wouldn’t have been growing consecutively or wouldn’t have been able to pull ourselves out of recession twice.

“We wouldn’t have been able to grow consistently without enabling the states to grow because it is a federation.

“Mr. President has been very uniquely generous in his support to states. I can say no president has provided the level of support provided to the states of the Federation.

“He understands that the federating units need to work together as one to achieve the targets that he has set for the country. So, everybody goes to support sub-national governments.

“In seven years, we have disbursed N1.98 trillion in funds to oil-producing states.”

The PUNCH recalls that the 13 per cent derivation fund has been a controversial issue after comments by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, alleging that the oil-producing states had refused to disclose their own shares paid by the Federal Government from 1999 to all the Niger Delta States.

Ahmed further said that the government had supported states of the federation N5.03tn and an additional $3.4bn since 2015.

She said, “With respect to sub-national governments, the ministry goes over and above its statutory role to provide financial support to States:

“A total of N5.03tn plus an additional $3.4bn has been released to states by the Federal Government over the life of this administration.

“Each of these payments has distinct repayment terms with some given as grants and others as loans with favourable repayment terms, including a long amortisation period.

“The support covers the 13 per cent Derivation refund to oil-producing states, refunds for construction of federal roads, ecological support, support from the Development of Natural Resources Fund, Paris Club refunds, support from the Stabilisation Fund, COVID intervention amongst others.”

Reeling out the details, Ahmed said N445bn was given as salary bailout to states except Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Jigawa, Lagos and Yobe in September 2015, while N340bn was disbursed to states except Lagos and Osun as excess crude loan. Also, N610bn was allocated to all states, except Lagos, as a budget support facility.

Other support included: $2.67tn as an outright Paris Club refund; N750m disbursed in 2021 as an SFTAS reward; and N600bn paid as withdrawal from payment of subsidy in April 2022.

Speaking further, the minister revealed that the non-oil sector had continued to maintain high-level performance in terms of revenue generated, adding that it was currently the mainstay of the nation’s economy.

She said that the sector contributed N1.71trn out of the total revenue of N4.19trn, an outturn of 100.7 per cent compared to the budget projection.

“Today, I call your attention to the very high performance of the non-oil sector of our economy. As of September 2022, the Federal Government’s share of oil revenues to fund the budget was N535.5bn representing 32.6 per cent performance), while non-oil tax revenues totalled N1.71tn an outturn of 100.7 per cent compared to the budget projection.

“The non-oil revenue share of funding the Federal Government has improved. We have been able to move from contributing 35 per cent to the federal budget to contributing 73 per cent to the financing of the federal budget.”

N6.4tn windfall

Oil-producing states got N4.46tn from Federation Account Allocation Committee between 2016 and 2020, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics collated by The PUNCH. When combined with the N1.98tn allocated to oil-producing states as a share of the 13 per cent derivation, the amount moves to N6.4tn.

Within the period under review, Delta got the highest allocation of N804.27bn while Cross River got the least, N147.86bn.

The allocation of other states were as follows: Akwa Ibom, N769.19bn; Lagos, N523.63bn; Rivers, N675.54bn; Edo, N255.32bn; Abia, N225.47bn; Ondo, N250.86bn; Imo, N234.37bn; and Bayelsa, N575.39bn.

According to the NBS, FAAC gets oil revenues and related taxes, revenues from the Nigerian Customs Service, company income tax, any sale of national assets as well as surplus and dividends from state-owned enterprises.

Kogi oil-producing status: Enugu’s exclusion from 13% derivation injustice, say Ohanaeze, state

N1.3tn debt

Meanwhile, the total debts of 10 oil-producing states rose from N2.04tn in December 2015 to N3.35tn as of June 2022, according to sub-national debt reports of the Debt Management Office.

A further breakdown showed that in 2015, a total of N1.22tn was from domestic creditors while $1.84bn (or N817.27bn at the Central Bank of Nigeria’s exchange rate of N444.17 per dollar as of November 1, 2022) was from external sources.

By June 2022, N2.42tn was borrowed from domestic sources while $2.31bn was from foreign sources such as the World Bank and African Development Bank.

For sub-national domestic debts, Lagos leads with the most debt, from N218.54bn domestic debt in 2015 to N797.31bn by June 2022.

It is followed by Delta, whose debt rose from N320.61bn domestic debt in 2015 to N378.88bn by June 2022.

Third on the list is Rivers, from N134.97bn domestic debt in 2015 to N225.51bn by June 2022.

For foreign debt, Lagos leads with the most debt, from $1.21bn in 2015 to $1.27bn by June 2022.

It is followed by Edo, whose external debt increased from $168.19m to $268.31m.  Cross River is next, from $136.4m to $215.74m within the period under review.

PANDEF, Kio-Briggs kick

The Pan Niger Delta Forum and popular rights activist, Ann Kio-Briggs, have taken a swipe at the Federal Government over claims that the N1.98tn it disbursed to the Niger Delta region was not commensurate with the level of development in the region.

The National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, said, “As you know, the fact of the matter is that it is the resources of the Niger Delta people that the Federal Government of Nigeria is plundering, wasting over the years. To say that they have given the Niger Delta N1.98tn as reported and all that is unnecessary. What is N1.98tn?

“How much has been taken away from the Niger Delta compared to the devastation that has been done to the Niger Delta environment and the livelihoods of the people that have been decimated?

“And all these complicate or increase the social and economic challenges of the area. There are more people who ordinarily would have been involved in farming or fishing who are now looking for jobs.”

The PANDEF spokesman explained that no amount of funds allotted to the crude oil and gas-rich region was too much, being the goose laying the golden egg.

He, however, said it was not an excuse for the poor governance in the country, which he said was not peculiar to the Niger Delta alone.

 “And I think that some of these governors in the Niger Delta should also do more in terms of showcasing what they are doing with the resources that they got. And that we will say that whether the level of development is commensurate to the amount of money received is relative because of the difficult terrain the Niger Delta is faced with in terms of developmental challenges.”

On her part, Kio-Briggs said the Federal Government must be specific and come up with facts as to which agency or governors the amounts they claimed to have disbursed was given for purposes of accountability.

She said, “First of all, I don’t like it when the government says that they have disbursed so much money.

“When you want to give information, you have to give credible, verifiable, truthful information to people, so that people can make up their minds. You can’t make up their minds for them.

“Why do I say this? You can’t just say you have disbursed so much to Niger Delta, no. Say I have disbursed N2.3trillion hypothetically to the Niger Delta Development Commission; I have disbursed N5. 2tn to the Ministry of Niger Delta.”

Continuing, Kio-Briggs stated that the people of the region were not fools to believe hook, line and sinker anything the Federal Government says.

Delta debunks claim

Meanwhile, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has said the state is the most solvent in the country, with enough credit to liquidate all outstanding fiscal obligations.

Okowa spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Olise Ifeajika, while speaking to The PUNCH on Thursday in Asaba.

He said, “This 13 per cent accrued to the oil-producing area for the past seven years included what NDDC and DESPADEC gave. But the one the state commissioner for finance stated earlier was about the discounting N240bn Nyesom Wike raised.

“Okowa could have taken the option to discount the entire N240bon expected from the 13 per cent derivation refunds as was done by other states but decided to take only N100 billion to complete some legacy projects.

“Governor Okowa, being a prudent and considerate leader, chose to keep the balance of the funds for the in-coming administration.”

The State Commissioner for Finance, Mr Fidelis Tilije, had recalled that Okowa administration faced serious financial challenges at inception in 2015, a situation that necessitated some borrowings at that time. You will recall that when the administration of Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa came on board, the economy of this state and that of Nigeria was clearly in dire straits.

“Therefore, a lot of rejiging had to be done for us to be able to survive and pay salaries. The salary bailouts was not for Delta state alone.”

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FUEL SCARCITY: NO PLANNED PRICE HIKE, SAYS FG, QUEUES SPREAD

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Mele Kolo Kyari OFR. Group Chief executive officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum company limited (NNPC)

•There will not be fuel price hike during Yuletide period, says govt

•NMDPRA assures motorists current stock can last for 34 days

•Govt can’t continue subsidy amid diversion – NNPC source

For the first time in weeks since the scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, began, the Federal Government opened up and declared on Wednesday that there was no plan to increase the pump price of petrol, at least during the Yuletide season.

However, the government’s comments came amid a worsening and persistent fuel scarcity, which spread further on Wednesday across the country. Also, the cost of the commodity rose to as high as N285/litre in some filling stations in Abuja.

Oil marketers stated that the black market cost of petrol in Lagos had risen to about N450/litre, while it sold for more than that price in some other states.

But the government disclosed on Wednesday that there was fuel supply stock that could last the country for 34 days.

This came as a senior official of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited confided in The PUNCH that subsidy on the PMS was becoming unbearable for the oil firm, amid product diversion.

As concerns around fuel price and supply heightened, the government declared that it had no plan to increase the price of petrol, describing comments on PMS price and its availability as speculations.

However, the government, through its Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority, did not state any approved pump price for petrol, neither did it condemn the hike in PMS price by marketers nationwide.

The PUNCH had exclusively reported on Wednesday that the pump price of petrol could hit N400/litre at most filling stations before the end of this year, going by the continued scarcity of the product, according to oil marketers.

This will represent over 100 per cent increase in the pump price over the period.

The National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, had told our correspondent that most IPMAN members, who owned bulk of the filling stations across the country, were now subjected to purchasing PMS at about N220/litre, which was why many outlets currently dispensed at about N250/litre and above.

He said the cost of the commodity had been rising due its unavailability and other concerns in the sector, stressing that consumers should be ready to pay between N350/litre to N400/litre before the end of this year.

Reacting to the concerns around PMS price and its availability, in an advisory issued in Abuja on Wednesday, the NMDPRA said, “This advisory addresses speculations on the price and availability of Premium Motor Spirit.

“The authority wishes to inform the general public that the Federal Government has no intention of increasing the price of PMS during this period. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited has imported PMS with current stock levels sufficient for 34 days.

“Consequently, marketers and the general public are advised to avoid panic buying, diversion of products, and hoarding. In keeping with the authority’s responsibilities as outlined in the Petroleum Industry Act, the authority assures the public that it would continue to monitor the supply and distribution of all petroleum products nationwide especially during this holiday season.”

Meanwhile, some senior officials at the NNPC had earlier confirmed to our correspondent that subsidy was becoming too burdensome on the national oil company, as this was another reason for the scarcity of PMS.

NNPC is the sole importer of petrol into Nigeria. It has been shouldering this task for several years now, after other marketers of the commodity stopped importing the product due to their inability to access foreign exchange as required.

“Your report on Monday fully captured what is happening in the downstream oil sector, with respect to the supply and availability of PMS,” a senior official at the company, who pleaded not to be named due to lack of authorisation, stated.

The source added, “How can we continue to import 60 million litres of petrol daily and keep subsidising it, while millions of litres are either diverted or cannot be accounted for? The burden is too much, as you rightly captured in that story.”

On Monday, The PUNCH exclusively reported that the lowest price the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited could sell petrol to marketers, assuming there was no subsidy, was N400/litre.

Oil marketers, who made the disclosure, also gave other reasons for the continued scarcity of petrol, which had led to the lingering queues at filling stations nationwide.

They said PMS imports charges were becoming unbearable for the sole importer of the commodity – NNPC, disclosing that the oil firm had been subtly pushing these charges to depot owners.

It was learnt that depot owners, on their part, were also passing the charges to filling stations, which in turn push it to final consumers of the product, a development that has led to the increase in the pump price of the commodity.

It was also gathered that the Federal Government had quietly allowed depot owners to raise the ex-depot price of petrol to about N185/litre, whereas the approved rate used to be N147/litre.

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NNPC PETROL PRICE WITHOUT SUBSIDY IS N400/LITRE – MARKETERS

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The lowest price the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited can sell Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, to marketers, assuming there is no subsidy, is N400/litre, it has been learnt.

Oil marketers, who made the disclosure on Sunday, also gave other reasons for the continued scarcity of petrol, which had led to the lingering queues at filling stations nationwide.

They said PMS imports charges were becoming unbearable for the sole importer of the commodity – the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, disclosing that the NNPC had been subtly pushing these charges to depot owners.

It was learnt that depot owners, on their part, were also passing the charges to filling stations, which in turn push it to final consumers of the product, a development that has led to the increase in the pump price of the commodity.

It was also gathered that the Federal Government had quietly allowed depot owners to raise the ex-depot price of petrol to about N185/litre, whereas the approved rate used to be N147/litre.

This came as the scarcity for petrol continued on Sunday. Many retail stations in Abuja were shut due to lack of products to sell. Residents had to resort to black marketers, who sold their products in jerry-cans.

The same scenario played out in parts of Nasarawa and Niger states, as oil marketers explained that the rise in the dollar was also contributory to the PMS scarcity witnessed in Nigeria.

“The dollar is affecting PMS purchase, something you were buying for about $15/tonne when the dollar was about N440 to N450, but currently the dollar is about N750 to N800. Definitely the price of the product will increase,” a major marketer, who pleaded not to be named due to lack of authorisation, stated.

The official added, “You can buy a product, say $10/tonne from maybe Russia, it will get to Nigerian waters at that rate, but most of those mother vessels, as soon as they discharge into your own vessel, whatever rate you now pay will be international rates in dollar.

“The mother vessel has its limit, it has to be stationed at Atlas Cove. But the daughter vessel you are going to charge, which brings in the product, will be charged in dollars. They don’t take naira. So all these charges come in dollars.”

The source stated that these charges were currently hitting hard on the NNPC, as the oil company was finding it tough to bear the increased fuel imports’ rates.

“All vessels operate on international rates and it must be in forex. So as it is now, the rates are getting so high for NNPC to bear alone. Some of these charges have to be pushed to depots that are taking the products and they have to pass it on to consumers,” the oil marketer stated.

The source added, “The subsidised ex-depot rate for petrol from NNPC is about N147/litre, but tell me, which depot is selling at that rate today? I know somebody who said he bought from a depot at N182/litre. And he got it at this rate because he did bulk purchase, he bought about 20 trucks.

“And he bought it from one of the major marketing companies. So when you make a bulk purchase at N182/litre, then you can imagine what those who are buying one or two trucks will have to pay for the product.

“This means that there is hardly any depot you can go to now that you can get products for less than N185/litre. And by the time you buy at N185/litre at the depots, why won’t they sell at N200/litre and above?”

This development was confirmed by the National Public Relations Officer of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, who stated that NNPC was currently finding it tough to continue subsidising PMS.

“The least that NNPC can sell petrol is over N400/litre to depots and not at N145/litre, but because of subsidy, which is becoming over-bearing on them, the oil firm has been struggling to subsidise,” he stated.

He added, “That is why you see the lapses. The government is looking for dollars to import this product and pay the contractors importing for NNPC, and it is also trying to subsidise PMS.”

Ukadike explained that the landing cost of PMS in Nigeria was about N450/litre, as he noted that subsidy on PMS was no longer sustainable.

“The government will not continue to be Father Christmas and cripple the economy. Subsidy must stop!” he stated.

Agencies keep mum

The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Garba-Deen Mohammad, did not respond to enquiries when contacted. In fact, the NNPC has remained mute on issues around fuel scarcity.

Similarly, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, the regulator of the downstream oil sector, stayed mute when contacted.

 The NMDPRA, just like NNPC, has also remained mute on this matter since last week. The agencies of the Federal Government have decided not to speak on the cost of PMS, amidst the scarcity of the product and attendant queues.

The President, Petroleum Retail Outlet Owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, told our correspondent that the crisis in the downstream oil sector would continue until the industry was deregulated.

“We have said it times without number that this issue will continue to drag as long as there is subsidy on petrol, which from all indications is no more sustainable. So the best thing is to stop it,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Ukadike also stressed that the continued payment of subsidy on petrol was taking a toll on not just the resources of NNPC but also on the Federal Government.

He said, “It is becoming increasingly difficult for them (NNPC). In fact, it is taking a toll on the economy generally. And even the Federal Government cannot contain it.

“So the best way out is just to allow people to be able to adapt to the non-subsidy regime in order to relax the pressure on the dollar and the government can then invest in other sectors.

“All these issues, including the subsidy regime, contribute to the scarcity we see across the country. The naira is crashing against the dollar, there is less supply of products, NNPC and the government are battling to subsidise petrol, why won’t there be scarcity?”

Subsidy gulps N6.88tn

Last month, The PUNCH exclusively reported that the administration of Nigeria’s President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), could spend not less than N10.976tn as subsidy petrol from when it came to power in 2015 till May 2023.

The report showed that already, the government had spent about N6.88tn in subsidising the commodity, according to data obtained from NNPC and the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

The President and his party, the All Progressives Congress had, however, kicked against the fuel subsidy scheme that was implemented by the previous administration of the Peoples Democratic Party, while campaigning in 2015.

NEITI had stated in a report submitted in September to the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee investigating the fuel subsidy regime from 2013 to 2022, that petrol was subsidised all through these years.

In October, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, told members of the House of Representatives that the Federal Government’s projection was to spend N6.72tn on subsidy in 2023.

She, however, said the second option of the government was to keep fuel subsidy till June 2023 and that in this option, fuel subsidy was projected to gulp N3.3tn.

A combination of all the above figures indicated that the Buhari regime could spend nothing less than N10.976tn on petrol subsidy from 2015 and June 2023.

IPMAN laments scarcity

Meanwhile, the National Controller, Operations, IPMAN, Mike Osatuyi, told The PUNCH on Sunday that its members still lacked the product, adding that few filling stations which had PMS were selling between N230 and N240 per litre.

“We don’t have products because we could not get to buy. There are currently no products at depots”, he said.

According to him, IPMAN currently has over 30, 000 members nationwide, and accounts for 70 per cent ownership of retail outlets in Nigeria.

“Our members are in the villages and outskirts. Go everywhere, you will see our stations”, Osatuyi added.

A Depots Association of Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria source who pleaded anonymity said its members had paid for products but were not getting any from NNPCL.

“We have people who have paid but were not given. But the NNPC would say it has stock. Where is the stock and why don’t we have products in our tanks?”

The Chairman, IPMAN, Lagos Satellite Depot, Ejigbo, Akin Akinrinade, had said members of the association ought to be getting supply from the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company.

He said members had made payments in excess of N1bn since October 2021.

He however said the products were yet to be delivered, forcing members to patronise private depots for products while at the same time, servicing loans borrowed from banks for their money with PPMC.

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