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Nigeria Scraps Fuel Subsidy, Cut Petrol Price

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari

The Nigerian Government announced on Friday that it has scrapped the Petroleum Support Fund, also known as fuel subsidy.

Speaking to journalists at the Port Harcourt refinery where he had spent Christmas inspecting the facility, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, said the government could no longer pay the subsidy due to the fraud tainting the scheme.

Mr. Kachikwu, who is also the Group Managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), also added that the government could no longer afford the payment due to the dip in its revenue, caused by the drop in crude oil prices.

He said a new pricing template he signed off on Thursday effectively removed the payment of subsidy on petrol and that oil marketers would be informed of the development in the coming days.

The official price of petrol is N87 but it is sold for higher prices in many states of the federation.

When pressed on what the new price of petrol would be following the removal of the subsidy, Mr Kachikwu said it would sell for below the current official price, maybe as low as N85 per litre.

“It (new pricing regime) is out,” the minister said. ”I signed off on it yesterday (Thursday). I imagined that in the next couple of days the marketers would get advice on that. The nice thing about the PPPRA, where I signed up on it yesterday is that the price will be far below N87,” he said.

“So for the first time, people will understand that the pricing modulation I was talking about is not a gimmick. It is for real. We have gone to find out how we will be able to fluctuate this market to reflect what the reality of the crude market is. The objective is that one, we cannot afford to continue to subsidise.

“We can’t even understand where those subsidies were going to. There are a lot of fraud elements in it so we need to cut that off.

“The second is the earning capacity of the Federal Government is deteriorating by the day with lower prices of crude and come out more,” he said.

The call for government to scrap the payment of subsidy on petrol has become louder recently following the drop in crude oil prices.

Last week, a leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress and former Governor of Lagos, Bola Tinubu, joined the call for the government to scrap the subsidy regime.

Mr. Tinubu, who had opposed the removal of the subsidy under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, said subsidy was originally a good idea, but it had since been “perverted”.

He, therefore, urged the government to divert the money it is currently paying on subsidy to other social programmes and infrastructure that would have more rewarding impacts on the people.

“In a perfect world, I wish we could sanitize the subsidy regime and thus continue (with) it. However, I have reached the conclusion that there are too many demons in the system for this hell to be converted into good earth let alone heaven,” he said while speaking at the 10th memorial anniversary of left-wing politician and scholar, Bala Usman, in Kaduna.

“I would choose to remove the subsidy and use the money to help people – let us feed our school children, with our local produce promote agriculture, create jobs and start erecting a social safety net for the vulnerable among us in true need,” he added.

On Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari told a joint session of the National Assembly that he had directed “the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to adjust its pricing template to reflect competitive and market driven components” that would keep the price of petrol selling at “N87 per litre for now.”

According to Mr Kachikwu, the President’s comment was informed by the analysis that was done that put the price at below the official price of N87.

“But in applying that where we landed when we did the analysis for the very first time was about N85 or N86 so it is below N87.

“And maybe the first price that will come will reflect it. That was why Mr. President said that prices will be N87 for now. And that is what we have in mind,” he said.

The announcement on fuel subsidy removal came two days after the Nigerian Labour Congress threatened it would vehemently oppose any cut on the subsidy regime.

At the end of its Central Working Committee meeting in Abuja, the NLC said the discordant pronouncements from government officials on plans to cut subsidy was creating panic and confusion in the system, even as it reaffirmed its opposition to any fuel price increase.

An attempt by the government to cut fuel subsidy in 2012 led to what came to be known as the #OccupyNigeria protest.

Nigerians were outraged when in the early hours of January 1, 2012, then President Jonathan announced the removal of subsidy from petroleum products.

The then president’s New Year announcement meant that PMS, which sold for N65 a litre – with subsidy – would go for N141, more than a hundred per cent increase.

This action translated into more than one hundred per cent increase in fares, food, rents and virtually every all goods and services in Nigeria.

Petrol is central to Nigeria’s economy and literally close to every Nigerian’s heart.

Expectedly, that announcement immediately drew Nigerians to the streets, sparking spontaneous protests across the country.

But it soon became clear that the subsidy regime was characterised by monumental fraud.

For instance, to benefit from the 2011 fuel subsidy largesse, some oil companies “manufactured” fictional oil ships (vessels) they claimed traversed seas and oceans of the world carrying imaginary petrol, with Nigeria the final destination of the product, a Technical Committee set up by the Federal Government discovered.

For supplying this phantom product to Nigeria, some seven companies pocketed a princely N13 billion naira from the 2011 fuel subsidy payments, the committee’s report, exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES at the time, showed.

Some other companies, not wanting to create fictional vessels, decided to space- travel existing ones; such that real vessels, which were definitely in countries like China and UAE, were purported to have discharged petrol into storage depots in Nigeria at the exact time they were in those other countries. The 11 companies involved in this category of fraud pocketed N21 billion from the 2011 subsidy payments, the report said.

Sources in the oil industry revealed at the time that those companies were able to perpetuate the crime with the help of field officers of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory agency (PPPRA) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), men of the Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Custom officers, banks and others involved in the various stages of fuel importation.

The companies and their owners are still being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Premiumtimesng

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Government

EFCC Finally Arrests Okorocha After Hours of Siege, Gives Reason 

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Okorocha

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has finally arrested the All Progressives Congress’ presidential candidate and former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha after laying siege on his residence for hours. 

Security operatives attached to the EFCC had surrounded the residence of the former governor earlier on Tuesday and before they finally arrested him late in the evening. 

Investors King can confirm that lots of gunshots and tear gas canisters were fired to disperse angry supporters of the lawmaker who tried to resist the arrest before he was finally arrested.

According to an official of the anti-graft agency, Okorocha will be taken to the headquarters of the commission where he will be until May 30 when he will be arraigned in court.

In an official statement obtained by Investors King, signed by the EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, “the move to arrest Okorocha was followed by the refusal of the former governor to honour invitations after jumping the administrative bail earlier granted him by the Commission.

EFCC had on January 24, 2022, filed a 17-count criminal charge bordering on diversion of public funds and properties to the tune of N2.9bn against Okorocha.

“The case was assigned to Honourable Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja but attempts to arraign Senator Okorocha was twice stalled owing to the absence of the ex-governor who evaded service of processes”.

EFCC added that at the last adjourned date, March 28th 2022, Justice Ekwo, before adjourning until May 30th, 2022, had warned that it was “the last adjournment I shall grant in this matter”.

“In the circumstances, the Commission is left with no option but to effect the arrest of Senator Okorocha and bring him to trial”, the statement had read. 

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Russia Halts Supply of Gas to Finland, Disagrees on Payment Mode 

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Gas-Pipeline

Russia’s majority state-owned multinational energy corporation, PJSC Gazprom, on Saturday, halted gas exports to one of its neighbouring countries, Finland, in the latest escalation of an energy payments dispute with Western nations.

A statement released by Finland’s gas system operator, Gasgrid said: “Gas imports through Imatra entry point have been stopped.

“Starting from today, during the upcoming summer season, Gasum will supply natural gas to its customers from other sources through the Balticconnector pipeline”. 

Investors King gathered that majority of the European supply contracts are denominated in Euros or Dollars and Moscow already cut off gas to Bulgaria and Poland last month after they refused to comply with the new payment terms.

Imatra is the entry point for Russian gas into Finland and even though majority of the gas used in Finland comes from Russia, gas only accounts for about five per cent of its annual energy consumption.

Gazprom Export has requested that European countries pay for Russian gas supplies in Russian currency (roubles) because of sanctions imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, but Finland refuses to do so.

Gazprom Export, on Friday, said: “flows would be cut because Gasum had not complied with the new Russian rules requiring settlement in roubles.”

Earlier on Friday, the Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler, Gasum had said the Russian Gazprom warned that flows would be halted from 04:00 GMT on Saturday morning.

The decision is coming at a time when Finland and Sweden announced that they were going to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military alliance, a decision inspired by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last week, the  Finish Prime minister, Sanna Marin had said: “When we look at Russia, we see a very different kind of Russia today than we saw just a few months ago.

“Everything changed when Russia attacked Ukraine. And I personally think that we cannot trust anymore that there will be a peaceful future next to Russia.”

Marin noted that joining NATO is “an act of peace [so] that there will never again be war in Finland in the future”.

According to Swedish leader Andersson, “to ensure the safety of Swedish people, the best way forward is to join NATO together with Finland”.

The announcements were met with support from leaders in almost all NATO nations.

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken told reporters that the United States would strongly support the NATO application by either Sweden or Finland should they choose to formally apply to the alliance.

Investors King recalls that Russia had in April, announced the suspension of gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria on the same payment disputes. 

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Government

FG Resumes Conditional Cash Transfer Programme Across Six Local Govt. In Kebbi

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NAIRA - Investors King

The Federal Government has resumed the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme in Kebbi State, commencing with a payment of N9.24bn to 76,107 CCT beneficiaries.

The National Coordinator of the programme, Hajiya Halima Shehu, made the announcement during a state visit to Governor Atiku Bagudu in Birnin Kebbi.

“As at now, payment to CCT beneficiaries is ongoing in the state. A total number of 76,107 beneficiaries across six local government areas of Bagudu, Danko, Wasagu, Dandi, Jega, and Shanga, will be receiving the payment. The beneficiaries will be receiving 26 months of payment circles, starting from January to February 2020.

“The payment will be in two batches of those 60,000 beneficiaries for four payment cycles, using the virtual account. The second batch has 70,107 beneficiaries for nine payment cycles through the debit cards. The total amount for the two batches in the state, according to Shehu, was over N9.24 billion.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria, in partnership with the World Bank in 2016, designed and developed a safety net programme for Nigeria under the platform of National Social Safety Net Programme (NASSP).

“One of the components of NASSP is the national conditional cash transfer office responsible for implementing the household uplifting- conditional cash transfer to the poor and the vulnerable households across the country,” she said.

Shehu commended the governor for providing her an audience and the chance to update him on the commencement of payments and the state’s successful implementation of the program.

Responding, Gov. Bagudu, represented by his Deputy, Alhaji Samaila Yombe-Dabai, thanked the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, headed by Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq, for actualising the programme in the state.

“I assure you that the state government will do all it takes to support the success of the programme in the state.

“We are looking forward to getting more local governments to be involved in the cash transfer programme,” Bagudu said.

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