•List measures to protect Nigerians
•NNPC assures: The people will not suffer
By Soni Daniel, Abuja
Amid indications that the government may have settled for the full deregulation of the petroleum sector in 2016, oil workers, under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), have expressed support for the looming regime.
Meanwhile, the support came with a caveat to President Muhammadu Buhari: Utilities for the full deregulation must be in place and Nigerians must be adequately protected from Shylock oil sector players.
Sunday Vanguard learnt, at the weekend, that the Buhari administration had decided that full regulation of the oil sector had become inevitable, and, consequently, made no provision for petrol subsidy in the 2016 budget.
“The non-provision for subsidy for petrol in the 2016 budget stemmed from the huge drain it had become on government finances and the fact that only a few people are benefiting to the detriment of the vast majority of Nigerians,” a source close to Aso Rock Presidential Villa said.
The source said the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had assured that everything was in place to implement the new regime, adding that petrol should not sell more than the current official price of N87 per litre under the full deregulation regime.
PENGASSAN National President, Francis Johnson, throwing his union’s weight behind the full deregulation of the oil sector, at the weekend, said: “Some say it is ‘the answer’ (to the complex problems in the oil sector), but we say it is only an answer.”
Johnson, who spoke in an interview with Sunday Vanguard, however, warned: “Deregulation is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. If we understand to that level, then part of the problem is solved.
“Our stance has always been to put in place necessary structures that will enable and sustain the policy. When the sector has achieved full deregulation, there will even be a greater challenge than scarcity, namely consumer protection.
“Post-deregulation, the first aspect of the policy that will be most felt is price liberalisation. That is the greater concern for us as a pressure group. It is not enough to deregulate.
“What have we put in place to prevent collusion and predatory tendencies of operators? “We do not have strong protection or cover for consumers in Nigeria. See what we experience daily with service providers in aviation, telecommunications, etc. We seem to be engrossed with the quest to deregulate the sector, but no one is paying attention to the public utilities, like the pipelines, jetties, depots and even refineries.
“We seem to forget that the very reason for scarcity is the neglect and lack of maintenance culture with which public infrastructures were left unattended to for so long.
“So, deregulation yes, but it’s just an aspect of addressing the myriads of problems confronting the sector.”