Last week, the federal government announced, in line with crashing oil prices, that it was lowering the financial peg for fuel prices in the country by N20, bringing it down from N145 to N125. It made logical sense that the government would reduce prices, considering it was spending millions of dollars in subsidies to keep the price of imported fuel at N145 Naira. With lower prices meant lower overheads and a reduced burden on the federal government. Local oil marketers, the middle men who import fuel for use have other ideas.
Nearly a week after the pronouncements were made, most Nigerian oil marketers are either still selling at N145 or have temporarily closed their filling stations, pretending they’ve run out of fuel and turning motorists away from their stations to drive demand and force people to buy at the old price. Many have justified this behaviour as their way of ensuring they don’t incur losses, and suggesting that they bought fuel at the old price and should be allowed to sell of their old stock before the new prices come into effect.
The problem with this is that when the prices were increased to N145 from N98 in 2015, the Nigerian oil marketers immediately increased their prices and tried to pass off stock bought cheaper as more expensive. They have routinely put their profits over the access, refusing to buy fuel when it didn’t suit their needs and causing annual shortages as a way to pressure government to bend to their will. Their unwillingness to comply with government directives now that they don’t profit off it is hypocritical.
Should the government punish oil marketers who default, especially in these perilous times where being able to easily access fuel could be the difference between life and death?
Or should licenses be revoked as a warning to other oil marketers who are considering this line of action?
Edwin Okolo is an author and journalist who has worked with YNaija, TheNativemag and the Naked Convos.