FORMER Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Prof Tam David-West, has blasted the Federal Government for increasing the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) from N86.50kobo per litre to N145, saying it is unjustifiable. It is nonsense.
In an exclusive interview with Saturday Sun in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital on Friday, he insisted that petrol can be sold at N40 per litre in Nigeria.
David-West, who was widely quoted in the media that petrol could be sold for N40 per litre under President Muhammadu Buhari prior to the 2015 general elections, raised the alarm that hidden charges made the pump price of petrol to skyrocket, urging the government to assume responsibility for the charges.
He identified Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), demurrage, charges by Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), jetty and depot charges, retailer’s margin on petroleum, transporter’s margin on petroleum, dealer’s margin on petroleum, smuggling across borders, storage and so on as some of the additional charges put on the price of PMS.
“When I heard the Minister of State for Petroleum (Ibe Kachikwu), saying they smuggled our petrol across borders and that was the reason for the increase, it is nonsense. I used the word nonsense because during my time, we closed the borders. If I could do it, he could do it too; and it is the same head of state (Buhari).
“We ensured there was no petrol station several kilometres to the borders. Government would not approve fuel station that is close to the borders. Another illogicality of that argument is if you sell petrol in Nigeria for N150 per litre, the people across the borders are ready to pay N160; if you sell for N200, they are ready to pay N210. So, there will still be smuggling. So, increasing petrol price in Nigeria does not stop smuggling,” he said.
David-West, said the reasons which the government gave for “the fuel price increase is confusing. A government official said it is subsidy removal, which is not. Another one says smuggling, which is untenable. Foreign exchange (Forex) was also mentioned, which is partially tenable because the country’s foreign exchange has gone down drastically. So, it is so difficult now to source forex to import fuel.
“If I am into managing of oil and foreign exchange goes down, why should a man on the street pay for it? No matter the reason, N145 per litre is not justified. If they removed all the unnecessary additions on the price of petroleum such as bridging or Petroleum Equalisation Fund, dealer’s margin, transporter’s margin, retailer’s margin, storage, depot margin, and NPA charges, petrol price will come down to N40 per litre.”
David-West stated further that the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie- Oyegun and Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, said the hike in fuel price was necessitated by subsidy removal, but the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, said it was because of foreign exchange.
“What they are doing is embarrassing to him. Buhari has said it repeatedly that there is no subsidy. I stand by him that there is no subsidy as such. If you say you have come to remove subsidy, will you remove what does not exist?
“Kachikwu, I don’t know him and I have never met him before; he is brilliant from his CV (Curriculum Vitae). I respect him for his CV. He has got a very beautiful CV. But sometimes, he says things that are, to me, outrageous.
“A business man runs a business to make profit. Government should encourage businessmen to be in business by allowing them not to run at a loss. Government also has a responsibility to make sure that businessmen do not exploit the people.
“Right now, we are interested more in businessmen making profit while they (government) turned their back to common man being exploited or suffering.”