The federal government has not fully deregulated the petroleum sector and should it do so, Nigerians would be paying about N183 per litre for petrol, an official said Tuesday.
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, said this at a meeting in Abuja between a government delegation and labour leaders over the recent increase in the price of petrol.
It was reported how petrol prices rose from about N145 per litre to about N160 per litre across Nigeria with the government saying the increase was due to the deregulation of the downstream sector and the removal of subsidy on petrol.
However, on Tuesday, Mr Sylva sang a different tune. He said the government only partially deregulated the sector and a full deregulation would have led to further price increase.
“Why have we kept it at N161? Frankly speaking, let us face it and this is what I will tell you. One of the things that the president considered; he said if you take it to the full scale of deregulation, today, prices should have been around N183 because you all know this.”
The minister said government’s current intervention was in the purchase of foreign exchange for the importation of petrol. He said importers, mainly the NNPC and its subsidiaries, were still buying dollars from the government at about N391 to a dollar contrary to the prevailing market price of about N450.
Speaking on why government partially deregulated the sector, the minister said the government was spending too much on subsidy.
“The federal government spent N10.4 trillion on petrol subsidy between 2016 and 2019, while the country was losing N1 billion daily to fuel subsidy between 2016-2019,” he said.
At the meeting, labour unions said the recent increase in the prices of petroleum products and electricity tariff have erased the benefits recorded with the signing of the national minimum wage signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.