Following the initial reports that total deregulation of the downstream sector will commence on November 1, stakeholders in the sector have taken divergent positions on the issue with some praising government for the decision while others see it as capable of bring in more private investors for the construction of local refineries.
Petroleum marketers however expressed optimism that even though deregulation will jack up prices of petroleum products at first, it will eventually lead to price reduction in the long run.
A marketer who spoke with Shipping Position Weekly in Lagos likened the development to that of the communications sector before it was deregulated and how it has been able to improve the system. “On the long run, the masses will be the beneficiaries, initially prices may go up but, this is what will encourage private investors to come on stream and invest in our refineries, they will not want to loss their money, they will want to make the fuel to be available to the consumers so as to recoup their investments, we have been postponing it for a long time, but this time we see good intentions in it”, he said.
He went further to allege that “the unions are spoiling for a fight with the government because some of their members are being bribed out of the billions of naira budgeted yearly for this sector; the NNPC, DPR and the rest of them just embezzle this money we don’t see the use”.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) as well as other trade unions have vehemently expressed disagreement with the government over the policy.
Confirming the seriousness of the union over the matter, a member of the PTD branch of the union told our correspondent that NUPENG is bracing up for a show down with the government over the issue. “We are set to fight it to the finish with government, unless the refineries are working it will not work, as far as I am concerned, it is a conspiracy to enrich only the importers who will now sell at their own price” he said
The refusal of the union according to official sources has made the federal government to agree that the commencement of the deregulation is still subject to change and that it is willing to dialogue over the matter and that it might not come on stream till January next year.
Another marketer, Mr. Victor Anyanmele who also spoke with our correspondent said that “whether we are in support or not, the government will still go ahead with it if they want to, government has the power to do that, up to a year now I don’t think they have increased the pump price of petroleum, everything now depends on how the price is going to be and I know it will affect a lot of people, also the refineries have to be working for it to favour us”.