The Coalition of Nigerian Civil Society Organisations for Petroleum and Energy Security (CONCSOPES) has called on organised labour to support government’s efforts to deregulate the downstream oil and gas sector. CONCSOPES Convener, Mr Timothy Ademola, who made the appeal at a news conference in Abuja on Saturday, said deregulation would promote growth and development in the sector.
“It will do our nation much good if our respected labour leaders spearheading the resistance to deregulation would recognise that deregulation has largely stabilised petroleum products supply over this past year.
“Once the foreign exchange issue that has made it difficult for major and independent marketers to engage in importation of petroleum products is resolved, the other gains of deregulation will kick in and Nigerians will be better for it.
“The market stabilisation that has been brought about by the past one year of deregulation is strong assurance that full deregulation is the way to go if Nigerians are to enjoy the full benefits of their hydrocarbon wealth,’’ he said. Ademola, who said resisting deregulation would only slow down national progress, added that the coalition would continue to support deregulation with human face.
He described deregulation with human face as one that works side by side with infrastructure development and boosting of production capacity among others. “We are saying that deregulation is good while boosting our local and national capacity of producing oil; deregulation while cooperating with the private sector to also bring expertise to provide petrol to our people.
“That kind of deregulation for us is deregulation with human face. It is not just deregulation to absorb cost but it will be the one that will scrap absorption of cost,’’ he said.
He gave an assurance that CONCSOPES would continue to put pressure on government to ensure that full deregulation of the downstream oil and gas sector is beneficial to all. In his remarks, an energy expert, Mr Henry Adigun, said deregulation remains the only way to ensure development in the downstream sector.
According to him, petrol is only an aspect of the deregulation debate, adding that kerosene has been selling at a higher price in the country’s black market since the last four years. He said that no fewer than 18 million Nigerians still make use of kerosene to cook.
“The point is that government cannot sustain subsidy on petrol at N2.4 billion weekly as at today,’’ he added.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, in March 2020, announced full deregulation of the downstream sector, leading to an increase in petrol price. But Nigerians and labour have continued to express worry over the increase in the pump price of petrol, saying it had caused a lot of hardship in the country.
The National Assembly, on its part, has given an assurance that it will pass the Petroleum Industry Bill before the end of April. The bill, when passed into law, would lead to full implementation of the deregulation policy.